Do I Need a Degree to Become a Graphic Designer?


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In our rapidly evolving digital world, the demand for graphic designers is on the rise. But does this creative path require a formal degree? The short answer is no, but there’s more to it. Let’s delve deeper into whether you need a degree to become a graphic designer.

The Importance of Skills Over Degrees

The realm of graphic design is more about skills and creativity than formal education. Key abilities such as proficiency in design software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, a keen eye for aesthetics, understanding of typography, color theory, and composition are more crucial than a framed degree on your wall.

Learning through Various Avenues

While a degree in graphic design or related field can provide a structured way to acquire these skills, there are other avenues. Online courses, tutorials, workshops and even self-teaching can equip you with necessary skills. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare offer comprehensive courses in graphic design.

Building a Portfolio

Regardless of how you acquire your skills, one thing every aspiring graphic designer needs is a robust portfolio. This collection of your work showcases your style, versatility, and skillset to potential employers or clients. It often carries more weight than educational qualifications.

Networking and Experience

In the creative industry, who you know can sometimes be as important as what you know. Attending industry events, webinars, and design communities can help you network with professionals in the field. Additionally, gaining practical experience through internships or freelance work can give you an edge.

Continuous Learning

Graphic design is a field that’s constantly evolving. Staying updated with latest trends and continually honing your skills is essential. This can be achieved irrespective of having a degree.

Who are some famous graphic designers without degrees?

There are indeed several renowned graphic designers who achieved success without a formal degree.

For instance, David Carson, famed for his innovative magazine design and use of experimental typography, is a self-taught designer.

Another example is Paula Scher, the first female principal at Pentagram, who learned graphic design on the job at CBS Records and Atlantic Records.

Similarly, Michael Bierut, also a partner at Pentagram, didn’t complete a traditional design program, but instead learned everything on the job while working for the renowned designer, Massimo Vignelli.

Becoming a Graphic Designer Without a Degree

It is possible to become a successful graphic designer without a formal degree. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can do it:

1. Self-Study: Start by teaching yourself about design principles, color theory, typography, and software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. There are numerous resources available online, including free tutorials and articles.

2. Online Courses: Enroll in online courses on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or Skillshare. These courses can help you gain a structured understanding of graphic design and provide you with a certificate upon completion.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice: Like any other skill, graphic design requires practice. Use your newly learned skills to create mock projects or redesign existing ones. This will help you gain practical experience and understand your strengths and weaknesses.

4. Build a Portfolio: A compelling portfolio is crucial in the graphic design industry. Save all your work, select the best pieces, and display them professionally. It’s your portfolio that will showcase your skills and creativity to potential employers or clients.

5. Network: Join design communities, attend industry events and webinars to network with professionals in the field. This can open doors to job opportunities and internships.

6. Gain Experience: Look for internships or freelance projects that can help you gain real-world experience. This can significantly improve your skills and increase your employability.

7. Stay Updated: Graphic design is a field that’s constantly evolving. Keep yourself updated with the latest trends, software updates, and design techniques.

Remember, success in graphic design is not bound by a degree but by creativity, skill, and dedication.

What are some different jobs a person can do with a graphic design degree?

With a graphic design degree, a plethora of diverse job opportunities become accessible.

  1. Graphic Designer: This is the most direct application of a graphic design degree. Graphic designers can work in a variety of industries, creating visual concepts that communicate ideas and captivate consumers.
  2. Art Director: Art directors are responsible for visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design and direct others who develop artwork or layouts.
  3. Multimedia Artist/Animator: People with a graphic design degree can use their skills to create visual effects and animations for various media and platforms, such as video games, movies, and TV shows.
  4. Web Designer: Web designers use their graphic design skills to create or redesign websites, ensuring they are visually appealing, user-friendly, and match the brand’s identity.
  5. Brand Identity Designer: These professionals work specifically on branding materials. They design logos, business cards, and other materials that represent and communicate the brand’s identity.
  6. Creative Director: Usually found within agencies, the role of a creative director is to guide the creative team in producing advertising and marketing material to meet the client’s objectives.
  7. User Experience (UX) Designer: These professionals use their design skills to enhance user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.
  8. User Interface (UI) Designer: UI Designers are responsible for designing the layout and functionality of a digital product’s interface like apps and websites.

Remember, the nature of graphic design allows for a high degree of versatility in choosing a career path that suits your interests and goals.

Getting an online graphic design degree

Obtaining an online graphic design degree can be a convenient and flexible way to advance your education and skills in the field. Here are the steps you can follow to achieve this:

  1. Research Accredited Institutions: Start by looking for universities or colleges that offer online graphic design degree programs. Ensure these institutions are accredited, which means they meet certain academic standards and that your degree will be recognized by employers and other educational institutions.
  2. Review the Course Content: Examine the course curriculum to ensure it covers essential areas like typography, color theory, 2D and 3D design, software training, and other key graphic design principles.
  3. Pay Attention to the Program Flexibility: If you are working or have other commitments, look for programs that offer flexibility in terms of part-time study options or asynchronous classes, where you can learn at your own pace.
  4. Consider the Costs: Tuition fees for online degrees can vary greatly depending on the institution. Make sure to consider your budget and look into financial aid options if necessary.
  5. Apply to the Program: Once you’ve selected your program, go through the application process which usually involves submitting an application form, an application fee, academic transcripts, and potentially a portfolio of your work.
  6. Complete the Coursework: Once accepted, you can start your coursework. This generally involves listening to lectures, participating in online discussions, completing assignments and projects, and passing exams.
  7. Create a Strong Portfolio: As you progress through your course, continuously work on building a strong portfolio with the projects you complete. This portfolio will be a vital tool in showcasing your skills and abilities to future employers.
  8. Obtain Your Degree: Upon successful completion of all course requirements, you will receive your online graphic design degree.

Remember, an online degree requires a high level of self-motivation, discipline, and time management skills. Make sure to take full advantage of all the resources your program offers, including opportunities for networking or internships.

Can I become a graphic designer at home?

Yes, it is entirely possible to become a graphic designer from home. In fact, many graphic designers work remotely. To embark on this career path, you will need to familiarize yourself with the fundamental principles of design and acquire proficiency in design software. Online courses offer a flexible and accessible way to gain the necessary skills and knowledge. Additionally, you can build a robust portfolio by working on personal projects or doing freelance work. Networking through online design communities and social media can also open doors to job opportunities. Remember, becoming a successful graphic designer requires creativity, dedication, and continuous learning to keep up with evolving design trends.


So, do you need a degree to be a graphic designer? Not necessarily. While a degree may provide a foundation, it’s your skills, creativity, portfolio, and determination that truly count. The path to becoming a graphic designer can be as unique as the designs you create.

As always, check out our site to see if we’re hiring.

Remember, the most successful graphic designers are those who are passionate about their work and are committed to continuous learning and growth. Whether that’s achieved through a degree or alternative routes, the choice is yours!

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