Graphic design is an artistic and technical discipline of designing and combining images and text to convey messages for advertising, marketing, and various communication purposes. Graphic designers use their specialized knowledge and skills to create recognizable graphics, using specific colors, images, logos, and typefaces. Most graphic designers have some kind of formal college training prior to entering the field. At the associate degree level, students will study the theoretical and practical concepts of graphic design, and develop professional-grade designs that can be showcased during job interviews.

Why an Associate Degree?

One of the quickest and most affordable ways to enter this competitive field is to earn an online graphic design associate degree. This two-year program provides a comprehensive introduction to design techniques and principles. In addition to studying art and color theory, logos and symbols, corporate branding, and typography, students will also learn about the professional duties of graphic designers. Although it is possible to be hired for a design job with only a vocational certificate in graphic design, the associate degree provides more specialized instruction and training to directly prepare you for a graphic design career. It is also an excellent precursor to the next highest education option, the bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

Getting Into an Associate Degree Program

The first step in becoming a graphic designer is earning a degree in this technical discipline. Before applying to the associate degree program, make sure you meet the minimum educational requirements below:

  • High school diploma or its equivalent
  • Desired score on the SAT, ACT, and/or entrance exam
  • Minimum required GPA
  • Submission of official academic transcripts

Inside a Graphic Design Associate Degree Program

Online graphic design associate degree programs typically last anywhere from one to two years. Students will take courses in a variety of topics, including introduction to graphic design, digital imaging fundamentals, information design, web design, web animation, and more. Depending on the individual program or college, students may be required to take additional general education courses or electives.

In addition to completing courses and assessments online, distance learners may also be required to create personal design portfolios during their final semester to showcase their work and demonstrate their skills. A critical part of academic success in online courses is maintaining good communication with your instructors, classmates, and advisors. Be sure to take advantage of the online or local resources and services available to all students.

What’s Next for Graphic Design Associate Degree Holders?

Graduates of the graphic design program will be qualified to do several entry-level jobs. A direct path for many associate degree holders is to become a graphic designer, working independently or for specialized design firms, publishers, advertising and public relations, and computer systems design services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers will see an estimated 13% increase in employment by 2020, thanks to their growing importance in product marketing. Not only do graphic designers have excellent job prospects, but they also make favorable salaries. According to the BLS, graphic designers made an average annual salary of $48,730 in 2012.

An associate degree in graphic design may satisfy some employers’ educational requirements, but many workplaces prefer to hire applicants with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. In this case, graduates of the associate program often return to school to pursue a four-year degree. By doing so, students will expand their knowledge and skills, while increasing their job opportunities and earning potential.