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Master's in Graphic Design: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a graphic designer. Learn about curriculum for a master's degree, job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is A Master's in Graphic Design?

After completing a bachelor's degree it is possible to pursue graduate studies in graphic design. A master's degree prepares graphic designers who are highly trained professionals in their field. Although a master's degree is not required to be a graphic designer, graduate studies can prepare individuals for advanced roles as part of a graphic design team. They learn about design principles, graphics production, computerized design, and they learn to use computer design software. As a graphic designer their work involves developing visual images by hand or with computer-aided design software. They produce images that are meant to convey a concept or impression on the public. They may design logos for politicians or products. They may work as part of a group or independently, and during the process of developing their design they may meet with clients to discuss their progress, receive feedback and then refine their design until it is approved.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Motion graphics; illustration; computer-enhanced graphics
Key Responsibilities Promote products visually; produce illustrations for advertising
Job Growth (2018-2028) 3% growth (graphic designers)*
Average Annual Salary (2018) $54,680 (graphic designers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master's Degree Programs in Graphic Design

A master's degree program in graphic design teaches you how to think critically and creatively. You learn how to seduce the viewer into purchasing a product or thinking about an advertisement. Sensory is a strong part of perception, and through the use of color, shape, images, sounds and layout, people who look at your work will be influenced by your choices.

This program blends art theory with technology to create design for a variety of different industries and outlets. From book design to aerospace websites, you can design a number of different logos, images, websites and messages. Some of the topics that you may encounter during your study include graphic design, design language, special design, information design, editorial illustration, visualization and typography.

Curriculum Requirements

In addition to the required courses, students in a master's degree program may have to complete a thesis. Examples of courses in this program include:

  • Motion graphics
  • Advertising illustration
  • Computer-enhanced graphic design
  • Experiments in space

Job Duties

There are many job opportunities for graphic designers, and almost every industry needs graphic designers at some point. As a graphic designer, you analyze problems and products and promote them visually. Magazines and newspapers also need graphic designers to layout advertisements and articles. Sometimes graphic designers can work as copy editors, performing similar duties.

Potential Earnings

Your salary is going to depend on the industry you choose to work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the five best paying states for graphic designers are the District of Columbia, New York, Massachusetts, California and Connecticut, and the top five highest paying industries for graphic designers are the federal government, aerospace manufacturers, semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing, legal services, and natural gas distribution (www.bls.gov). In 2018, the yearly average for graphic designers was $54,680, while the top ten percentile made an average of $85,760 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Desktop publishers, web developers and art directors all perform some tasks that are similar to the work of graphic designers. A key focus of all of their professions is designing a specific look intended to appeal to a particular audience. Desktop publishers incorporate design principles into the production of newspapers, books or other printed materials. They need an associate's degree to enter their field. Web developers design websites. They need to make them visually appealing to the intended audience. They also need an associate's degree. Art directors may design product packaging or create the look for printed materials. They need a bachelor's degree.