Graphic communication involves the creation and dissemination of information that entertains and informs target audiences. It includes digital printing, digital media and website development, as well as web-based publishing. The master's degree is this field's terminal degree. Students may pursue a Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degrees in Graphic Communication.
Applicants to these programs must hold a bachelor's degree, and usually need a background in graphic communication (students without this can sometimes take additional courses to make up for it). Most programs require students to complete a thesis or final project before graduating.
Graphic Communication Master of Science Degree
Technology and creativity come together in this 2-year graphic communication program. Students learn about the manufacturing industry and how to create visual images for specific responses in media. Printing, imaging and packaging are incorporated and prepare graduates to work in different fields, such as management, design or communications. A thesis is often mandatory and students must not only research and write these works but must defend them to a panel of professors. Some programs offer a non-thesis option that replaces the thesis with an oral examination.
Research is a major element for both thesis and non-thesis students. An internship may be required of students without sufficient field experience. Common course topics include:
- Color science and reproduction
- Inks and printing methods
- Graphic communication trends
- Image processing
- Management in graphic communications
- Marketing and advertising
Graphic Communication Master of Arts Degree
Another 2-year graduate-level graphic communication program unites English, art and communication. Some programs are management-based to further strengthen career opportunities. Critical thinking and theory are important aspects, and emerging technologies are studied in conjunction with creative expression. A thesis is not a graduation requirement on a typical M.A. track, but a final project may be part of the curriculum. A bachelor's degree and GRE scores are necessary for admission.
Writing workshops and independent studies allow students to explore different areas of interest to them within the M.A. program. General class topics are:
- Campaign and design
- Electronic publishing
- Graphic communication technology
- Management communications
- Software applications
- Web design and applications
Graphic Communication Master of Fine Arts Degree
An MFA in graphic communications is a more research-based program than the M.S. or the M.A. Students choose a concentration within graphic design, take it in a new direction and focus all their research in this area. They examine the relationship between expression and function in problem-solving for design. Critical theory and advanced research are the primary components, and a thesis represents the culmination of their work. GRE scores and a bachelor's degree are mandatory for application.
Workshops and seminars constitute the bulk of the curriculum. Thesis research is a major component of the second year. Class subjects include:
- Art history
- Design studio
- Digital imaging
- Professional communication
- Research methods and documentation
- Typography and design
Popular Career Options
Advertising, publishing, packaging and web design are some of the fields open to graphic communication graduates. Possible positions are:
- Graphic artist
- Graphic communication manager
- Graphic designer
Some MFA-holders go on to teach graphic communications at design schools, while others reach upper-level positions or open their own firms. Possibilities include:
- Chief designer
- Creative director
- Freelance graphic communication specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected employment for graphic designers would decrease 1% between 2014 and 2024. The median salary in May 2015 was $46,900, according to the BLS. These figures are dependent on geographic location, experience and setting.
Graduate students interested in graphic communication can pursue master of science, master of arts, and master of fine arts degrees in the field. These programs explore various aspects of the creative and technological sides of graphic communication, preparing students for careers in several areas of graphic design.