Luckily in today's image focused culture the need for graphic designers is ever increasing. More and more companies are hiring in-house graphic designers and agencies are always on the lookout for new and upcoming talent. That said, it really depends on the skill set you have.
Part of the challenge of being a graphic designer is that you are providing a service and the skills required to provide good service are always changing and evolving. Five years ago you would have been OK to have mostly print based skills and some web. Today it is critical to have a solid understanding of how to design for web and digital applications. Every company has a web presence and they need designers who understand how to design for those channels to make sure the company vision and mission are accurately represented.
Hopefully, you are in a graphic design, visual design, UX/UI or other aesthetic based program. It's very difficult (nearly impossible) to get a job right out of college without a portfolio of work that shows that you know what you're doing, at least at a basic level. Considering that thousands of people graduate from graphic/visual design programs from around the country every year you'll need a portfolio of work in order to compete.
That said, there are many ways to gain the skills to become a good graphic designer while working at another job that you may qualify for to start. You can take online courses with places like Creative Live, Gymnasium or Lynda. Check out your local AIGA chapter and attend their events. Go to art galleries and museums and begin to absorb and see great visual culture. Study graphic design history and examples from some of the best graphic designers (Paula Scher, Michael Bierut ,(any of the partners at Pentagram), Elaine Lustig Cohen, Ray Eames, Massimo and Leila Vignelli, Jessica Hische, Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Stefan Stagmeister, Jessica Walsh to name a few).
Another tip would be to tell everyone you know that you intend to be a graphic designer. Someone might have a small project for you to do. That way you can get experience with a "real" client as well as practice your skills. Most of the industry does not look very kindly on "crowdsourced" design. It devalues the time and effort it takes to make really thoughtful and meaningful work, and ends up being a race to the bottom. Your time and effort are worth more than fighting over every other cut-rate designer trying to underbid everyone else.
The graphic design profession is incredibly rewarding but it takes a lot of effort in order to stay relevant and continue to be competitive in today's market. Take your time, work hard and practice, practice, practice.
Eric recommends the following next steps:
- Learn about graphic design history
- Go check out art museums and galleries to get the pulse of contemporary visual culture
- Research online classes to gain skills
- Look up your local AIGA chapter