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Is having a graphic designer degree worth it?

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17 answers

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Aaron’s Answer


Like most degrees or higher education, depends how you apply yourself and what you get out of it. I've seen people with graphic design degrees do well professionally, and some not do well professionally.

I'd look for more "modern" graphic design programs though, that aren't purely print focused. They should incorporate digital design, and UX design as well.

I'd say "yes" it is "worth" it.

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Ken’s Answer

The way I hear your question, there are two parts.
(1) Do you need a degree to be a designer?
(2) Is a design degree worth the cost?

To answer the first one, you don't need a degree but it does help most people. For example, a designer named David Carson was influential in the 90's without a formal design degree. But this is probably the exception, like Bill Gates in the software world. Designers benefit a lot from good critique and feedback, which can be hard to find outside of a design class or program.

To answer the second one, many different institutions offer design degrees. The top private design schools can be expensive. But you can also get study design at a community college, or through an online program. I would also suggest applying for scholarships, not just from the school you're applying to, but from any source that might support your studies.

For me, a design degree was worth the cost. Working after classes, loans, and grants made it more accessible. But it's only worth it if it fits into your strengths. Are you too structured to be a painter, but not structured enough to be a computer programmer? Then design might be a good direction for you. Keep in mind that design is a broad field now. You may find that designing digital experiences makes the time and cost of a design degree more "worth it" for you.

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James’s Answer

The short answer is yes! the longer answer is doing a degree gives you a foundation for your goals within the creative industry. It gives you a learning platform to gain those skills and create your own brand - also gives you that confidence to go out in the wider community and showcase your brand and what you have to offer! It is also a good opportunity to create a portfolio of work to showcase to clients or job opportunities. It is also a great opportunity to meet people/network who have same interests as you. :)

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Fiona’s Answer

Not really - as long as you have an eye for what looks aesthetic and balanced, you can easily teach yourself graphic design. You can start with free platforms that have templates like Canva and free versions of Adobe programs. You should offer your services for free on a couple of small projects - perhaps for student groups on campus - so you can build a portfolio. Most graphic design work is done by communications professionals who can also do written projects or run social media accounts and content for the website. But here's the thing - you also don't need a communications degree to be a communications professional. You just need to write and edit well, show an aptitude for learning new skills, be a good problem solver and come up with innovative ideas, and get along with people - same as most jobs out there. Unless you want to really specialize, like in science, technology, medical fields, or continue in academia, the most important thing is being well rounded, having a good attitude, and double checking your work so you have a proven track record of not making mistakes.

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Gio’s Answer

Whether or not a degree is worth it depends largely on the individual. The degree itself is less useful than going through the program. I completed all but my last six classes before taking an internship that turned into a full time entry-level job. Every designer on my team advised me that it was a waste of money to finish the degree for the sake of having the degree (especially as a returning student with a decade of work experience), because your portfolio is the most important factor when applying for jobs.

If you are a type A person, who is good at leveraging the people you know and online training resources like LinkedIn Learning or Skillshare, a formal design program may not be necessary to learn everything you need to get your first design job. However, you have to be extremely good at managing your time and keeping on track with training goals. If you choose this route, joining an organization like AIGA and going to networking events, or finding mentors on LinkedIn, will be extremely important.

However, if you're like many of us, going through a formal design program through a university is an invaluable way to learn the basics of design: terminology, building an eye for good design, and—probably most important—learning productive ways to handle feedback and critiques. The people you meet in your program, both students and instructors, are also an invaluable network for those searching for their first design job.

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David’s Answer

I would say "yes". But just keep in mind that it's always the first step in a long journey. I've come across many recent grads who think the world owes them something, and as a hiring manager their resume goes to the bottom of the pile. Always be humble, but confident (if that makes sense).

I went to a two year graphic design and illustration program. It was just as computers were starting to break through. Many might say the skills we learned were not relevant to the changing industry, but they absolutely were. Learning design principles (unity through proximity, unity through space, unity through shape, etc...) will be in the back of your mind for your whole career, and will help you to make better decisions than people who don't have that background. School also taught me the importance of deadlines. Because of that, this is something I've never messed around with. If I say I'm going to have a deliverable at a certain time, lacking a REALLY GOOD EXCUSE, I will have it.

Finally, school is fun! You have freedom to do cool work, find what you love, and meet like-minded people without having the fear of a paycheck hanging over you. Not for a moment have I regretted any time spent in the classroom, and I go back for skill sharpening as often as I can.

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Dennis’s Answer

Kelly yes it is! I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Visual Communications (Graphics) and even if later you may not apply that Degree to that field of Graphic Design - A College Degree is Beneficial to having for many many potential Occupations.

Good Luck with the Graphic Designer career if that's the path you choose!

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Arah’s Answer

Hi Kelly-

I would say yes, for the same reasons as have already been posted. I'd like to add emphasis on this one, though: a strong degree program can also help you hone some "soft" skills and emotional intelligence, which will come in handy in a graphic or UX design career. These skills include organizing and planning your work, writing, presenting, and working with a mix of people on project who have different skill sets, different fields of expertise, or diverse backgrounds in other ways.

Some people get good training on that early in life, and they may not need it so much as others. I know that I needed it in my degree programs - and I continued to learn and grow in this area through the first several years of my career. (And I'm still improving!)

Good luck to you!

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Matt’s Answer

Just want to point out unlike other design professions, such industrial design or fashion design, graphic designer can work in many industries such as advertising, technology (many UX designers have graphic design background), and fashion (textile design).

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Biswadeep Saha’s Answer

Yes it is, though it needs lots of creativity however you get value and appreciation for your work. Advt Agencies are at high although profile gets very demanding keeping in compitition in mind. If you have a hobby of ART and design can easily align it to Graphic design field

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Nico’s Answer

Absolutely! Graphic design is such a huge field that you can jump from one expertise to another (branding, logo design, UX/UI design) pretty easily, depending on what you like to do. People always need designers!

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Rhudaynath’s Answer

Hi, interesting question, I am Software Engineer and we work closely with Graphics Designers. Now a days, they are called as UX (User experience designers).

UX is more than just Graphics Designer, but they come from same roots.
I think, this is great field. As you know, underlying technology remains same, the human interface/interactions changed over time.

You remember old days, where people had to take months to learn Softwares.
Now a days, we see, kids user apps pretty smoothly.

That's the difference what UX brings to any software... ease of use!

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Jake’s Answer

I would say that getting a graphic design degree is totally worth it. While you'd no doubt be able to get a design job without one (granted you work hard to teach yourself and have an eye for it) not all graphic design roles are of equal quality. The things I've learned in my graphic design degree have been things I would have never even thought to teach myself, especially the subtleties and complexity of typography.

Yes there are amazing designers that didn't get degrees and terrible designers that did, but in my experience, having the formal training and collaborative experience you get in a formal design program is a massive advantage and will allow you to get the more exciting design jobs rather than just the "marketing person who makes social media graphics and flyers."

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Evan’s Answer

While studying graphic design in university can give you a good understanding of the fundamentals, there are also plenty of online classes (through udemy, or even youtube) that can provide you with a similar curriculum.

When it comes to finding a job in graphic design, it's true that many employers still look for folks who obtained a degree in that field. However, if you have a strong portfolio that demonstrates your knowledge of design fundamentals and goes beyond (knowing when/how to break or bend those rules), that will speak louder than a degree to any employer.

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Jody’s Answer

YES! Getting a BFA in Graphic design excellerates your career. It's a very competitive field and extremely difficult to get a well paying job. There's a lot of untrained designers that get client work, but their work isn't usually very good, and they can't get clients that pay more.

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Valerie’s Answer


Your portfolio is the most important piece of information about you, along with your ability to talk about your work. If you're a thoughtful communicator that's passionate about problem solving, you will get you a job anywhere that's worth your time.

The idea of the degree means something to some. It can show that you had the patience and discipline to finish what you started. However, no need to spend a lot of money or go into debt. The private schools don't promise much more than a network, so it all depends on your hustle.

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Pamela’s Answer

I would look at job postings of industries/companies you could see yourself applying to someday. If they are saying a degree is a "must" or a "plus," then I would say it is important. There will always be instances where your portfolio could outshine a degree, or that you may find a company where a degree is not required. I think more often than not, design jobs will require a 4 year degree.

If you think you have the natural talent and drive to do what it takes to build up a portfolio and your skills without a degree, then that is certainly something to think about. But I think that college can be helpful and a useful life experience, and it just may require you looking for a school that can give you the necessary skills, but not cause you deep into debt. You definitely do not need to/should not go to a fancy art school that will put you hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to achieve a degree. I believe that there are good programs out there that will not cost you an arm and a leg.

I went to an in-state liberal arts school with a Graphic Design program where I could graduate with a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts). YLooking for programs that are balanced in their print/digital design, or a bit digital heavy will be a plus. Finding a program that gives you the option to get a BFA vs a BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Graphic Design could also be a plus.

Pamela recommends the following next steps:

Look into schools around you to get an idea of what their Design programs are like
Can you speak to teachers/graduates/current students at those schools?
Look into job listings for companies/industries you could see yourself working in, to see what their educational requirements are