How to Become a Graphic Designer

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

Marketing, advertising, and businesses owe a lot of their success to graphic designers. Products and services are packaged and promoted in a way that appeals to consumers with the help of graphic design. If you are interested in working in the field, this guide will cover how you can become a graphic designer.

If you have a natural talent for art and illustration, you can start building a satisfying career in graphic design in no time.

What Is a Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer creates the visual design of product packaging, advertisements, and promotions. They also layout magazines and brochures, help design websites, improve the look of mobile apps, and work on anything related to production design.

Being competent in using computer software for designing and animation is one of your expected capabilities. Still, this comes with knowing the principles of design and having an idea of what would encourage a customer to buy the product.

Graphic Designer Salary and Job Outlook

The median pay for a graphic designer in the United States is $53,380 per year, according to 2020 figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The salary ranges from $31,720 to as much as $93,440, depending on your industry, company, and experience.

There is a projected decline in the job outlook for graphic designers. Between 2019 and 2029, employment in the field is expected to go down by four percent according to BLS. That said, this decline varies by industry.

For example, there is a downward trend for graphic design roles in newspapers and periodicals. On the other hand, the digital world is on the rise and needs more digital designers.


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Entry-Level Graphic Designer Job Requirements

The average entry-level graphic design salary is $32,660 per year, according to ZipRecruiter. California is one of the states that provide higher-than-average salaries for entry-level graphic designers, although Arkansas is at the top with $38,582 per year.

According to BLS, you need at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify as a graphic designer. There are companies, however, that accept applicants with an associate degree depending on their capabilities. It would be best to be ready with your portfolio and demonstrate your technical and creative capabilities.

How to Ace Your Graphic Designer Job Interview

During your interview for a graphic designer job, remember to demonstrate your competence by talking about your projects and experiences. Let your interviewer know which design software you are good at. If you are going for a digital graphic design position, having an aptitude for web design is vital.

Below are some of the questions that you can prepare for before going into the interview.

Common Graphic Designer Job Interview Questions

    • Which design software do you use in creating graphic design, and how skilled are you in each of them?
    • Cite a specific project that you worked on and describe the process that enabled you to make it a success.
    • Describe how extensive your knowledge is in the digital graphic design sphere.
    • Describe your working relationship with others while collaborating on a project. Are you comfortable when working within a team, or do you prefer to work alone?

What Degree Should I Get to Become a Graphic Designer?

Programs to learn graphic design are offered by many different universities and institutions. If you want more job prospects, going for a bachelor’s degree is a good path. Still, some companies are open to those who hold an associate degree. However, they will expect you to have certification to supplement this.

Associate Degree in Graphic Design

An Associate Degree in Graphic Design is usually accepted by companies looking for graphic designers at a junior level. There are online associate degrees that focus on basic foundational knowledge like 2D and 3D design, illustration and typography, and web design.

As you complete your studies, you slowly build your professional design portfolio. This portfolio would be handy when you look for a job along with your certification and other proof of credibility.

You can also consider moving up to a bachelor’s degree if you wish to further your knowledge in the field and increase your job prospects.

Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design

Some universities offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts in Graphic Design Specialization, although there are programs that are solely for graphic design. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most companies.

Whereas an associate degree or graphic design courses are more skill-focused, you will learn a lot more in terms of theories via a bachelor’s degree.

Since this is in the realm of fine arts, you will study graphic design in different media and industries. There will be lectures on design and color theories, art history, aesthetics, and developing your media and communication skills.

Master’s Degree in Graphic Design

Several universities offer a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design if you are interested in furthering your knowledge in design theory. Most of the programs are focused on research work and advanced graphic design skills.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design could help advance your career, especially if you are aiming to lead a team. You could also use the degree if you intend to explore a career option in teaching graphic design at a university or any other institution.

Graphic Design Courses and Bootcamps

Aside from the usual formal education from universities, there are graphic design courses available online. These are offered by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera and EdX. Each course could take a few hours to a few weeks to accomplish, depending on the specific focus.

In addition, boot camps also offer programs on web design and digital design if this is the track that you want to explore. Aside from gaining design knowledge, you will learn graphic design for user experience purposes. Your projects would be on web design and mobile application development.

What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

Your primary duty as a graphic artist is designing products and other projects for your clients. Designing, then, is not your only duty but also building a good rapport with your client. Below are some of the duties that you are expected to execute as a graphic designer.

Creates Design, Layouts, and Other Visual Output

Through the use of various software and media, you are expected to create designs for a project from scratch. Your imagination and vision are at play here.

Sometimes, you will only be requested to create the design for a specific product. On other occasions, you need to be involved in the entire project that covers creating logos, finding original images, making illustrations, and more.

Communicates With Clients

Graphic design is all about meeting your client’s expectations and requests. You need to set up a good communication channel with your client so that you can prevent misunderstandings. Making sure that you follow their direction is paramount.

On the other hand, there are also instances when you need to be the one suggesting ideas. Some, if not most, clients will not be as well-versed as you are in graphic design. Therefore, you need to explain your concepts clearly so that your client is on the same page.

Presents Design and Plans

As a graphic designer, you are also responsible for presenting original ideas to your superiors or clients. This is usually done for bigger projects that require special attention. So, you must be prepared for planning and presentation.

Working in a company with a large reach could mean working with a lot of people, especially for a project like this. Along with building a feasible plan, you also must communicate and collaborate cross-functionally.

Essential Graphic Designer Skills

You must have extensive skills in designing, presenting, and communicating creatively if you want to excel as a graphic designer. The competition for a career in graphic design is tough, so you need to have the following essential skills.

Creativity and Typography

Knowing how to use the right design software is already a given, so what you do with it is much more important. You need to produce a creative output that best appeals to your target consumer.

Typography, or the art of making language visually legible, is part of making an effective design. Some graphic designs suffer from bad typography and fail to grab the viewer’s attention. You need to make sure that your message is readable, impactful, and commands attention.

Excellent Communication

Your primary function as a graphic designer is to create a design that would best communicate the product to its target consumer. It needs to be instant and immediately understandable.

Communication skills are also important for dealing with your clients, superiors, and colleagues. Your work is client-based most of the time. You are not only creating the requested design but also securing their trust and possible future business.

Digital Design and Coding

Digital design is the more in-demand form of graphic design, which is why most universities focus on this. One of the recommended skills to add to your toolkit is coding. Web design is about building websites using three main programming languages. So, spare some time learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Aside from images and websites, digital designing also extends to creating graphics in video form and other moving image media. There is a lot that you can do using graphic design in the digital sphere as long as you can comfortably navigate your way.

How to Become a Graphic
Designer: A Step-by-Step Guide

Completing your studies and building your portfolio is the easiest way to become a graphic designer. Below is a guide that outlines the ways you can achieve your professional goals.


Complete an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree

Learn the right techniques, knowledge, and skills in designing. Equipping yourself with the fundamentals of the field helps build strong foundations in graphic design. This will give you an advantage over others who have a surface-level understanding of graphic design.


Build Your Portfolio

Start building your portfolio as early as possible so that you have it ready for internship applications and eventually for a job application. Personal projects undertaken while studying are usually the first to fill your portfolio. Still, you can consider taking commissioned works if you feel confident enough about your skills.


Grab Internship Opportunities

There are a lot of graphic design internship opportunities that you can try out. This is a great chance for you to work in a corporate setting or with a professional team. You will be able to practice your skills and also learn how this role works in the real world.


Take Advantage of Free Graphic Design Courses

The Internet is filled with free graphic design courses that you can use to your advantage. Whether it’s learning how to use a specific program or getting tips on how to create more effective designs, there are sites and videos for you. Take the opportunity to learn by yourself as much as you can.


Follow Trends and New Developments

Graphic designing requires being up-to-date with the latest trends and developments. You need to feel the pulse of the creative world to know which are the best elements to use. Your potential employer will be impressed if you have extensive knowledge of what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Graphic Designer?

It takes about two to four years to become a graphic designer, depending on your chosen field of study. In between, you can earn various certifications from different training programs to further your skills. But make sure you have the essential skills discussed above to guarantee your first employment.

Should You Become a Graphic Designer in 2021?

Despite the decline in job opportunities for graphic designers, note that the current statistics are influenced by the decline of print. However, the digital sphere still holds promise as greater numbers of businesses are migrating online.

Make sure to focus on digital design in your study so that you can qualify for jobs that require web design and coding, making 2D and 3D animation, and more. Graphic designer jobs can continue to grow with the right platform and medium. As long as there is a need for talent to design a product, take advantage of it.

Graphic Designer FAQ

What does a graphic designer do?

A graphic designer is responsible for creating designs for products, communicating with clients, and executing their requests, as well as participating in campaign plans for a project.

Are you required to complete a degree to become a graphic designer?

Most companies require that you have completed at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design or other related programs. However, some companies will accept those who have completed an associate degree, supplemented with certification.

What skills do you need to be a graphic designer?

You need to be endlessly creative as you will come up with many new designs for every client and project. It’s not just about aesthetics, either. Knowing how to get the message across in your design to instantly appeal to a target audience is the prime objective.

Is a graphic designer's salary competitive?

A graphic designer earns a median salary of $53,380 per year according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Entry-level graphic designers make an average of around $32,000 per year, although some states like California may offer more than the average.

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