How to Become a Communications Designer: Career Roadmap

Mar 09, 2020

Find out how to become a communications designer. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in communications design.

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Communications Designers

Communications designers, also known as visual designers, illustrators, or graphic designers, are artists who use words and images to convey messages and ideas across multiple media platforms. They choose to work in a variety of industries producing communications materials. They also work on deadlines and have to work long hours to meet them. Communications designers work with computers to create and publish materials, and so it is necessary they stay current on the latest design software and technologies.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Graphic design or a related subject
Experience 1-3 years of experience
Key Skills Written and verbal communication skills; an artistic personality and creativity; near vision; working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, Filemaker Pro, and Microsoft Suite
Salary (2018)* $50,370 per year (median salary for all graphic designers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Information Network

Become a Communications Designer

Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree

According to the BLS, graphic and communications designers need a bachelor's degree. Several schools offer Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs in visual communication or communications design. Coursework covers drawing, 3-D design, photography, 3-D modeling, advertising, and typographic design. Students also undertake class projects to develop commercial design solutions for clients. Some schools allow students to pursue a concentration in topics such as graphic design, illustration, or advertising.

Students should create a portfolio of work. Portfolios help prospective employers evaluate a communication designer's skills and abilities. Many programs assist students in developing a professional portfolio to showcase their interactive design and illustration skills. Students sometimes publish their work in a design school's online student gallery.

Additionally, universities and colleges allow students to hold an internship as part of their undergraduate studies. Students work with advisors to intern at design companies or corporations and learn how to integrate client input into their projects.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Most communications designers must gain 1-3 years of entry-level experience before they can gain full-time design positions. Workers use assistant or internship positions to build on their portfolios and earn references needed to advance to regular design positions.

Step 3: Consider Graduate School for Career Advancement

Designers holding a bachelor's degree in communications design or a related field can broaden their creative skills and career options through graduate studies. A master's degree program in visual communication or communications design includes advanced coursework in design, teaching methods, strategic research, and graduate typography.

Aspiring communications designers need a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field, and a master's degree could help with career advancement.

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