A bachelor’s or an associate degree in graphic design is usually required for a job as a graphic designer. Creativity, communication, and problem solving skills and familiarity with computer graphics and design software also are important.
Education and training. A bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level and advanced graphic design positions; although some entry-level technical positions may only require an associate degree. Bachelor’s degree programs in fine arts or graphic design are offered at many colleges, universities, and private design schools. Most curriculums include studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and Web site design. In addition to design courses, a liberal arts education that includes courses in art history, writing, psychology, sociology, foreign languages and cultural studies, marketing, and business are useful in helping designers work effectively.
Associate degrees and certificates in graphic design also are available from 2-year and 3-year professional schools. These programs usually focus on the technical aspects of graphic design and include few liberal arts courses. Graduates of 2-year programs normally qualify as assistants to graphic designers or for positions requiring technical skills only. Individuals who wish to pursue a career in graphic design—and who already possess a bachelor’s degree in another field—can complete a 2-year or 3-year program in graphic design to learn the technical requirements.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 250 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these schools award a degree in graphic design. Many schools do not allow formal entry into a bachelor’s degree program until a student has successfully finished a year of basic art and design courses. Applicants may be required to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.
Increasingly, employers expect new graphic designers to be familiar with computer graphics and design software. Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated software, on their own or through software training programs.
Other qualifications. In addition to postsecondary training in graphic design, creativity, communication, and problem-solving skills are crucial. Graphic designers must be creative and able to communicate their ideas visually, verbally, and in writing. They also must have an eye for details. Designers show employers these traits by putting together a portfolio—a collection of examples of a person’s best work. A good portfolio often is the deciding factor in getting a job.
Because consumer tastes can change quickly, designers also need to be well read, open to new ideas and influences, and quick to react to changing trends. The ability to work independently and under pressure are equally important traits. People in this field need self-discipline to start projects on their own, to budget their time, and to meet deadlines and production schedules. Good business sense and sales ability also are important, especially for those who freelance or run their own firms.
Advancement. Beginning graphic designers usually receive on-the-job training and normally need 1 to 3 years of training before they can advance to higher positions. Experienced graphic designers in large firms may advance to chief designer, art or creative director, or other supervisory positions. Some designers leave the occupation to become teachers in design schools or in colleges and universities. Many faculty members continue to consult privately or operate small design studios to complement their classroom activities. Some experienced designers open their own firms or choose to specialize in one area of graphic design.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition
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