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Is graphic design school right for you?

Clifford Blodgett

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If you're looking for a job that allows you to capitalize on your own creative energy, then a career in graphic design may be the right choice for you. Generally, graphic design involves the creation of marketing images. While these images can include advertisements, oftentimes graphic designers will also create images for product packaging, logos, book covers, CD covers, posters and billboards. Increasingly, graphic designers also work as webmasters.

Webmasters design and program websites and, generally, webmaster positions involve a knowledge of scripting languages and web design in addition to a fundamental understanding of graphic design.

The U. S.

Department of Labor estimates that graphic design positions will increase steadily through 2014. Web design jobs are predicted to grow at a faster rate than other graphic design positions. Salaries for graphic designers vary greatly, running the gamut from the mid $20,000s to up to $90,000, with designers averaging $40,000 a year. The amount an individual designer makes depends on his or her level of experience and the size of their employer's company. Often, designers will be hired for an entry-level position and will then receive on-site job training for the first two to three years, after which advanced positions may be made available to them. Additionally, some designers work as independent contractors instead of pursuing a salaried position.

If graphic design sounds like an appealing career to you, you may want to consider applying to a graphic design school. When conducting your college search, consider the following questions, which will help you determine the right graphic design college for you.

What type of graphic design degree do you want?
Generally, graphic design jobs require a bachelor's degree.

You can choose between a degree in graphic design or an art degree that offers a specialization in graphic design. If you are particularly interested in – or talented at – the visual arts, then an art school with a specialization in graphic design may be the most sensible option. However, if you are interested in the more practical aspects of graphic design – layout, web design, typography and so forth—then a graphic design college is probably the best place for you.

How do you evaluate the strength of a program?
While there are many differences between individual graphic design programs, there are a few qualities that all great programs share. During your college search, look for a graphic design school that places a high focus on critical thinking and portfolio development. As a graphic designer, you want to be able to not only help market individual products but also to be able to promote yourself and your abilities.

A graphic design college that emphasizes critical thinking can equip you with the skills to tackle difficult projects and to navigate the ins and outs of the business world. In addition to critical thinking, portfolio development should be an essential element of your education as your portfolio will be the most important part of your job application. A professional, extensive portfolio that demonstrates your competency with the major computer design programs will ensure that a potential employer gets a clear view of your creative potential.

Should you choose an online program or a local one?
There are a variety of graphic design online programs that offer both bachelor's and associate degrees in graphic design. Many of these programs also offer specialization in particular aspects of graphic design. These can be great choices if you are working a full-time day job or are taking care of a family. Additionally, there are programs offered in physical locations both through large, national schools like The Art Institutes and through community colleges and four-year universities. These schools have the advantage of offering hands-on, workshop-based classroom experiences, though they do present more logistical challenges than their online counterparts. During your college search, you'll want to consider issues of scheduling and location in addition to factors like tuition and courses offered.

Changing careers is not a decision that you should take likely. However, with a thorough college search and thought, you'll soon be able to determine whether or not attending graphic design school is the right choice for you.


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