Be a Graphics Specialist: Education and Career Roadmap

Apr 28, 2020

Learn how to become a graphics specialist. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the graphic design field.

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Becoming a Graphics Specialist

So you think you might like to become a graphics specialist? Graphics specialists, also called graphic designers, work in print and electronic media to visually communicate messages. Their work includes the layout and design of newspapers, magazines, corporate reports, and other publications.

They may also produce packaging, promotional displays, brochures, logos, signs, websites, or multimedia presentations. These specialists might also work in the television and film industries or develop content for corporations or government agencies.

Graphics specialists who are self-employed and work as freelance designers may need to work to maintain a supply of new assignments, and competition with other designers may be intense. However, these individuals have the ability to adjust their schedules. Job stress may occur related to meeting important deadlines.

Career Requirements

Education Requirements Bachelor's degree
Field Graphic design, fine arts, marketing, or communication
Experience 5-10 years
Key Skills Creativity, communication, time management, organization, detail-oriented, motivated, working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite and other graphics software, web design experience, video editing skills
Median Salary (2019) $52,110 annually

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

So what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important. Employers look for someone with at least a bachelor's degree. The degree field is graphic design, fine arts, marketing or communication. Most employers look for someone with 5-10 years of graphic design experience, which can sometimes be obtained through on-the-job training or through internships. Key skills:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Detail-oriented
  • Motivated
  • Working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite and other graphics software
  • Web design experience
  • Video editing skills

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for graphic designers is $52,110.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Degree programs in graphic design offer training for the skills needed to enter a career in the industry. Programs in graphic design provide fundamental and advanced courses covering topics such as digital illustration, computer graphics creation, typography, and color theory. Students also might receive instruction in commonly used graphic design computer software, such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Employers may also accept a degree in a discipline such as marketing; however, a marketing degree does not usually provide in-depth design skills.

Here are some tips for success:

  • Participate in an internship: Completing an internship gives students the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience. Additionally, interns benefit from the training received by experienced industry professionals, and they may make valuable contacts within the professional community. Internships may sometimes fulfill a credit requirement of a bachelor's degree program.

  • Create a portfolio: A portfolio is a presentation tool that graphics specialists use to document their education and demonstrate previous work to a potential employer. A portfolio is often the determining factor for employers when making hiring decisions. It can consist of physical drawings, layouts and spreads, or digitally-created images.

Step 2: Acquire Specialized Skills

Graphics specialists may have an increased role in marketing in the coming years, and they might be employed to design online advertisements, cellular phone applications, and websites. Therefore, those who have who have developed skills in website design, animation, and interactive media will have an advantage in the job market.

Step 3: Gain Professional Experience

Employers typically require graphics specialists to have at least five years of graphics experience in a corporate communications or other related environment. Entry-level graphics design positions may be found at specialized design firms, publishing companies, ad agencies, and in corporate marketing departments.

Graphic designers who are successful in entry-level positions may move into higher-level positions, such as chief designer or creative director. These positions usually call for several years' experience in the field.

Here's a tip for success:

  • Perform volunteer design work: Entry-level graphic designers can build their skills and gain valuable work experience by volunteering for nonprofit organizations. This provides the opportunity to add professional work to a portfolio and acquire a work history.

Earning a bachelor's degree, acquiring specialized skills, and gaining professional experience are great steps to follow to make the most of a career as a graphic specialist.

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