Do You Need a College Degree to be a Graphic Designer?

There are thousands of graphic designers who don’t have college degrees, so the question of whether or not you need a college degree to be a graphic designer is easily answered. A degree in graphic design isn’t essential to work in the field, but it can be very beneficial to your salary, work prospects, and gaining skills you may not be able to get on your own. Rasmussen College offers degrees in graphic design, and they report that graduates are eligible for more jobs than those who lack degrees. Agencies and businesses request degrees, diplomas and certifications from qualified job applicants.

Job Qualifications and Earning Potential

Most graphic designers are hired according to their portfolio and skills in different types of software or production techniques. Skills which are in increasing demand include web design and project management, in addition to expected skills in Adobe software. According to Payscale.com, the national median salary for entry-level graphic designers was $38,00, based on over 10,400 salaries provided by users. Mid-level graphic designers earned an average of $43,000 according to Payscale.com, while experienced designers earned $46,000 on average. Rasmussen College reports that graduates can earn up to $10,000 more than non-graduates.

Educational Benefits

Whether they agree that degrees are essential or not, working graphic designers emphasize the importance of your portfolio in getting the best jobs and moving your career forward. Graphic design degree programs will give you the opportunity to work with highly-recognized, professional graphic designers who will help you to develop your portfolio. Working with expert designers will help you refine your work and make the strongest presentation you can. You also can’t get feedback from other students and instructors by watching instructional videos or working by yourself. Personal connections are also important, and will help you learn about job opportunities and career paths.

Related: Top 8 Cheap Online Graphic Design Degree Programs

Hiring Advantages

If you are working independently as a graphic designer, a college degree may not help you get work from clients in the general public. Larger businesses or agencies see formal education as an advantage in many cases. Some businesses have learned that designers with degrees require less explanation and are more efficient than those who are self-educated. Other businesses believe that designers with degrees have shown a level of commitment to their own skills and growth as designers by taking the time and money to get a degree.

Freelance Vs. Full-time Employment

Like many creative jobs, graphic design is one in which a talented person can earn a good living working for themselves. The choice of whether or not to work for a business, agency or government/nonprofit organization depends on your skills, interests, family needs and many other factors. Freelance designers do not have to have college degrees to be successful, and many of them lack degrees. Many people who are employed full-time in graphic design do have associate or bachelor’s degrees. Some skills you would use if you were a freelance designer include business management, negotiation and marketing. These skills are often offered in degree programs, especially from technical colleges.

Lynda.com graphic design instructor Justin Seeley wrote that a graphic design degree wasn’t essential to being a successful graphic designer, but in his case, he didn’t become who he is until he went to college. College served as an important time of development and learning for him and for many others who have also completed graphic design degree programs.