A career as a graphic designer might be right up your alley. Check out graphic design programs you can complete in under two years, and more to help your quest to become a graphic designer.

Graphic designers are instrumental in creating everything from websites to billboards. They may use computer software or hand draw designs that will complement text or a banding message. A graphic designer career is likely to have a worker doing all the following:

  • Meeting with clients or a creative team to outline a project
  • Using software tools to create digital elements that will deliver a specific message
  • Designing layouts that incorporate desired graphics, text and colors
  • Working with clients to review a proposed design, receive feedback and revise it as needed

Not every career in graphic design will look the same. Some professionals in the field specialize as one of the following:

  • Brand designers work with clients and companies to create logos, websites and ads that convey a desired branding message.
  • Website and mobile designers are responsible for creating websites and mobile apps that are attractive, informational and easy to navigate.
  • Print designers work exclusively on layouts for printed media such as advertisements, brochures and magazines.

How to become a graphic designer

Does becoming a graphic designer sound right for you? Then follow these steps which are used by many people to become a graphic designer.

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree. When it comes to graphic design education requirements, a four-year degree is standard in the field. By completing graphic designer degree requirements, you'll gain experience in studio art, computerized design and the use of various software programs. Online courses and degrees in graphic design are available from some schools.
  2. Build a portfolio. Like other professionals working in the arts, graphic designers need more than the right degree. They also need a portfolio of work to show potential employers and clients. A graphic designer degree program will often provide opportunities to create pieces, but some students may volunteer their services to non-profits or other organizations in exchange for using the finished designs in a portfolio.
  3. Complete an internship. While a graphic designer degree program can give you skills, an internship provides invaluable real-world experience. Internships allow you to put knowledge into practice and make networking connections that could help advance your career in graphic design. Some schools include an internship as part of their graphic designer degree requirements.
  4. Keep skills fresh. As technology and software changes, graphic designers need to continually update their skills to remain relevant. Schools, software publishers and professional organizations, such as The Professional Association for Design, all offer training and resources to help graphic designers keep current with the latest trends in the industry.

Skills and abilities needed for a graphic designer career

While the above steps provide the basics on how to become a graphic designer, you'll also need the following skills and abilities to be successful in the field.


  • Active Learning: Graphic design is a dynamic field, and no two projects are the same. Designers need to be able to continually update skills and integrate new knowledge into their work.
  • Active Listening: Clients often have very specific objectives for projects. Graphic designers need to be able to listen, comprehend and ask questions for clarification as needed.


  • Near Vision: Eyesight might not be the first thing to come to mind when you think about the abilities needed for a graphic designer career, but professionals need to be able to clearly see design details on a computer screen or sheet of paper.
  • Originality: Clients are looking for designs that will be eye-catching and unique, and that means graphic designers need be able to develop original ideas.
  • Fluency of Ideas: Not only do graphic designers need original idea, but they also need to be able to produce multiple design suggestions for clients to consider. This ability is known as having a fluency of ideas.

Career outlook and salary for graphic designers

The expected job growth and pay graphic designers might expect to see depends on factors like experience, education level, location and more. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here's an idea of the career outlook and salary for graphic designers in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Graphic Designers215,930$56,510
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Professional organizations for graphic design

  • American Institute of Graphic Arts: (AIGA) The oldest and largest professional association of designers and works to advance the value of design both regionally and worldwide
  • Graphic Artists Guild: An organization for both students and professionals in graphic design and produces lectures, networking events and skills training in five U.S. regions
  • World Design Organization: Formerly known as the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, is a global network of 140 member organizations from 40 nations
Article Sources
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Graphic Designers, Accessed July 2018,
  • 4 Different Types of Graphic Design Careers, The Art Institutes, August 7, 2017, Accessed July 2018,
  • Graphic Designers, O*Net OnLine, Accessed July 2018,