How Can I Become a Graphic Illustrator?

Research what it takes to become a graphic illustrator. Learn about education requirements, certification options and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Graphic Illustrator?

A graphic illustrator is similar to a graphic designer. These professionals create illustrations and visual concepts through the use of computer software or by hand. They develop logos or other visual images that help their clients communicate their intended message. This is a career field that requires artistic skill and creative thinking, since it's necessary to convert more abstract concepts to visual representations. Their images may be used in brochures, advertisements or reports.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Graphic design, media arts, fine arts, art history
Other Requirements Internship typically required; certification recommended to improve job prospects
Key Skills Technical, drawing, color and image editing
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% (for all graphic designers)*
Average Salary (2015) $51,640 (for all graphic designers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earn a Degree in Graphic Illustration or Design

A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum education required to work as a graphic illustrator or designer. Bachelor's degree programs relevant to this career include those in graphic design and media arts, fine arts and art history. Courses offered through these degree programs can teach you about digital imaging, desktop publishing and cultural arts.

You may also consider earning an associate's degree to prepare for an assistant or entry-level position in graphic design. Some common associate's degree programs offered include those in graphic design, interactive media and Web design. Courses offered through these programs can teach you foundational skills in drawing, using color and image editing.

If you have a degree in another field, you may consider enrolling in a certificate program to gain technical skills applicable to graphic design. Certificate programs are available in computer graphics and animation. Certificate program courses can help you learn functions such as 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional design.

Participate in an Internship Program

You can gain practical experience from a graphic design internship program offered through your educational institution. Working at an approved internship site is usually necessary to gain course credit. Some common businesses that seek interns for this career field include architectural and design firms, broadcasting companies and magazine publishers.

By participating in an internship program, you may shadow an experienced graphic designer to work sites and client meetings. You may also work with photographers and writers, perform research and assist in the production of design projects.

Develop a Portfolio

Developing a portfolio of your best work can help show employers your creative abilities and enhance your job prospects. Your portfolio can include drawings and print or digital images that you created. Some important tips to utilize when creating your portfolio include having a clean and eye-catching case to house your pieces, selecting neutral background paper, showcasing different types of work and labeling each design.

You may also choose to create a portfolio online. To do this, you would need to have a domain name and hosting for your website. An effective way to present your work online is to display images in a thumbnail size that lead to a full-sized image when clicked. Using this method can allow images to load properly so potential employers can review your work.

Get Certified

Getting a professional certification can establish your credibility in this field. Becoming certified on widely used Adobe illustration programs can be helpful. These certifications include Adobe Certified Associate and Adobe Certified Expert, both offered through Adobe Systems Incorporated. Passing exams that covers the Adobe software suite is required to earn these designations.

Other certifications you may consider include the Certified Digital Designer Digital Imaging credential offered by the American Design Drafting Association and the American Digital Design Association (ADDA). No prior related education or work experiences are needed and passing an exam is required to earn this designation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Drafters and craft and fine artists have some of the same duties as graphic illustrators. Drafters typically produce sketches or blueprints based on the ideas of engineers and architects. Their drawings are generally more technical than those of graphic illustrators. An associate's degree is the baseline academic requirement for career entry. Craft and fine artists do not necessarily need a degree, but they do need artistic talent. They may work as painters or sculptors and produce visual products that are meant to appeal to consumers or complement other material.

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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