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Communications Design Degree Programs

A degree program in communications design might qualify you for work in various multimedia and artistic careers. Associate's and bachelor's degrees are available at the undergraduate level, and some offer online options. Read on to learn what courses are required and see what the job outlook and salary expectations are for this field.

What Does Communication Design Involve?

Companies often must communicate information about their products through more than the printed word. They need advertisements and slogans that are creative, aesthetic and interactive. Those who work in the field of communications design help present this information by using digital media technologies to create artistic layouts and designs. Classes in communications design combine art, advertising and computer technology to produce an interdisciplinary curriculum.

Degree Levels Associate, bachelor's
Key Responsibilities Using digital media technologies to create compelling advertisements
Online Options Related programs in communications available online
Possible Careers Graphic designer, Web designer, illustrator, multimedia artist
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% growth (for all multimedia artists and animators

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Degree Programs Are Available to Me?

Associate's and bachelor's degrees are most commonly awarded in communications design. Associate's degree programs are generally offered as an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and take 1-3 years to complete. Bachelor's degree programs often award a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and take four years to finish. To apply to an undergraduate program, you might need to submit a portfolio of your past design projects and artwork.

In an undergraduate communications design program, you'll often work in both studio and computer lab environments. Your classes will explore artful ways to promote logos, brands or products. You'll also practice illustration, drawing and design techniques for CDs, books, posters and other artistic mediums. Bachelor's degree programs often will encourage you to participate in an internship during your senior year. Common topics that you'll examine during both associate's and bachelor's degree programs include:

  • Typography
  • Digital design
  • Narrating through art
  • Graphic design techniques
  • Basic business principles
  • Advertising, promotions and marketing
  • Photo manipulation
  • Computer drawing

Can I Learn Online?

Online programs in communications design are rare due to the studio nature of many of the art and design classes. You instead can enroll in an online bachelor's degree program in graphic communications, which covers much of the same material as a communications design program. You can also enroll in an online integrated marketing communications and design program to focus on using communications design in advertising. You'll usually communicate with classmates through e-mail or chat sessions and complete all design projects from your computer.

Online programs might teach you to use software programs like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and After Effects. Before beginning a program, you might need to take a short online orientation class to acquaint yourself with the online system. Technical requirements for an online program usually include speakers, headphones and a broadband Internet connection. Some programs might also require you to own a flatbed scanner and a digital camera.

What Fields Can I Enter?

With your bachelor's degree in communications design, you can apply for jobs as a graphic designer and help create artistic advertisements and layouts. An associate's degree might allow you to start as an assistant to a graphic designer and later advance to the position. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that graphic designers earned a mean salary of $50,370 per year as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov).

You also might become a Web designer with your degree since the BLS reported that there is a growing need for website-related design work. PayScale.com stated that the middle 80% of Web designers made a salary range of $34,000-$73,000 as of August 2019.

An associate's or bachelor's degree can give you the tools to work as an illustrator for a company or advertiser. According to the BLS, fine artists, including illustrators, made a mean yearly wage of $54,170 as of May 2018. If you earn your bachelor's degree, you can also work as a multimedia artist. The BLS reported that multimedia artists and animators earned a mean annual salary of $72,520 as of May 2018.