How to Become a
Graphic Designer

Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications

If you love art and technology, you can bring them together and learn how to become a graphic designer. Graphic design is one of the best ways to express yourself in a steady job. There are lots of different paths to follow this lucrative career.

This comprehensive guide on how to become a graphic designer covers everything you need to know. You can learn about popular education options, vital skills, and important certifications. Read below to learn more about becoming a graphic designer.

What Is a Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer is a tech designer who develops visual communications for all forms of media. You could end up designing billboards, pamphlets, books, websites, and more. Graphic designers use digital art to bring ideas to life.

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The role of graphic designers has expanded significantly with the advancement of technology. While most graphic designers use computers, you can also use graphics tablets for designing and animating. There are lots of different ways to work as a graphic designer.

What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Graphic Designer?

You can attend a vocational school, community college, university, or a coding bootcamp to become a graphic designer. Even online course providers offer great graphic design courses. You can find unlimited resources for self-paced learning.

Below are the most common education pathways for graphic designers in the United States.

Best Graphic Designer Education Tracks

You should choose a graphic design education track based on your finances and schedule. They vary from a few months full-time to many years part-time. You should also take a look at what exactly your preferred program offers. Read below to learn more about all of the different options.


Vocational School

A graphic design vocational program usually lasts for 18 to 24 weeks, and it is open to anyone with a high school diploma or GED. It focuses on the fundamentals of graphic design with no filler lessons. By the time you graduate, you would have all the hands-on experience you need for an entry-level position.

Some good vocational schools for graphic design in the United States are the New England Institute of Technology, SAE Institute, and Berkeley College. These schools are all affordable. For example, the full tuition at Berkeley College as of 2018 was $6,230 plus a registration fee of $100.


Community College

Community colleges offer two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelor’s degrees. However, not all community colleges offer a bachelor’s degree. You should check your preferred school to see which track you can take. Community colleges are more convenient and affordable than universities.

Some of the best community colleges for graphic design are Nassau Community College and Waubonsee Community College. These and many other colleges offer world-class training at low prices. Tuition varies, but it will typically be less than a private university.


Graphic Design Degrees

Universities offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs for prospective graphic designers. You should start with a bachelor’s degree and then pursue a master’s if you feel like you want to learn more.

The best universities for graphic design programs in the United States include Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, and the University of Florida. You can research your area and see what’s available to you.


Graphic Design Bootcamps

Bootcamps for graphic design have become increasingly popular in recent years. They offer fast-paced training that runs from 12 weeks to 12 months. The best bootcamps for graphic design offer job placement and career services to help you get a job. You can find bootcamps for web design, UX/UI design, and more.

A few good examples of graphic design bootcamps are BrainStation, Design Sprint School, and UX Design Institute. Graphic design bootcamps cost between $7,800 and $21,000. Keep in mind that bootcamps offer certificates and not degrees or diplomas.


Graphic Design Courses

This option is for you if you want to dive into graphic design without breaking the bank. You can find online courses that are affordable and sometimes even free. You may need to pay extra to get a certificate of completion. These options can cost between $100 to $300. Online courses are helpful if you only want to learn one skill at a time.

You can find graphic design online courses on websites like Udemy and edX. One good course example is The Complete Graphic Design Theory for Beginners Course and Graphic Design – An Overview of the Field by Udemy.

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

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

You can follow many paths to become a graphic designer, but there are still some vital steps to take. Whether you want to learn on your own or pursue a university degree, you need to meet these milestones.

Below is your complete step-by-step guide to becoming a graphic designer.

Improve your art and computer skills

About 60 percent of graphic design is art and the other 40 percent is computer literacy. Whether you’re a natural artist or not, improving your skills will help you in the field. The same thing applies to computer skills.

Take your first graphic design course

Even if you intend to get a degree, taking an introductory course online will make things easier. Introductory courses usually cover the fundamentals like typography, color, and layout. They are a great way to test the waters before you commit.

Get your education

You can choose from the education tracks above to become a graphic designer. It’s also possible to teach yourself, but if you want to work at a company, you need to have a degree or diploma. Choose which path works for you.


At this point, you should know everything you need to know about graphic design. You should post your work online, and get feedback from your fellow graphic designers. You can build your portfolio while improving your skills.

Apply for your first job

Most bootcamps and university programs have hiring partners. This can help you get your first job in the field. If you don’t have access to partners, then build up your portfolio and start applying. You can find a job as a graphic designer with the right skills and planning.

Key Graphic Designer Skills

Key Graphic Design Skills

A few key skills will make you an excellent graphic designer and increase your earning potential. You should have these skills if you want to be successful in the field. Read below to find out more.

Tech Skills

You don’t need to know how to create a website to be a graphic designer. However, you should learn how to use all the best tools for graphic designers. Some of these tools are DesignBold, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and ProofHub. If you have these skills on your resume, you are more likely to get a job.

Creativity and Innovation

Graphic designers usually enjoy some flexibility when it comes to creativity and innovation. A client may ask you to bring an idea to life without much direction. In this case, you have creative freedom, but you need to show innovation by creating unique content for your clients.

Accepting Criticism

Sometimes, your clients might not be satisfied with your work on the first try. You should be able to accept criticism and perform revisions when necessary. This is especially essential for freelance graphic designers because you act as the only liaison.

Graphic Designer Salary and Job Outlook

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a graphic designer is $48,283. However, salaries could range from $20,500 to $81,000, depending on your work experience and location.

The overall job outlook for graphic designers in the United States is on a decline. Between 2019 and 2029, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a four percent decline in graphic design jobs related to the traditional print industry. However, graphic design jobs in tech systems are expected to surge.

Min salary


Average salary


Top salary


Entry-Level Graphic Designer Job Requirements

You will need to get a degree or some sort of certification before landing your first design job. While high-level employers prefer people with a bachelor’s degree, you can get a job fresh out of a bootcamp or with an associate degree. Your portfolio is the most important part of your presentation.

Junior graphic designers earn an average of $41,016 per year, according to PayScale. This is a great starting salary, even in the tech field.

What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

A graphic designer creates visual content for various industries. The expected type of design will depend on client requirements. All graphic designers must work to ensure that the final project is in line with the original request.

Study, Budget, and Conceptualize

When clients make requests, the graphic designer studies them thoroughly to get to know the requirements. You will also determine how much the project will cost according to the client’s budget. If everyone involved is satisfied with your recommendations, you can start conceptualizing.

Share Illustrations and Rough Drafts

After you start coming up with ideas, you need to show your supervisor the rough draft and get their input. If you are freelancing, you will show your client the mockup directly. If this is close to what the client wants, you can move forward to the final version.

Collaborate with Other Creatives

During the graphic design process, you will need to work with other experts like creative writers and editors. If the creative director is satisfied with the work, you can proceed to the final design. At this point, you can start testing your designs across media channels, collect feedback, and make changes where necessary.

Graphic Design Certifications

You can boost your graphic design resume with a certificate program, or some professional certifications. For the former, you will be required to take a class and assessment before you can get the certificate of completion. For the latter, you prepare for and pass specific exams.

The two most popular certificate and certification programs for graphic designers are listed below.

Certified in Adobe Photoshop

This certificate program is held remotely with live instructors. There are several physical locations in the United States, so you can enroll in person if you would like. The program is free, but you will pay $180 for the exam. A certificate in Photoshop skills will look good on your resume and prove your skills to your employer.

Adobe Certified Expert (Professional Certification)

This certification is one of the only certifications available for graphic designers. You will need to complete a comprehensive exam with three levels to choose from. The certification demonstrates that you know how to use at least one Adobe product. The highest level is the Adobe Master Certification, and it is ideal for graphic designers.

How to Prepare for Your Graphic Design Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Graphic Design Job Interview

To prepare for your graphic design job interview, you need to prepare your portfolio and put your best foot forward. When applying, you should learn as much about the company’s goals and objectives and look for practice questions online. You should prepare for your job interview as much as possible.

Graphic Design Job Interview Practice Questions

  • What is your creative process?
  • If the client isn’t satisfied with your first draft, how do you incorporate feedback?
  • What are your most outstanding qualities as a graphic designer?
  • Do you have a collaborative attitude?
  • Describe a time where you had to solve a problem with a project.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Graphic Designer?

You can become a graphic designer in as little as six months or as long as six years. It all depends on the education track you take. Bootcamps, the fastest routes, last for about 12 to 24 weeks. Associate degrees take two years, while bachelor’s degrees take four to five years. If you add a master’s to the mix, you should be ready in six years.

Associate degree


Bachelor’s degree


Master’s degree


Should You Become a Graphic Designer in 2021?

Yes, you should become a graphic designer in 2021. The job outlook is increasing for tech-based positions. It’s also easy to switch to more lucrative roles if you have a background in graphic design. If you want to use your artistic skills in the tech world, graphic design is the best option for you.

Graphic Designer FAQ

Is a graphic designer the same as a UX/UI designer?

No, it is not. Graphic design, UX design, and UI design are three different terms. UX and UI design usually refer to web design, but graphic design covers everything from ad campaigns to social media illustrations.

Can I become a UX designer if I am a graphic designer?

Yes, you can. Graphic designers are starting to switch careers to UI and UX design by picking up programming skills. There is a higher demand for UX and UI experts in 2021, and you will most likely earn more money.

What are the seven elements of graphic design?

The seven graphic design elements are line, shape, color, space, texture, type, and image. These are the building blocks of every project, and every graphic designer should understand how to use them.

What are the most popular types of graphic design?

The most popular types of graphic design include publication graphic design, visual identity graphic design, marketing and advertising graphic design, and UI graphic design. There are lots of options to enter this field.

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