How To Become A Graphic Designer

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In this series of articles, we’re exploring a wide range of rewarding professions that don’t require four-year degrees. Today’s post focuses on how to become a graphic designer. We’ll cover education, working conditions, salary, job outlook, and more. Let’s dive in!

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

Graphic designers are creative professionals who specialize in visual communication. They use various design elements, such as typography, photography, color, and illustration to create effective visual solutions for their clients. Beyond this, they also need excellent communication skills, as the job is all about listening to clients and making their ideas a reality. As a graphic designer, your job will be about developing an overall vision for a brand or project and then executing it. 

Scope of Graphic Design

Graphic design is a creative and challenging field that requires a unique blend of technical skills, creative vision, and communication skills. Due to the ever-increasing reliance on technology, graphic design is becoming part of every industry, as everything from hospitals to banks need compelling material. This allows designers to develop niches and pick which industry they want to work in. 

Similarly, graphic designers can work with different types of audiences. They can work to design printed material, such as restaurant menus or posters, but they can also work on digital designs, such as websites and social media posts. It’s up to the designer to decide where their talents lie, and many designers will choose to specialize in a particular audience or type of work, just as logo design.

Because there are many different jobs that graphic designers do, no two graphic designers will have an identical workload. That being said, being a graphic designer means spending most of your time in front of a computer. While everyone has their own preferences, many designers use programs like adobe illustrator and other specialized design software. Some even use specialized hardware to draw directly on tablets rather than designing with a mouse. 

With that being said, let’s look at different jobs that a graphic designer might take on, as we’ve mentioned several options already.  

  • Logo designers are responsible for creating visual identities for businesses and organizations. They create logos that are unique and visually interesting while conveying a message. Their work involves researching the client’s industry and objectives. With this information, they make a design that evokes a strong visual response. Logo designers also consider color and font choices, as well as the overall layout of the logo.
  • Web designers create websites that are user-friendly and visually appealing. They are responsible for creating the visual elements of a website, such as a layout, color scheme, and font. If this sounds interesting to you, consider learning HTML or CSS, website designers often code websites for their clients. 
  • Advertising designers create visuals for promoting products or services. They develop advertising campaigns and create visuals for print, broadcast, digital, and web-based media platforms. These designers also work with marketing specialists to identify target audiences and design materials that will appeal to them. This could include brochures, billboards, newspaper ads, magazine layouts, television commercials, website banners, and social media posts.
  • Motion graphics designers create graphics for television, film, and video. They combine design principles, animation techniques, and software to create engaging visuals. Motion graphic designers may work on projects ranging from website navigation elements to full-length motion pictures.
  • Illustrators create illustrations for books, magazines, websites, and other publications. They can work with traditional mediums such as charcoal, watercolor, and pencil, or digital mediums such as Photoshop and Illustrator. They may also use 3D modeling and animation programs. Illustrators create original artwork that aligns with a client’s vision and direction. 
  • Others prefer to create visual designs for printed materials, such as flyers, posters, brochures, and magazines. This work can involve more specialized skills, such as typesetting, to capture the viewer’s attention.

Traits That Might Make You Suited For The Job

As I’m sure you would expect, graphic designers should have an excellent understanding of design principles and an eye for detail. You’ll need an artistic flair if you’re going to be a successful graphic designer, but it goes beyond that. Creating effective visuals that communicate a message requires creativity and an understanding of psychology, as quick, effective, memorable communication can be difficult. You’ll also need to work with other professionals, such as printers, web developers, and marketers, so you’ll also need interpersonal skills.

How to become a graphic designer

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How Do They Spend Their Days, Typically?

Graphic designers can work full-time, part-time, or freelance. A typical graphic designer works for around 40 hours a week. Their work days involve creating designs, illustrations, and layouts and attending meetings with clients or creative teams. They also research content to understand the industry involved. They create mood boards and analyze design trends for inspiration. Their work also involves multiple revisions; sometimes, they recreate designs from scratch. As a result, their deadlines and workload also influence their daily or weekly work hours. 

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Graphic Design Schools

If you’re interested in getting started as a graphic designer, you have a few choices. Around 65 percent of graphic designers have a bachelor’s degree. A college degree prepares graphic designers by giving them the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful in the field. A good graphic design program offers designers the technical proficiency and creative skills to create effective designs for various media. This training includes understanding software programs such as Adobe Creative Suite, learning typography and color theory, and developing portfolio-building projects. 

However, some graphic designers are self-taught or go to community college. If this is more your speed, you can practice designing on your own or use a course on Udemy or Skillshare to teach yourself the required skills. Many community colleges allow students to take courses one at a time, so if you decide you want formal instruction on selecting fonts or spacing out pictures on a poster, you can likely do so at a local institution.

List of Schools 

These are some colleges that offer 4-year bachelor programs in graphic design:

  • The University of Southern California 
  • The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • The University of Florida
  • Northeastern University
  • Boston University
  • The University of Texas – Austin
  • The University of Miami
  • North Carolina State University
  • The University of Washington
  • The University of South Florida

Estimated Tuition

If you decide that you’d like to attend a college to learn about graphic design, the tuition ranges from $10,000 – $40,000 per year. This cost depends on whether you’re in-state or out-of-state and what school you choose to attend. 

Internships & Job Placement

Many colleges help their students with internships and job placements. Even though a graphic design internship may not be mandatory at every college, it is critical for building a professional portfolio. When you graduate, it will help you get a job if you have a body of prior work to show prospective employers, so you should aim to get work experience while in college if you can.

How To Become Certified 

While it’s not necessary to be a certified graphic designer, certifications can help you prove your expertise, particularly if you’re self-taught or lack a broad portfolio. Becoming certified can also help you earn a higher salary, as having certifications can make you appear more professional and specialized to clients and employers. Adobe offers various certifications for its catalog of design software, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. There are also certifications like Adobe Certified Associate and Adobe Certified Expert to validate graphic design skills. Platforms like Coursera also offer training in branding or advertising trends and principles. 

How Long Does It Take To Become A Graphic Designer?

The amount of time it takes to become a graphic designer depends on the level of experience and education you possess. Generally, becoming a proficient graphic designer requires between one to four years of training, depending on whether you decide to get a college degree or participate in a certificate program. With additional education and experience, you may be able to become a senior graphic designer in as little as five years.

Career Outlook 

Are Graphic Designers In Demand?

Traditionally, graphic designers were only used by the publishing industry to design illustrations for books. While this market is shrinking, the overall demand for graphic designers is increasing in the web and digital spaces. Currently, digital marketing takes up 72 percent of marketing budgets. Even in content marketing, 51 percent of business-to-business marketers use visuals. As more and more marketing moves to social media, the need for graphic designers is only going to grow.

Employment Growth

In particular, the field of graphic design is expected to have a 3 percent employment growth rate this coming decade. However, this measurement doesn’t take into account the number of freelancers in this space, making it an underestimate. 

How Much Do Graphic Designers Make? 

Graphic design is far from the best or the worst of the trades when it comes to an annual salary. The average graphic designer earns $50,710 annually. For entry-level designers, the average annual salary is $42,082, which increases to $47,345 with some professional experience. If you become a senior designer, you’re likely to earn around $72,000 per year. However, these earnings can vary depending on your industry, design specialization, and even the state you live in.

For example, in Washington D.C, graphic designers earn $62,988 on average. In Massachusetts, Washington State, New York, and Virginia, graphic designers all earn more than $55,000 per year.

If you’re a full-time graphic designer, you can expect to receive a lot of perks with your position. These benefits typically include health insurance, vacation time, retirement plans, and disability insurance. Freelance graphic designers may not receive any of these benefits but may be able to deduct certain expenses related to their business from their taxes. 

Employment Type

Graphic designers can find employment in marketing agencies, major corporations, government bodies, and even nonprofits. They can have temporary contracts or work full-time for their employers. However, about 90 percent of graphic designers prefer freelance work, which is why it’s hard to pin down the exact job growth in this field.

If you become a graphic designer, it will be up to you to determine whether you’d prefer to work for a company to start your own business. Depending on the type of graphic design work and skills, some graphic designers may earn a higher rate by working for a company or client as an employee, rather than starting their own business. However, you may prefer the variety that comes with working with multiple clients. Ultimately, the decision of having your own business or working as an employee depends on what you want to do.

Pros and Cons 

As with every job, there are both pros and cons to becoming a graphic designer. Let’s take a look at some of the big ones:


  • Flexible working hours
  • Remote work
  • Creative outlet
  • Developing direct, long-term relationships with clients


  • Relatively low starting salary compared to other technical fields
  • Occasional long hours to meet deadlines
  • Can be stressful to be a freelancer
  • Slow career progression

Overall Job Satisfaction 

Currently, about two-thirds of graphic designers say they are happy with their job. That aligns well with the statistic that about 1 in 4 graphic designers will switch companies within a given year. This may be linked to dissatisfaction with salary rates since 71 percent of graphic designers rated their compensation at 3 or below out of 5

Looking at those statistics may make you think that graphic designers are not very happy with their job. However, it’s important to once again note that many graphic designers are freelancers. Their experiences are often not captured in studies, as most studies target full-time graphic designers employed by a single company. If you’re thinking about becoming a graphic designer, consider talking to one about their experience with the industry.

Final Thoughts: How To Become A Graphic Designer 

Becoming a graphic designer offers you the chance to uniquely combine artistic expression and creative problem-solving. With the right education and training, you can use this innovative career path to explore your passion for art while also making a living. As you consider this career, remember that it takes dedication and hard work to become successful in graphic design. However, If you’re willing to put in the effort, then graphic design can be an incredibly rewarding profession that provides artists with a stable income.

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