What Can You Do with a Graphic Design Degree?

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Typically, a graphic designer is an artist that puts together various aspects of an image to create a well-thought-out design. There are many graphic design careers available to those who have obtained a graphic design degree.

Graphic Design Careers

Whether you would like to work within a graphic design firm, work as a freelancer, or brand out into marketing and web design, there are many career paths to choose from.

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You can work with computer design, print materials such as magazines and brochures, or even design company logos. If you have a creative mind and would like to use your passion for art in your career, a graphic design degree may be a great option for you.

What Can You Do With a Graphic Design Degree?

Graphic Design team working in their office

A graphic design degree may qualify you for various creative careers. Graphic design professionals can secure positions in several industries, including:

  • Advertising
  • Web design
  • Print media design

Some graphic design professionals pursue artistic careers in marketing and advertising while others use their skills to create web-based designs.

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When choosing to work with the marketing and advertising sector, you may find yourself creating ads or brand logos. When working with more web-based designs, you may help design websites and online graphics. Alternatively, you can even choose to create your own design company and freelance out your services.

Graphic design degree holders can work for newspapers, books, and directory publishers. You can also design brochures for various industries from the medical industry to schools and nonprofits. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the graphic design industry will have a positive job outlook.

The demand for graphic designers will increase by 3% in the next 10 years, which is estimated to add over 20,000 jobs in graphics designing to the market. Similarly, the Bureau predicts that art directors will experience 4% job growth over the same period resulting in many types of jobs in graphic design.

5 Things You Can Do With a Degree in Graphic Design

One thing that may make a graphic design degree worth it for students is its versatility in deciding on a career after earning the degree.

The degree may convey skills to students useful in other creative career paths different from graphic design. Here are five things you could potentially do with a degree in graphic design.

1. Graphic Designer

Graphic Designer working on a project

A graphic designer will develop the graphical content and layout for companies for their logos, advertisements, and websites, among other responsibilities.

Graphic designers work closely with the creative teams to ensure all content is on-brand and meets client requirements.

2. Art/Creative Director

Creative Director discussing with the team

The art or creative director of a company determines the creative or artistic vision of a project. Their responsibilities ensure the aesthetic of a project is cohesive and meets client demands.

Delegation and leadership skills are important in this role as you would be responsible for leading a whole team of creatives, meaning clear communication is key. In addition, a directorial position like this requires budgeting, time management, and scheduling skills for the team.

3. Photo Editor

Photo Editor retouching a client's image

Though photography is a related field to graphic design, they share many skills, including the ability to edit content through Photoshop and other editing software.

You will work with photographs to edit and color-correct them, or even combine multiple photographs into a single, cohesive image. Photo edits may be as simple as modifying lighting or balancing the colors, or as complex and drastic as changing the colors of clothing or adding text and other graphics to images.

4. Web Designer

Web Designer working on a new project

Web designers are responsible for creating websites. They need to understand the ins and outs of website development and be able to work with both the backend and front end of sites.

You may be responsible for editing and creating posts and images on a website, adding links and organizing the site, and managing the site content. Web designers also must have good interpersonal and communication skills as they talk to clients and discuss what the client’s website should look like.

5. UI Designer

UI Designer working on mobile app design prototype

UI designers are responsible for creating the user interfaces people may use on websites and other software. In a sense, UI designers ensure customers can simply and seamlessly interact with a webpage or piece of software by ensuring it meets the user experience requirements.

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They might have coding skills and work closely with programmers to ensure each UI element behaves as it should.

Graphic Design Careers & Salaries

Graphic Design Careers & Salaries

To help you understand the different career ideas that are open to those who have successfully earned their graphic design degree, we have put together a list of the top 40 graphic design careers and salaries according to data obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Promotion Managers, Informational $163,360
Software Digital Designers $150,040
Art Directors, Motion picture $137,380
Advertising and Promotions Managers $126,300
Advertising Art Directors $102,630
Art Directors $100,890
Directors, Motion picture and video $98,680
Animators, Software publishers $84,540
Digital Designers, Computer Design $80,110
Special Effects Designers $78,790
Digital Designers $78,300
Media Arts Professors $77,560
Fashion Designers $77,450
Web Developers $77,030
Graphic Designer Professors $75,940
Digital Designers, Advertising $64,720
Marketing Specialists $63,920
Art Editors $63,350
Film and Video Editors, Motion Picture $63,140
Web Developers, Retail $61,860
Illustrators $60,820
TV, Film, and Video Editors $60,360
Architectural Drafters $60,340
Drafters $60,290
Interior Designers, Specialized Services $58,840
Advertising Agents $52,340
Advertising Graphic Designers $52,050
Graphic Designers $50,710
Fine Artists $49,960
Teliviosn Film and Video Editors $49,100
Multimedia Production Assistants $48,820
Art and Design Workers $48,220
Newspaper Photographers $47,132
Graphic Designers, Book $44,540
Graphic Designer, Printing $39,090
Photographers $38,950
Independent Artists $38,490
Digital Press Operators $37,770
Digital Imaging Technicians $36,590

The world of technology is continuing to expand, and businesses across a variety of industries depend on skilled graphic designers to help them stand out in a competitive marketplace. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the graphic design career outlook will increase by 3% within the next 10 years.

It’s important to keep in mind that specific projections vary by industry, career, overall experience, and your degree level. If you have an interest in a fast-paced professional career that allows you to put your creative skills to the test, then the field of graphic design may be the perfect fit for you.

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Whether you get a job helping businesses market and design products or you start your own freelance graphic design career, there are a number of design careers that pay well after you graduate with your graphic design career.

Advancing Your Career in Graphic Design

Graphic Design Specialist working in her office

There are many ways to advance a graphic design career after earning your degree in the field. One of the ways is by finding professional graphic design organizations and joining them to see if they offer any certifications or professional development programs.

For example, Adobe offers Adobe Certified Professional credentials certifying you are knowledgable in Adobe Creative Suite programs including Photoshop and InDesign. The American Institute for Graphic Arts, the trade association for graphic designers, offers professional development programs in the form of conferences, webinars, and other activities.

In addition, professional organizations like the AIGA may be great places to meet new potential clients or employers. There are also opportunities to continue your education as a graphic designer. There are, for example, certificate programs at accredited universities that develop new skills in designers.

At the same time, online graphic design courses are becoming more and more popular through services such as Coursera, which allow you to take many courses for free.

What Is a Graphic Design Degree?

Man taking his graphic design degree

A degree in graphic design teaches students the foundational artistic, creative, and technical skills that they will need to succeed in the industry.

While most students who are interested in this degree program have a high creative aptitude, throughout the course of your studies you will be able to further develop these skills and learn how to translate them into a professional career. Many accredited universities offer graphic design degrees that range from two-year associate’s programs up to graduate degree options.

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Through each educational level, you will build upon your skillset to master more advanced techniques, software, and design applications. A few of the courses that you can expect to see throughout your degree program may include:

  • Graphic design and production
  • Multimedia development
  • Advanced software courses
  • Advertising design
  • Integrated design media

If you need a more flexible class schedule to meet the demands of career or family obligations, then it may be wise to check into the accredited online graphic design degrees offered by many of the nation’s top universities.

What Do You Learn in a Graphic Design Degree?

Group of graphic design students studying together

A graphic design degree may give you the skills you need to pursue a creative and visually-oriented career field. If you choose to pursue a graphic design career path, the skills you learn will likely lean toward creativity and art:

  • Motion graphics
  • Animation
  • Design Theory
  • Project management
  • Typography

Students may choose to focus on learning a specific set of skills, such as user interface design, to make themselves more marketable for certain types of graphic design degree jobs.

What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

Graphic designers are creatives first. This means they create visual elements, usually digitally, for clients. They will develop the layout and design for advertisements, magazines, books, posters, and computer software. Many graphic designers will also make logos and other symbols.

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Jobs for graphic design majors are found in a wide variety of fields, including communication and media, entertainment, marketing and advertising, publishing, and healthcare. Graphic designers work closely with creative teams to create deliverables for their clients on time and on budget. Their work must communicate ideas and themes to the audience.

How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?

Graphic designers and art director, in a meeting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for graphic design degrees have higher salaries than other jobs. Graphic designers typically earn a median salary of $50,710. This is higher than the median for all occupations, at $45,760.

Specifically, graphic designers that work in specialized design areas made $58,610 while those working in advertising and marketing made less at $52,050. Web developers, another graphic artist career choice, make a larger salary according to the BLS at $78,060.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Graphic Designer?

Graphic designers usually hold a degree in graphic design or a related arts field. The reason for this is that jobs you can get with a graphic design degree require the knowledge and skills earning a graphic design degree may teach you.

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Graphic design majors usually study studio art, principles of design, design software, typography, and website design, which may be courses required for a graphic design degree. If you hold a degree in another related field and have the necessary skills to become a graphic designer, then you may be able to obtain employment in the industry.

Do You Need Experience to Become a Graphic Designer?

Graphic Designer strategizing for his new project

While you do not need experience right off the bat, companies are sometimes more likely to hire candidates who have work experience as graphic designers.

Graphic design programs may require students to create a portfolio demonstrating ability and skill. Having a well-done portfolio may be a requirement for jobs with a graphic design degree. In addition, graphic design programs may require students to complete an internship while they are enrolled.

Internships are great ways to earn real-world experience in the field and strengthen your portfolio with professional work. Working freelance as a graphic designer may also be a way to gain experience and build up your portfolio.

Where Do Graphic Designers Work?

Graphic Designer working remotely from home

Graphic design major jobs are found both in established companies and as freelance opportunities. Graphic designers working for a company typically either work from an office or remotely from home. They typically collaborate with a team when designing clients’ work.

Freelance graphic designers usually work remotely from home and by themselves, though they may collaborate with other freelancers if the need is there. The BLS says the states with the highest level of graphic designer employment are California, New York, Texas, and Florida.

Graphic designers usually work within the same industries of advertising and marketing, printing and publishing, and specialized design services.

What Are Some of the Highest Paid Graphic Design Jobs?

Highest Paid Graphic Design Jobs

As a graphic designer, your salary may depend on where you work and the type of work you do. According to the BLS, there is a large variety of the types of positions available for graphic designers:

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Art Directors $100,890
Special Effects Artists and Animators  $78,790
Web Developers and Digital Designers  $78,300
Graphic Designers $50,710
Desktop Publishers $46,910

Your salary as a graphic designer will depend on many factors, such as your level of graphic design experience, the position you are hired for, and your job’s location.

Is Graphic Design a Good Career?

Yes, graphic design is a good career for many professionals. If you are creative, driven, and want to explore how software can enhance art and graphics, then careers in graphic arts may be a good choice.

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Though the BLS states that graphic designer jobs are predicted to grow by 3% in the next 10 years. The job market is better for web developers and digital designers, whose predicted 23% job growth over the coming decade is much stronger than the 5% rate across all occupations.

Getting Your Graphic Design Degree Online

Photo Editor working on her project

As with general studies careers and careers in healthcare, the path toward graphic arts careers is a rewarding one and online colleges for graphic design may be the key to unlocking your career potential.

As a graphic designer, you use your creative instincts to design visual elements for a variety of media and placements. A graphic design degree may prepare you to work in diverse positions, such as a UI designer or creative director, in a wide variety of industries like advertising and publishing.

If a graphic design degree from an accredited university sounds right for you, start researching online programs today!

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.