Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Program Guide
A bachelor's degree in graphic design can be the first step to your career at a small design company, a large corporation, or at your own freelance design firm.
Students considering a bachelor's degree in graphic design can find many reasons to pursue this creative and versatile study path. These programs help students develop their skills in visual culture in the digital age, type and alternative media, systems and identity design, and advanced image-making. The majority of programs require four years of full-time study or six years of part-time study. Some schools also provide accelerated programs lasting three years.
The cost of a bachelor's degree in graphic design can vary dramatically based on school type. Learners trying to keep their costs lower typically opt for a program offered by a public college in their state of residence. According to College Board, the average undergraduate degree cost $27,330 at public, in-state colleges in 2021. Meanwhile, the average four-year degree from a private school cost $54,800.
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Graduates can look forward to moderate industry growth in the coming years. Keep reading to learn about common classes and concentrations, career and continuing education paths, and what it takes to get accepted to a bachelor's degree in graphic design.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Graphic Design?
Earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design makes perfect sense for creative, technically-minded students who want to combine art, communications, and design to pursue a meaningful and flexible career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for these professionals will grow by 3% from 2020-2030, leading to the creation of 7,300 new positions by the end of the decade.
Some graduates may work in related fields, such as special effects and animation. These jobs are projected to expand rapidly from 2020-2030, growing by 16% and creating nearly 10,000 new positions.
The majority of bachelor's degrees in graphic design consist of approximately 120 credits of coursework. They require four years of full-time study or six years of part-time study. Learners may also participate in an internship to gain hands-on skills and networking opportunities.
The field does not require any type of licensure. Still, some students may decide to pursue continuing education to update their knowledge of emerging design technologies or specialize their skills in a niche area, such as illustration or animation.
What Will I Learn in a Graphic Design Bachelor's Program?
Students who enroll in a bachelor's degree in graphic design will cover many foundational topics needed to help them secure meaningful roles after graduation. Curricular requirements vary from program to program, but courses learners may encounter include media communication and visual literacy, graphics and layout in print media, basic design and color theory, and digital graphic design for the web.
Upon graduation, students possess the skills needed to supply graphic designs to many clients — from small businesses to marketing agencies to multinational corporations. They will also learn about communications and professionalism.
When researching programs, prospective degree-seekers will come across both bachelor of arts and bachelor of science in graphic design programs. A BFA best serves learners who want to pursue a graphic design career, while a BS works for those who want to take more general education courses or decide to pair their major with a relevant minor.
With more and more individuals using their smartphones, tablets, and laptops to shop and view webpages, a web design concentration provides the skills needed to create and design graphics for the web.
This concentration supports learners who want to work in traditional publishing and advertising routes focused on print media. Graduates may find themselves doing layout and design for books, magazines, and other print publications.
Mobile Application Design
Students pursuing this concentration typically want to work with software designers to create the user interfaces seen on the front end of apps. They design the graphic look of the application while staying true to brand guidelines and image.
Branding plays a central role in a company's image, and graphic designers play a pivotal role in creating that image. This concentration covers topics such as organizational logos and creating branding guidelines.
Students interested in environmentally-friendly product packaging and marketing often choose this specialization. Students learn about eco-friendly options and how to create positive change through graphic design.
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What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Graphic Design?
Because organizations across all industries depend on graphic designers for logos, advertisements, books and magazines, and mobile app interfaces, graphic designers can work in many different work environments.
Some graphic designers work in-house for a single company, while others decide to start their own design firms or build a portfolio of clients through freelance work. Clients can include for-profit corporations, nonprofit organizations, and even governmental agencies.
Popular Career Paths
Popular Continuing Education Paths
How Much Money Can I Make With a Bachelor's in Graphic Design?
Graphic design salaries vary greatly based on job title, industry, amount of experience, and location.
As of May 2020, graphic designers earned median annual pay of $53,380. Those in the top 10% of earners commanded salaries above $93,440, while those in the lowest 10% earned less than $31,720. Those working in advertising, public relations, and related services earned the highest median wage at $55,800. Those in printing and related activities earned the least, at $41,490.
How Do I Get Into a Bachelor's in Graphic Design Program?
As prospective students review undergraduate application requirements, they will learn that different schools have different expectations. Students must ensure that their program meets their financial, academic, and professional requirements when choosing a college.
Some colleges require standardized entrance exams such as the ACT or SAT. Letters of recommendation also play a big role. They provide the opportunity for those who know the student well to provide insight into the applicants' qualifications and readiness for a degree program.
Lastly, the college application essay allows applicants to write about their experiences and why they want to attend college. Students applying to a BFA program may also need to provide a portfolio of their artwork.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Graphic Design Programs
What is graphic design?
Graphic design is a creative discipline where professionals use their skills in art, illustration, and visual design to communicate messages through graphics. Graphic designers use their knowledge of design, typography, color science, and visual hierarchy to create logos, layouts, and branding guidelines that meet individual needs.
Like other forms of art, graphic design can convey many different types of messages and effects.
How much does it cost to get a bachelor's in graphic design?
How much a student spends earning their bachelor's degree in graphic design will depend on the type of school they attend. College Board found that learners enrolled in-state at a public school paid an average of $10,740 in tuition and fees during the 2021-22 school year. Those enrolled as out-of-state students paid an average of $27,560, while degree-seekers at private schools paid an average of $38,070.
As these numbers show, students looking to save money often go with the in-state public school route. That said, some online programs offered by state schools allow all students to pay in-state tuition, regardless of location.
Is a graphic design degree worth it?
Earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design is a great decision for students who want to use their creative talents to help communicate brands and identities through design. These programs provide students with the theoretical and technical skills needed to meet the needs of a variety of clients.
A graphic design bachelor's degree can also help set professionals apart from those who possess only an associate degree. Graphic designers can choose from in-house or freelance roles, making this a very versatile degree as well.
Is graphic design a BS or BA?
The majority of bachelor's degrees in graphic design come as either a BFA or BS. The BFA, or bachelor of fine arts, emphasizes skills needed to move directly into a graphic design role after graduation.
Students who pursue a BS, or bachelor of science, in graphic design typically pair their major with a relevant minor, such as illustration, data visualization, animation, or game design. These programs emphasize technical skills, while the BFA spends more time building creative and artistic skills.
Do graphic designers need a bachelor's degree?
While some employers hire graphic designers without a bachelor's degree, most look for candidates with at least a four-year degree. According to the BLS, a bachelor's degree in graphic design is the typical educational background expected by hiring managers for entry-level roles.
That said, some students who cannot commit to a bachelor's degree can pursue an associate degree in graphic design. These programs take two years to complete and can lead to entry-level positions.
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