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Computer Graphics Associate's Degree

Starting a career in computer graphics with an associate's degree is a great idea for aspiring digital artists. This article looks at what goes into design classes in an associate's program, along with career information for artists.

What Can I Expect in a Computer Graphics Associate's Degree Program?

It can take about two years to complete an associate's degree program that can consist of 60-67 credits. Graduation might lead to an Associate of Science or more often an Associate of Applied Science in a field such as computer graphics and design, digital design or computer graphics technology. Typical courses you might encounter include 2-D and 3-D design, computer graphics, typographic layout and design, digital imaging, Photoshop, website development, computer art, photographic design and multimedia interactive design.

You may have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area, such as animation, advertising, video production, gaming, photography or art. Many schools require that you complete an internship or co-op work experience at a school-partnered, external facility. You may be able to transfer your credits earned in the program toward a bachelor's degree program at a 4-year school.

There are many private design schools, colleges and even universities that offer appropriate programs. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredits hundreds of post-secondary schools that offer programs leading to degrees in graphic design. You might also take advantage of the online, searchable database maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The NCES directory lists over 70 schools that offer associate's degree programs dealing with computer graphics.

Program LengthTwo years
Program SpecialtiesAnimation, advertising, gaming, photography
Skills LearnedProgramming, design, using graphic design software
Course FormatOn campus or online
Median Salary (2018)$50,370 (for graphic designers)
Job Outlook (2016-26)4% (for all graphic designers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Why Do I Need This Degree?

Through an associate's degree program, you can learn some basic design and programming skills. In addition, you will learn how to use powerful software to create stunning and compelling images for Web pages, computer programs and other media. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree is the industry standard for most positions in the field of graphic design (www.bls.gov). The BLS also states that with an associate's degree, you may be able to break into the field as an assistant to a graphic designer or in a position that calls for certain technical abilities.

What Online Opportunities Exist?

Schools may offer you the chance to complete all or some of your courses by way of an online delivery format. If a program contains an internship component, you must complete it in a live setting. Schools generally present their online programs asynchronously via a course management system, such as Blackboard. This allows you to access courses and submit assignments at your convenience, within a defined time period. You communicate with professors and fellow students by way of a discussion board.

Can You Give Me Some Employment and Wage Information?

The BLS projected employment opportunities for graphic designers would increase 4% from 2016-2026. This is slower than the national average for all occupations. However, the need for graphic designers in the computer systems design field will increase by 20% in the same time period, thanks to increasing Internet usage. In 2018, the BLS determined the median annual wage for graphic designers to be $50,370.