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How to Become a Graphic Designer

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required for jobs in this field. Candidates should demonstrate their creativity and originality through a professional portfolio that features their best designs.


A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required. However, those with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 300 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Most schools include studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and website design. In addition, students should consider courses in writing, marketing, and business, all of which are useful in helping designers work effectively on project teams.

Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs. This means collecting examples of their designs from classroom projects, internships, or other experiences. Students can use these examples of their work to demonstrate their design skills when applying for jobs and bidding on projects. A good portfolio often is the deciding factor in getting a job.

Students interested in graphic design programs should take basic art and design courses in high school, if the courses are available. Many bachelor's degree programs require students to have had a year of basic art and design courses before being admitted to a formal degree program. Some schools require applicants to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs.


Beginning graphic designers usually need 1 to 3 years of work experience before they can advance to higher positions. Experienced graphic designers may advance to chief designer, art or creative director, or other supervisory positions.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Graphic designers must be able to create designs that are artistically interesting and appealing to clients and consumers. They produce rough illustrations of design ideas, either by hand sketching or by using a computer program.

Communication skills. Graphic designers must communicate with clients, customers, and other designers to ensure that their designs accurately reflect the desired message and effectively express information.

Computer skills. Most graphic designers use specialized graphic design software to prepare their designs.

Creativity. Graphic designers must be able to think of new approaches to communicating ideas to consumers. They develop unique designs that convey a recognizable meaning on behalf of their clients.

Teamwork. Graphic designers often work on projects with other graphic designers and marketers, business analysts, writers, and programmers. They must collaborate to produce successful websites, publications, and other products.

Time-management skills. Graphic designers often work on multiple projects at the same time, each with a different deadline.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition