Graphic Arts: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career opportunities in graphic arts. Learn more about education requirements, salary potential and job outlook to decide if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Careers in Graphic Arts?

Graphic artists create a variety of printed materials, including posters, magazine layouts, brochures, logos and corporate identities, as well as art for websites and other interactive media. They may design these materials by hand or by using specialized design software. Graphic artists may be employed by companies and work in-house or they may work independently as freelancers. They work closely with clients to understand their vision in order to produce a design that pleases the client and fulfills their needs. The chart below outlines the education requirements, earning potential and job outlook for a career in graphic arts.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Graphic arts, art, design
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1%*
Median Salary (2015) $46,900*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Prepare for a Career in Graphic Arts?

Beyond just creating designs that look cool or pretty, graphic artists use space, images, color, typography and other design elements to solve complex communication issues. Excellent communication and problem-solving skills can help you succeed as a graphic artist.

Many graphic design positions require you to have a bachelor's degree, but there are associate's degrees and certificate programs available. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) website lists more than 300 accredited colleges and universities that offer art and design programs, including graphic arts programs.

What Will I Study?

Bachelor's degree programs in graphic arts are available from both liberal arts universities and art schools. If you pursue a 4-year graphic arts degree, you can receive a well-rounded liberal arts education and earn a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Science. Art schools typically require fewer general education courses than universities, and you may be able to earn your graphic design degree online.

Any 4-year graphic arts program is likely to include a variety of art and design studios, in which you hone your artistic talents and learn about essential design tools. You also typically take courses in advertising, marketing, Web design and art history. Most graphic arts programs include coursework in portfolio design and culminate in a senior project. Building your portfolio is important; it could hold more weight when applying for graphic arts jobs than your educational background.

How Much Might I Earn?

As a graphic artist, you could work for a large design firm or advertising agency, which often employ many creative individuals and service many different types of clients. You could also work as a company's in-house graphic designer, designing for the entire company or for just one or two departments. With experience and business savvy, you may be able to succeed as a freelance designer.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that job opportunities for graphic designers would increase by about 1% from 2014-2014, which is slightly below average for all jobs ( You should expect competition in this field due to the large number of creative individuals who are drawn to it. You're likely to see the best employment opportunities if you have experience in animation and Web design. As of May 2015, graphic designers earned a median salary of $46,900, reported the BLS.

What Advancement Opportunities Might I Have?

A bachelor's degree in graphic art or design can often get you an entry-level job. You typically need 1-3 years of experience before you can advance in this field. With more experience, you might advance to a supervisory position, such as art director, creative director or chief designer. These types of positions are most commonly found in large design or advertising firms. Once you've gained experience and loyal clientele, you could open your own design firm.

If you earn your master's degree in graphic arts, you could also consider teaching art and design courses at a college or university. Many designers supplement their freelance income with a salaried teaching position. Master's degree programs in graphic arts are available from colleges, universities and art schools across the U.S.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a bachelor's degree, you could also work as an art director. Art directors work for organizations and are responsible for the overall design and style of the organization or business they work for, whether that be a magazine, newspaper, or TV production company. As the director, you may oversee the work of other artists and make sure they are working efficiently and within the design vision. A similar career to this is a desktop publisher, which generally requires an associate's degree. These professionals use specialized software to create digital layouts for magazines, newspapers, books, and other items that are viewed online.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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