Is it Good to Major in Graphic Design?

Graphic designers all over the world amount to more than 507,600, and around 52% of them are in the United States.

About 90% of all individuals working in the graphic design sector are freelancers.

The middle 50% of graphic designers make an average of $40,160 and $71,310 per year, depending on the job position, geographical location, industry and previous experience.

In the US, graphic designers usually have a degree in graphic design or a related field.

As a graphic design major, you can work not only as a graphic designer but also as a creative director, production artist, product developer, marketing specialist and others.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there are 24,800 job openings for graphic designers available in the US a year.

In this post, I will talk about some very important matters about being a graphic design major and professional.

brand design

Graphic Design vs. Digital Design: What’s the Difference?

The primary difference between graphic design and digital design is that a graphic design is static, while digital design has movement, usually in the form of animation and interactive pages.

Digital design also usually includes audio. Meanwhile, graphic design is mostly images, artwork, text and typography.

Both graphic design and digital design are forms of visual artistic expression. However, there are a few differences between the two, and many people make the mistake of using them interchangeably.

It’s important to note that graphic design has been around so much longer than digital design.

Originally, graphic designers worked in the print industry, producing eye-catching posters, flyers, brochures, newspapers, magazines, books and various others with static images and layouts.

But in the 1980s and early 1990s, graphic design had a facelift as dramatic advances in digital computer hardware and software and the internet came into being.

Digital design was born as a result of technological advancements — rather than ending up on paper, the works of digital designers instead started winding up on computer screens, phone screens and other digital displays.

This does not mean, however, that graphic design majors cannot cross over into being digital designers.

In college, minoring in disciplines that have something to do with digital design, such as 3D animation and modeling and computer-aided drafting and design (CADD), as well as obtaining a related job experience after graduation may help increase your marketability in the digital design arena.

Is Graphic Design a Hard Major

Generally, a graphic design major isn’t difficult. However, it requires passion and aptitude toward art and design as well as creative and innovative thinking.

Just like other majors, graphic design also requires time and dedication. In order to complete a graphic design program, students must have the right skills and attributes.

Because it’s not in the healthcare or STEM field, graphic design is an easy major.

It doesn’t mean, however, that you will certainly complete a bachelor’s program in graphic design successfully — no matter how easy the program, completion is unlikely if you do not work hard for it.

And when it comes to majoring in graphic design, it’s a definite must for you to have an interest in and a knack for doing graphic art and designing.

As a graphic design major, you can expect to take the following core courses and electives after having general education (gen ed) courses out of the way during your first two years of college:

  • Design social interaction
  • Design understanding
  • Drawing
  • Elements of type
  • Film media
  • History of design
  • Photography
  • Publication and editorial
  • Typographic systems
  • Visual communication

Already planned a solid career path? Then make sure that you minor in something that can help increase your chances of being able to take it successfully after graduation.

With the right major, you can obtain knowledge and skills that can increase your marketability in the particular graphic design and graphic arts industry you are eyeing.

Naturally, for this specific goal, some of the best disciplines to minor in are those that complement a graphic design major, including but not limited to:

  • Advertising
  • Animation
  • Business
  • Commercial photography
  • Communications
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • Film
  • Information technology
  • Interior design
  • Marketing
  • Public relations
  • Web design

Besides enrolling in a bachelor’s program in graphic design, you also have the option to opt for a graphic design bootcamp instead.

As the name suggests, it’s something that allows you to quickly gain various foundational knowledge and skills in graphic design, depending on the bootcamp program of your choice.

A graphic design bootcamp can last for anywhere from several days to a few weeks or months. You can expect to shell out anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars for a single bootcamp program.

Graphic design bootcamps, by the way, can be purely online or via in-person sessions.

What Can You Do With Graphic Design Degree

A degree in graphic design paves the way for various career paths within the graphic design and graphic arts industry.

The salary range of the middle 50% of graphic designers in the US is between $40,160 and $71,310. In most instances, a minimum of bachelor’s degree is required for graphic designers.

The projected growth of employment for graphic design majors from 2020 to 2030 is 3%, which is much slower than the 8% average for all occupations.

Despite this, it is estimated that around 23,900 graphic design job openings are available per year.

These are just some of the jobs you may apply for with a bachelor’s in graphic design to your credentials:

graphic designer

Graphic designer

  • Median annual salary: $50,710
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 3%

Graphic designers are in charge of coming up with the overall layout and design for advertisements, brochures, pamphlets, circulars, magazines and other applications.

They create visual concepts that extend ideas and messages to the target audience, either by hand or via a computer software program or both.

Possessing team-playing skills is important for graphic designers who have to collaborate with other members of the design or production team.

In the country, up to 19% of today’s graphic designers are self-employed.

Art director

  • Median annual salary: $100,890
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 11%

The overall visual styling of newspapers, magazines as well as from product packaging to movie and TV productions is left in the hands of art directors.

It’s also a part of their responsibility to overlook the work of graphic designers and others who partake in artwork or layout tasks. Art directors present concepts and designs to clients for their approval.

Most employers prefer art directors with at least a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, commercial and advertising art or any other similar discipline. It’s not uncommon for art directors to have climbed their way up to the position.

Marketing manager

  • Median annual salary: $133,380
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 10%

What marketing managers do is come up with programs and activities to make heads turn toward products or services.

They do everything from negotiating advertising contracts to hiring marketing staff members. Marketing managers usually travel in order to meet with clients or press people as well as work closely with top executives.

Almost 50% of all marketing managers in the US are in advertising, public relations and similar industries. Besides at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, employers also typically prefer those with experience in marketing, sales, etc.

Production designer

  • Median annual salary: $50,878
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 9%

Production designers come to the rescue each time a particular visual concept in various productions, such as TV, film or theater, has to be created or achieved.

They work closely with directors and the members of the production team in order to have a much better idea of the assignment. Production designers decide on the costumes, props, etc.

Some of the most qualified individuals to work as production designers include interior designer majors.

Those with a bachelor’s in graphic design or art, especially with exceptional portfolios, are also suited for the job.

Exhibit designer

  • Median annual salary: $57,701
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 3%

Also referred to as exhibit design creators or exhibition designers, exhibit designers are called upon to plan and develop physical displays for activities held at museums, galleries, libraries, etc.

Because they have to be very good with layout and design, a bachelor’s in graphic design or a closely related discipline can make them highly marketable.

Refrain from assuming that the tasks of exhibit designers begin and end with coming up with a display.

They are also responsible for many other things, including finding contractors and suppliers and recruiting the design team.

designer selecting fabric

Fashion designer

  • Median annual salary: $77,450
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 0%

While a bachelor’s in fashion design or fashion merchandising can give an aspiring fashion designer an edge in the job market, just about anyone who can design clothing and accessories beautifully can work as a fashion designer.

Most employers prefer those with at least a bachelor’s degree and, of course, an impressive design portfolio.

Most of today’s fashion designers serve as in-house designers for manufacturers or wholesalers. Almost only 20% of fashion designers are self-employed, usually creating custom apparel and high-fashion designer clothes.

Special effects artist and animator

  • Median annual salary: $78,790
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 16%

Simply put, special effects artists and animators collaborate with one another in order to come up with visual effects, movies or games.

In the process, they create graphics and animations using special computer software programs or hand-drawn illustrations or both, depending on the particular needs and requirements of clients.

While individuals who majored in computer graphics and animation are the most eligible to work as special effects artists and animators, those with a bachelor’s in graphic design and concentration in computer skills are preferred, too.

Web designer

  • Median annual salary: $77,200
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 13%

Graphic design majors who are working as web designers are tasked with creating the overall look and appeal of websites.

Their bachelor’s degree allows them to decide which color schemes, layouts, images, font types and other elements will work the best. Web designers also ensure that websites are functional and user-friendly.

A lot of web designers can be found in industries such as advertising and publishing. Approximately 20% of them are self-employed, usually charging their clients anywhere from $40 to $60 per hour, depending on the project.

User experience designer

  • Median annual salary: $75,000
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 8%

What user experience designers or UX designers do is make products or services accessible, usable and, more importantly, enjoyable, in order to convert more target audiences into customers and to keep return customers happy.

To date, there is no such thing as a bachelor’s degree in UX design.

But the good news is that aspirants can be hired as UX designers even without any degree, provided that they have the necessary soft and hard skills.

Most employers, however, prefer US designers with at least a bachelor’s in graphic design or something related to it.

video editor

Video editor

  • Median annual salary: $60,360
  • Job outlook in 10 years: 29%

Turning raw footage into the final product — in a nutshell, such is what video editors do.

It goes without saying that video editors are typically employed in the motion picture and video industry, although some of them, nearly 40%, are self-employed.

Most of their work hours are spent in editing rooms, usually with directors and producers.

Other than a bachelor’s degree, it’s a must for video editors to have an understanding of digital cameras and video editing software.

Patience, concentration, attention to detail and organizational skills are must-haves, too.

Best Design Schools in the US

In the US, the most number of colleges and universities with graphic design programs are private non-profits.

However, degree-seeking students who are from low-income backgrounds may also choose from an assortment of public or state institutions, whose tuition costs are so much cheaper, most especially for residents.

The following schools have some of the best degree programs in graphic design:

University of Southern California$80,151
Carnegie Mellon University$76,760
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor$31,484 (in-state) and $67,802 (out-of-state)
University of Florida$21,431 (in-state) and $42,648 (out-of-state)
Northeastern University$75,732
University of Texas at Austin$28,928 (in-state) and $57,512 (out-of-state)
Boston University$77,662
University of Miami$73,712
University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign$31,102 (in-state) and $48,552 (out-of-state)
Pennsylvania State University$36,962 (in-state) and $54,026 (out-of-state)
North Carolina State University$24,555 (in-state) and $44,674 (out-of-state)
Brigham Young University$19,594
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities$28,827 (in-state) and $47,125 (out-of-state)
University of Washington$29,319 (in-state) and $56,688 (out-of-state)
George Washington University$76,276
Michigan State University$29,230 (in-state) and $54,536 (out-of-state)
Texas Christian University$71,828
Rhode Island School of Design$75,520
University of South Florida$23,866 (in-state) and $34,780 (out-of-state)
Oklahoma State University$24,239 (in-state) and $39,759 (out-of-state)

Besides traditional degrees in graphic design, also available are online degrees in graphic design. If you are planning on getting one, make sure that the online school is legit and fully accredited.

Top 5 Online Schools for Graphic Design

It’s also a good idea to check the kind of classes being offered.

Some online schools have self-paced, fully-online classes, while others offer hybrid classes — the kinds where students have to attend both virtual and face-to-face classes.

Your choice should be based on your lifestyle and everyday schedule as a professional or an adult student.

Here are some online schools offering some of the best online graphic design degrees:

Liberty University

  • Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
  • Cost: $390.00 per credit hour
  • Accreditor: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Average starting salary: $33,700 per year

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Location: Manchester, New Hampshire
  • Cost: $320.00 per credit hour
  • Accreditor: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Acceptance rate: 94%
  • Average starting salary: $41,400 per year

Bellevue University

  • Location: Bellevue, Nebraska
  • Cost: $430.00 per credit hour
  • Accreditor: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Average starting salary: $50,400 per year

Learn more about Bellevue University

Kentucky Wesleyan College

  • Location: Owensboro, Kentucky
  • Cost: $455.00 per credit hour
  • Accreditor: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Acceptance rate: 60%
  • Average starting salary: $29,900 per year

Full Sail University

  • Location: Winter Park, Florida
  • Cost: $758.00 per credit hour
  • Accreditor: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Average starting salary: $31,700 per year

Read our review of Full Sail University.

Is Graphic Design a Good Career

Graphic design is a good major for degree-seeking students who would like to take a career path within a time-honored and stable industry, which consists of nearly 300,000 workforce members.

It’s a great major for individuals who would like to become employed or self-employed art and design specialists.

All in all, majoring in graphic design allows you to penetrate a deeply established and stable industry.

It’s definitely a good major for you if your interests and passion lie in graphic design and graphic arts.

Read Next: Is Film Studies a Good Degree?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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