Graphic design is a creative discipline that involves designing and combining text, symbols, images, and other visual art elements to convey an idea or message. With the help of software programs and other advanced technology, graphic designers can arrange page layouts, develop logos and product illustrations, and create new images that will be used to promote a product or convey a specific message to consumers. Most graphic designers have some kind of formal training, whether it’s a vocational certificate, undergraduate degree, or a graduate degree. A vocational certificate offers the least amount of schooling, but it is one of the quickest and most affordable ways to complete your training and enter the workforce.

Types of Graphic Design Certificates

Graphic Design & Digital Imaging Certificate

The graphic design and digital imaging certificate is a specialized program designed to teach students the foundations of design and the technical skills needed to turn their designs into multimedia masterpieces. As the graphic design field continues to evolve, prospective designers, especially those in school, are expected to know print design as well as interactive design for websites, DVDs, mobile applications, and other media. In addition to learning the basics of design principles, students in this program will also become familiar with web development, desktop publishing, multimedia design, and other advanced topics. Having this mix of knowledge can help you immensely when looking for both broad-based or niche graphic design jobs. The first step in pursuing the graphic design and digital imaging certificate program is making sure you meet the minimum educational requirements listed 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

Depending on the course load and pace at which you complete classes, the certificate program in graphic design and digital imaging can take anywhere from six months to two years to finish. Some common courses students can expect to take include: introduction to graphic design, fundamentals of typography, desktop publishing, and digital imaging and photography. Students may also be required to complete electives, capstone courses, and portfolio seminars before graduation.

Graphic Design & Desktop Publishing Certificate

If you want to combine your interests in interactive graphic design and professional printing, the graphic design certificate program with an emphasis in desktop publishing may be the best route for you. This specialty certificate teaches basic design principles and techniques, specifically within visual arts and page layout. Upon completion of the program, students will possess both the technical knowledge and skills to create captivating designs on their own and as a team while working under strict deadlines. This vocational certificate program is both short and affordable, and it can adequately prepare you for an entry-level designer or publisher job. However, all applicants must meet the following requirements to be considered for admission:

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

The graphic design and desktop publishing certificate program can take anywhere from six months to one year to complete, depending on your course load and pace. During this program, students will likely take courses in drawing, advertising, publication design, computer illustration, and digital imaging. Some programs may offer alternative core courses or electives that better fit your interests. Online students can access their classes, lectures, assignments, and grades on a learning management system provided by the school.

Graphic & Web Design Certificate

The graphic and web design certificate provides comprehensive instruction and specializing training to prepare students for this exciting field. Through interactive lessons and online practicums, students will learn how to produce print and multimedia designs using various software tools and computer technologies. This program also prepares students for the real-world professional duties and challenges faced by graphic and web designers every day. If you want to enter this challenging but exciting field of design, you need to complete some kind of formal training. The graphic and web design certificate is a great alternative to the longer and more expensive undergraduate degrees. Interested applicants should verify they meet the following 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

Depending on your individual program or institution, most online graphic and web design certificates take about six months to one year to finish. Some common courses in this program include: graphic design principles, typography and layout, digital imaging with Adobe Photoshop, typographic systems, introduction to web design, WordPress, and more. Like most studio disciplines, this online program requires students to complete a variety of design projects and revise their existing work with portfolio modules or courses.

What’s Next for Certificate Holders?

Graduates of the online graphic design certificate programs will be qualified for several entry-level jobs in graphic design and other related fields. Most certificate holders take lower-level graphic designing positions in hopes of moving up to a managerial or supervisory role after a few years of experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers have excellent job prospects, and employment of this occupation is expected to increase 13% by 2020. Depending on your employers, location, education level, and experience, graphic designers can earn favorable salaries. The average annual salary of a graphic designer in 2012 was $48,730.

Although it is possible to find a graphic design job with only a vocational certificate in the field, some employers prefer to hire applicants with an associate degree in graphic design or the next highest option, the bachelor’s degree in graphic design. If this applies to you, it may be worth your while to pursue a college degree after earning a certificate to expand your knowledge and skills as well as increase your job opportunities.