A bachelor's degree in graphic design is usually required. Creativity,
communication, and problem-solving skills are important, as are a familiarity
with computer graphics and design software.
Education and training. A bachelor's
degree in graphic design is usually required for most entry-level and advanced
graphic design positions. Bachelor's degree programs in fine arts or graphic
design are offered at many colleges, universities, and private design schools.
Most curriculums include studio art, principles of design, computerized design,
commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and Web site design. In
addition to design courses, a liberal arts education that includes courses in
art history, writing, psychology, sociology, foreign languages and cultural
studies, marketing, and business are useful in helping designers work
Associate degrees and certificates in graphic design also are available from
2-year and 3-year professional schools, and graduates of these programs normally
qualify as assistants to graphic designers or for positions requiring technical
skills only. Creative individuals who wish to pursue a career in graphic
design—and who already possess a bachelor's degree in another field—can complete
a 2-year or 3-year program in graphic design to learn the technical
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300
postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these
schools award a degree in graphic design. Many schools do not allow formal entry
into a bachelor's degree program until a student has successfully finished a
year of basic art and design courses, which can be completed in high school.
Applicants may be required to submit sketches and other examples of their
Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and
design software, either on their own or through formal software training
Other qualifications. In addition to
postsecondary training in graphic design, creativity, communication, and
problem-solving skills are crucial. Graphic designers must be creative and able
to communicate their ideas visually, verbally, and in writing. They also must
have an eye for details. Designers show employers these traits by putting
together a portfolio—a collection of examples of a person's best work. A good
portfolio often is the deciding factor in getting a job.
Because consumer tastes can change fairly quickly, designers also need to be
well read, open to new ideas and influences, and quick to react to changing
trends. The abilities to work independently and under pressure are equally
important traits. People in this field need self-discipline to start projects on
their own, to budget their time, and to meet deadlines and production schedules.
Good business sense and sales ability also are important, especially for those
who freelance or run their own firms.
Advancement. Beginning graphic designers
usually need 1 to 3 years of working experience before they can advance to
higher positions. Experienced graphic designers in large firms may advance to
chief designer, art or creative director, or other supervisory positions. Some
designers leave the occupation to become teachers in design schools or in
colleges and universities. Many faculty members continue to consult privately or
operate small design studios to complement their classroom activities. Some
experienced designers open their own firms or choose to specialize in one area
of graphic design.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
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