How to Become a Computer Graphic Artist: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a computer graphic artist. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in computer graphic arts.

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  • 0:02 Become a Computer…
  • 1:19 Obtain a Graphic Arts Degree
  • 2:06 Build a Portfolio
  • 2:36 Gain Experience and Advance

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Become a Computer Graphic Artist

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Graphic design, visual arts, or related field
Experience Up to four years of graphic design experience are required
Key Skills Artistic ability; creativity; visual color discrimination; good communication and time management skills; proficiency with computer-aided design, website development, and Adobe software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects
Additional Requirements Professional portfolio
Salary (2015) $51,640 per year (mean salary for all graphic designers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine, job postings (July 2012).

Computer graphic artists use computer technology to create illustrations, logos, and graphics that communicate specific messages to a designated audience. These visual messages are used in websites, advertisements, video games, mobile applications, magazines, brochures, and many other digital and print materials. Many graphic designers and artists are self-employed and seek freelance jobs. Obtaining assignments can be competitive, and these artists often work weekends and evenings to meet their clients' needs.

Computer graphic artists typically need artistic ability and creativity, good communication and time management skills, and proficiency with computer-aided design and website development software, as well as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects. As of May 2015, graphic designers (which includes computer graphic artists) made a mean annual wage of $51,640 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These professionals were expected to see little or no change in job growth in the decade spanning 2014-2024 per the BLS.

Let's explore the steps involved to become a computer graphic artist…

Step 1: Obtain a Graphic Arts Degree

A bachelor's degree in graphic design is generally required, though a degree in visual arts or another major with a focus on digital design may also be acceptable. A 4-year graphic design degree program trains students in the technology used in the industry as well as graphic design concepts and theory. Courses may include typography, illustration, graphics, and electronic media, along with design, studio, and workshop classes.

Success Tip:

Experience in graphic design is favored in this field, and future computer graphic artists can get ahead of the competition by gaining hands-on experience during college. Some programs incorporate internship opportunities in their curricula, though students can also pursue internships with design firms on their own.

Step 2: Build a Portfolio

The artist's portfolio is often the most important part of his or her application when looking for a graphic arts position. Employers usually want to see the candidate's portfolio before scheduling a job interview, often requesting that the job applicant submit a link to an online location where they can access the artist's portfolio. A professional portfolio should show artistry and proficiency in the required technology as well as a visual color discrimination.

Step 3: Gain Experience and Advance

Many employers want their prospective employees to have experience, and while internships provide an introduction to real-world applications of graphic arts, intern experience alone is usually not sufficient to meet employer demands. Artists should be prepared to pay some dues in an entry-level position before they can expect to land the positions they want. They may be hired on as graphic design assistants and work their way up.

Beginning graphic designers typically start out with low-level duties. They may need 1-3 years of experience before they can work up to higher level positions. But after gaining enough experience, a designer can advance to a position like chief designer or creative director for their company.

In summary, aspiring computer graphic artists need a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field, a solid professional portfolio, and experience in an internship and entry-level positions.

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