Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth It?
by NoD Staff | October 14, 2019
Are you looking for an exciting new career in graphic design? People hoping to start their new profession as a graphic designer typically start by considering if a degree is a worthwhile venture. Is it? The short answer is “yes,” but here we’ll take a good look at the evidence.
Think like a potential future employer for a minute. How can a candidate prove their design abilities to you? What would you look at? Many employers see a degree or certificate from an accredited institution as solid evidence of competence and ability. If a person completed a degree program, they might appear more able than someone who didn’t.
Graphic Design Certificate Vs Degree
What is the difference between a graphic design degree and a certificate? While certificate programs focus narrowly on a specific field, degree programs typically require students to complete a broad array of courses.
Most college degree programs have general education requirements that are necessary for all students, regardless of their major. These core curriculum courses help to round out a student’s education and ensure all graduates have knowledge in certain, important subjects. Certificate programs don’t tend to have general education requirements.
The Pros of Getting a Graphic Design Degree
The benefits associated with getting a degree in graphic design are many. Let’s take a look at some of the more relevant and important benefits you’ll receive.
Getting the Graphic Design Job
If you’ve spent some time looking for a graphic design job, you’ve probably seen that many employers list a degree as a requirement for applicants. While a person may still be considered if they don’t have a degree, potential employers would likely choose a candidate with a degree over one without if all other things are equal.
You can begin a career as a graphic designer without earning a degree, but if you want to boost your chances, a degree program is a good place to start. A degree will give you credibility in the world of design as well as prepare you for the day to day work you’ll have once you land a job.
Entering a Competitive Field
Graphic design jobs are increasing, but the field is competitive. Many very talented people are drawn to careers as graphic designers. A degree will help you stand out in the crowd to prospective employers.
In 2018, graphic designers made over 30% more than the median annual wage for all workers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This career choice can really pay off if you decide to take it and if you’re serious about succeeding, a degree from a reputable institute will likely help.
Feeding Your Creative Side
If you’re interested in design, you probably have a strong desire to create. You don’t have to worry about not letting your creative impulse growing stagnate. This field allows you to utilize your creativity on a regular basis, whether you work independently or with a large team. You can continue to improve your artistic skills and quench that need to make something new and unique.
Working with New Design Technology
If you want to start a career in graphic design, you have to be comfortable with technology, obviously. If you’d like to excel in that career, you need to keep up with the latest tech tools and processes. The tech keeps getting better, too.
Graphic designers will likely work with much of the Adobe Creative Suite including Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Adobe updates these every year with all kinds of new and amazing design features. Every day new technologies emerge and the best designers take what they can from an array of tech tools to create.
Do you like autonomy in your work environment? Does the thought of deciding when and how you work yourself sound good to you? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22% of all graphic designers in the U.S. are self-employed. Being your own employer is true autonomy.
Many designers do work for agencies or as “in-house” designers for organizations. If you like the idea of working for an existing business, those opportunities are ample as well.
The Costs of a Graphic Design Degree
Now that we’ve gone over some of the benefits of earning a degree in graphic design, let’s take a good look at the potential costs.
How Much Does A Degree in Graphic Design Cost?
There are many variables to consider when tallying the costs of a degree program, but here we’ll focus on tuition for an associate degree. A reputable accredited school can cost as much as $10,000 for an associate degree in graphic design, but you can find more affordable options. Sessions College has an Associate of Occupational Studies in Graphic Design program that costs significantly less.
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Graphic Design Degree?
The cost of a degree is more than just financial, it takes time, too. Depending on what type of degree you want to earn, it can take from two to eight years to complete. An associate degree in graphic design is often sufficient to start a career. That will take about two years.
If you want to continue your education further with a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, it will take more time. In the next section we’ll break it down.
Types of Graphic Design Degrees
Certificates are one type of postsecondary education award, degrees are another. If you feel you are more interested in a degree program, you’ll have to consider which category of degree you want to earn. That will depend on how much time, effort and money you want to invest.
There are four major types of degrees available for postsecondary students. They are the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Each successively take a larger time, effort and money investment.
Associate programs typically take two years and provide a foundational education for starting a career or further education path. Most community colleges will offer associate degree programs. Completing an associate program in graphic design is often enough for entry-level designers to begin their careers.
Transferable associate degree programs are designed to cover the general education requirements to allow for easy continuation of a student’s education in a four-year college.
A bachelor’s is an undergraduate program that will typically take four years to complete. Often students will earn an associate before going on to a bachelor’s program in a college or university.
Those who earn a bachelor’s degree are qualified for entry-level or management-level positions within the design field. Graduate degree programs usually require students to earn a bachelor’s degree for admittance.
Master’s degree programs are graduate-level programs that let students specialize in their discipline. They usually require a bachelor’s degree, a minimum GPA and an acceptable score on a graduate entrance exam. Master’s programs usually take between one and two years to finish and most require a capstone project or thesis to graduate.
A degree of this type may qualify graduates to work in executive-level positions and is required for entrance into many doctoral programs.
Doctoral degree, or Ph.D., programs are the most advanced type of degree program in higher education. Graphic design Ph.D. programs are rare, however. Since they are the highest attainable college degree, they usually require a master’s degree for admittance. Often there are additional acceptance requirements including letters of recommendation or sufficient standardized test scores.
Completing a Ph.D in graphic design typically takes several years. It usually requires the completion of a major project and a dissertation.
Conclusion: Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth It?
Starting a career with no experience is very difficult, if not impossible. Earning a degree is a great way to launch a graphic design career without having initial experience. You’ll gain experience and knowledge through your education that you can’t get on your own.
Employers want to hire people with experience, but you can’t get job experience without first being hired. The experience you gain while earning a degree is a clear path to your first graphic design job.
While a degree does take an investment of both time and money, it has the potential to pay vast returns. With so many affordable online colleges, you can find a way to spend minimal amounts of money while fitting school into your life by completing courses on your time. There are not many things in life that have the potential return on investment that an education has.
This post was authored by NoD staff. Notes on Design is a design industry blog sponsored by Sessions College for Professional Design.