Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth It?
by Taylor Slattery | April 13, 2023
In short, yes. If your goal is to start a career working as a professional graphic designer, there is no more sure-fire route than obtaining a degree in graphic design. For those debating whether or not to attend a degree program, here are a few key ways in which a formal education has an advantage over alternative routes, such as self-study.
The first major benefit of a degree program is its speed. Four years might seem like a long time, but degree programs are explicitly designed to take students at a beginner level and turn them into working professionals—providing them with all of the tools, knowledge, and guided instruction necessary so that by the time they graduate, they are more than sufficiently equipped to enter the workforce. The reason that degree programs are so successful in repeatedly making skilled designers out of complete beginners has a lot to do with their structure.
The key is in introducing concepts in an order that will allow students to effectively leverage the skills and knowledge gained in each new step, building upon the foundation established in the steps prior. By approaching these foundational concepts and skills in this order and striking an appropriate balance between theory and practice, students can immediately apply what they’re learned and build a stronger understanding of how these pieces are connected. This provides students with an analytical lens through which to view all future design challenges and continue to study effectively even after graduating.
Attempting this on your own as a complete beginner proves to be quite a challenging task. Piecing together some sort of education using resources found online and YouTube tutorials is not impossible but difficult to do when you don’t know what to look for or have the foundational knowledge necessary to judge the merit of the content you’re consuming. There’s a great amount of value that can be found in online resources, making them a great place to start, but sorting through them to find worthwhile information can be quite time-consuming. This can make the process take even longer than 4 years for those who are juggling family life or already working full-time.
Another aspect that contributes to the speed of degree programs is their regimented schedule. By providing assignments and courses with definitive start and end dates, students are held accountable to the commitment they’ve made and provided with milestones by which they can measure their progress and stay motivated. When studying on one’s own, it can be difficult to chart your progress and know when you’ve studied a given topic sufficiently and are ready to move on to the next. Having an experienced teacher to take the reins and guide your growth when you’re feeling out of your depth can help by giving you that extra push when you need it.
In many ways, guidance can make all the difference between self-study and a degree program. Having access to knowledgeable professors to answer questions and provide feedback is an invaluable asset in one’s creative development. As you approach graduation, they can also advise you as you begin your job hunt and potentially even serve as a valuable reference for potential employers.
This brings us to the last key advantage between self-study and a degree program: networking. Classes provide a valuable opportunity to network with both students and professors alike. Your professors will have a wealth of personal and professional experience to pull from when providing guidance and becoming friends with them is a great way to tap into their network and gain an advantage in your job hunt, whether being connected directly to their contacts or even just as a reference as you undergo interviews on your own. Classes also allow you to meet other students who will be entering the field and can prove to be valuable future resources as everyone advances in their careers.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.
Sessions College offers accredited fully online degree and certificate programs in Graphic Design, Web Design, Digital Media, Illustration, Advertising, and Photography. Federal financial aid is available for eligible students. Contact Admissions for more information.