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What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Graphic Artist?

Becoming a graphic artist typically requires earning a bachelor's degree and developing a strong portfolio you can show potential employers. Read on to learn more about the educational requirements for this career.

Job Description

Graphic artists, or graphic designers, create and develop visual creations. They can convey messages about particular products or advertisements through the use of images, type, and color. These graphic designs can be used to sell products, services or company brands, and the work that you complete might be placed in magazines and brochures or shown on the Internet. To properly carry out your tasks, you must be skilled in both traditional art and digital art production.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Analytical, artistic, communication, creative; also must be skilled at working with computers and managing your time
Specializations Animation, motion graphics, web, and interactive design
Work Environment Majority employed in manufacturing; work in studios with computers. Full time work most common. 18% of graphic designers were self-employed in 2016.
Similar Occupations Craft and fine artists, art directors, multimedia artists, animators, web developers

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree is the most common degree type required for entry-level graphic arts or design positions. Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) programs in graphic design or graphic arts are widely available, but digital design or communication design programs can also prepare you for a job in this field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that 300 schools in the field have accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (www.bls.gov). When you apply to a BFA program, you may need to submit a personal portfolio of your graphic design creations.

Common Coursework

Graphic arts programs focus on both 2-D and 3-D design and include studio classes in drawing, illustration, and photography. You'll be introduced to common software programs used within the industry, such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Additionally, you might study the following topics:

  • Typography
  • Color
  • Product branding and packaging
  • Graphic design and art history
  • Motion graphics
  • Electronic publishing
  • Web design
  • Professional writing

Other Program Components

Undergraduate programs might encourage you to take an internship prior to graduation. You might also participate in a professional development workshop. In addition to gaining graphic design skills, you are usually required to build up a professional portfolio to meet graduation requirements, as well as to take to employers after graduation.

Job Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicted a 4% increase in graphic design positions from 2016-2026, which is slower than average. The BLS indicated that those with both web design knowledge might encounter better employment prospects. This should prove particularly true if you choose to work in the computer systems design industry. According to the BLS, graphic designers earned a median salary of $50,370 per year as of May 2018. Those employed in the federal executive branch earned the highest median salary - $83,090 in the same year.