Behind effective visual and graphic designs lie skilled multimedia artists -- professionals who conceptualize and create compelling images and film and video effects for presentations, the web, television, print, and even outdoor installations like billboards. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8% job growth for multimedia artists over the next decade. Whether self-employed or contracted, multimedia artists currently make a median salary of $70,000.
Motivated individuals can learn aspects of multimedia design through self-taught work, but holding a degree increases competitiveness in the job market. In creative fields, where the overall supply of individuals looking for steady work can sometimes outweigh the demand, anything that gives you a leg up on the competition is valuable. Continue reading on to learn more about multimedia design degrees and their potential to boost your professional marketability.
Should I Get an Associate Degree in Multimedia Design?
Whether you're a working adult looking for a career change to a creative field or a soon-to-be high school graduate interested in communication and the visual arts, you may want to consider starting your educational journey with an associate degree in multimedia design. Your career goals might lie in a highly specialized area like animated television, film effects, web design, or another creative venture, but an associate degree can help build the foundational knowledge you'll need to succeed. Depending on your scheduling needs and preferences, you can choose to enroll in an on-campus or online program.
Different institutions and programs offer different areas of specialization. Your multimedia degree may focus primarily on web design, for example. Regardless, you can generally expect to develop a skill set in the use of software and in graphic design principles like color theory, typography, and drawing. Again, with information available online and in print, many of these fundamentals can be learned through self-teaching; but don't discount the value of earning a college degree, especially in today's competitive job market.
A multimedia communications degree ensures you learn current best practices, provides you with the institutional credentials of a college graduate, and results in a professional portfolio of work you can share with future clients. Beyond the classroom, your college experience can also offer exclusive networking opportunities, internships, job placement assistance, and other career services like resume building or mock interviews.
What Can I Do with an Associate in Multimedia Design?
Graduates of multimedia design associate programs generally go on to pursue additional education, working toward career goals in creative fields. Typically highly motivated self-starters, many multimedia artists end up as self-employed contract workers, while others hold standing employment in advertising or design departments of companies from various industries.
- Multimedia Designer
Multimedia designers use their skills to conceptualize, design, and create effective, visually appealing marketing material like infographics, industry presentations, and print ads to promote brands, products, or services. Some employers may also require their multimedia designers to handle web design or video production tasks.
Median Annual Salary: $49,993
- Architectural Design Associate
Individuals who work in architectural design use both software and traditional drawing tools to conceptualize, sketch, and assist in the design of buildings and other architectural projects. Entry-level positions often require a bachelor's or master's, which makes an associate degree in multimedia design an excellent first step.
Median Annual Salary: $63,959
- Production Artist
Production artists serve as final gatekeepers before clients publish or release digital media. They provide mockups and specifications to artists and designers and work closely with these individuals during the design process to ensure quality control, accuracy, and compliance of files.
Median Annual Salary: $44,831
- Junior Graphic Designer
This entry-level graphic design position holds varying job duties and responsibilities depending on the employer. Typically, junior designers work with the routine tasks of the design process under close supervision of department heads. An associate degree can satisfy the employment requirements for some junior designer positions.
Median Annual Salary: $39,153
How to Choose an Associate Program in Multimedia Design
With traditional classroom learning and online programs both readily available from schools across the country, selecting an institution for your multimedia design program can prove a difficult task. If you prefer an online program, explore factors like residency-based tuition rates and the effectiveness of mastering hands-on tasks like design software from a distance.
If you prefer a traditional college environment, consider the logistics of getting to class, as most two-year colleges do not offer student housing. Do you live close enough to campus to reliably make the commute multiple times a week? If you need to move closer, can you afford the local area's cost of living?
To further narrow your options, look into the details of each prospective school's curriculum. If you want to learn a specific skill or study a specific topic, which curriculum provides you with the best opportunity? Does the program offer any internship experiences outside of the classroom? What will your final portfolio of work look like?
Finally, examine the accreditation status of each school and program. Accreditation ensures that an institution meets varying educational standards for its academic programs, but not all accrediting bodies are created equal. Confirm the legitimacy of any listed accrediting organization through tools like the U.S. Department of Education's accreditation database and related list of approved accreditation agencies.
Associate in Multimedia Design Program Admissions
For traditional college students heading toward a four-year university, professional advisors suggest applying to six schools according to your likelihood of acceptance: two safety schools, two target schools, and two reach schools. Non-traditional students or high school graduates who want to start their education at a two-year community college typically needn't consider as many options. Rather, community college students tend to select schools based on priorities such as their physical location and proximity, the selection of desired program offerings, or their online learning options.
Applying to your prospective school involves filling out forms and submitting requested documents, which can vary from transcripts to letters of recommendation to essays. Due to an inherently larger pool of potential students, online programs, especially those in high demand subjects, typically require a more demanding application process than those for on-site degrees.
- Application: Depending on the information a school requests, filling out applications can take several hours. Sites like Common App streamline this process by facilitating submissions to multiple schools at once.
- Transcripts: Admissions offices require copies of your high school transcripts and any college transcripts to confirm your grades, courses, etc. Transcripts may cost a few dollars.
- Application Fee: Most schools charge a moderate ($25-$90) fee for application submissions, which covers the administrative cost of application review. In some cases, low-income families and military personnel can receive waivers.
Educational Paths for Multimedia Design Associate Programs
Getting hired for a design job often depends heavily on a portfolio, meaning an associate degree in multimedia design can provide the sufficient training needed for entry-level employment. The BLS reports that most multimedia design artists hold a bachelor's degree in art, computer graphics, or a related discipline. Upon graduating, you may want to transfer to a bachelor's program like the three listed below.
- Bachelor's in Multimedia Arts
If you want to further your design education, consider enrolling in a bachelor's program for multimedia design. You will complete more in-depth study of the craft and develop complex projects for your portfolio.
- Bachelor's in Communication Design
Sometimes called "visual communications," a bachelor's degree in design with an emphasis on communication offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that advances your practical design skills while simultaneously developing your knowledge of business principles and the ability to create projects with specific audiences in mind.
- Bachelor's in Advertising
With a strong foundation in design principles developed during your associate degree courses, you can apply your future education toward a career focus like advertising or marketing. Supplementing your design skills with industry knowledge can ensure your ability to compete in a saturated marketplace.
What Else Can I Expect from an Associate Program in Multimedia Design?
Prospective students, especially adults looking to change careers, understandably want to know detailed information concerning program length, course content, and the price they can expect to pay for an associate degree in multimedia design. Although details vary, you can explore informative sections about each of these important factors below.
Courses in an Associate Program in Multimedia Design
The sample courses listed below provide a glimpse into the fundamentals you can expect to learn, but keep in mind that associate programs in design can vary widely from one school to the next. Some provide a broad survey of design courses, while others focus heavily on a specific field like web design.
- Color and Design
To succeed in any design occupation, individuals must understand color theory, dynamics, and application. Introductory courses like these survey the vital principles and common issues of using color in art and explore how color can affect the compositional and psychological effects of communication design.
An introductory course on typography surveys the fundamentals of type and text design. Students learn about font families, categories of type, and how to choose the best text for different projects, all vital skills for any graphic design career. Typography courses may include work with software like Adobe InDesign.
- Adobe Illustrator
Many multimedia degree curriculums feature an introductory course on Adobe Illustrator, one of the most commonly used software programs for graphic designers. Students learn how to use the program's various tools and functions, as well as study techniques and best practices for creating professional digital artwork.
- Introduction to Visual Design
Visual design introduction courses explore the fundamental concepts of graphic and communication design. Students study the typical steps of the design process, relevant terminology, and elements of design including form, space, and function. Projects and assignments allow for applied practice of these topics.
Associate degrees in multimedia design typically offer at least one introductory course in drawing. In lecture sessions, students become familiar with the fundamental techniques and tools used for this traditional art method. During studio hours, students apply these fundamentals to drawing projects and practice of their own.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Multimedia Design?
An associate degree in multimedia design typically requires two years of full-time study to complete a 60-credit curriculum. Some online degrees offer accelerated options, which allow motivated students to engage in fast-paced study and complete all of their degree requirements within a year. What's more, both online and on-site programs frequently offer part-time study options for busy working adults, which allows for greater scheduling flexibility but increases overall time spent enrolled.
Check with your prospective schools to determine how a part-time, full-time, or accelerated pace can affect your total cost. Some schools, for example, charge more per credit if you don't meet a certain quantity threshold. Not all online schools allow for self-paced work. Those that employ a cohort learning method, where a group of students works through degree requirements together, may not accommodate a student who wants to proceed faster or slower than the set schedule.
How Much Is an Associate in Multimedia Design?
According to College Board, the average tuition cost for an in-district student to attend a two-year public college is $3,440 annually. This cost can vary widely depending on the school you select due to its geographic location, private or public designation, and even the size of the school's campus. Smaller community colleges with just a handful of degree options, for example, require fewer costly resources than larger institutions, and these savings get passed along to students in the form of lower out-of-pocket costs. Finally, tuition can also vary depending your state residency and, in some cases, your county residency.
Other significant expenses to keep in mind include school fees, the cost of living near campus (or the cost of a frequent commute) if necessary, and the price of technology, textbook, and course materials. As mentioned above, costs can vary at some schools depending on how many credits you take each semester. Your ability to receive financial aid can also be affected by the number of credits you take. Check the rules and regulations of all scholarships and grants you apply for. Many awards only accept applicants who enroll full-time.
Professional Organizations in Multimedia Design
It's never too soon to for a student to get involved beyond the classroom. Professional multimedia design organizations offer exclusive networking opportunities, career services and job boards, access to industry events and conferences, and invaluable continuing education opportunities in the form of webinars, online presentations, and research journals. These organizations commonly offer memberships to college students at dramatically reduced rates, making it an easy, low-cost decision to supplement your education with highly respected, professional resources.