Should I Be a Graphic Design Major? Everything You Need to Know to Decide

Young male thinking about graphic design

You’ve daydreamed about becoming a graphic designer many times. You can see yourself learning the latest design software and bringing out your creative side, eventually escaping your current less-than-ideal job and launching a new career you love.

It’s a nice daydream, but you don’t want to waste any time or money pursuing a degree program that’s not the right fit. Sure, you can spot good design from a mile away, and you enjoy working with technology—but you’re still skeptical of all the unknowns. What if graphic design jobs aren’t the stable career you’re hoping for? What if you start a graphic design program and hate it?

You need to know whether a Graphic Design major is the right fit for you before you take steps to pursue your degree. We’re digging into every aspect of what it means to be a Graphic Design major, including career and earning potential, so you can decide once and for all if pursuing a Graphic Design major could lead to the career you’ve been dreaming of.

Jobs for Graphic Design majors

You don’t want to pursue a degree program without knowing where it will take your career. Graphic designers bring cohesive visual designs to life, working on projects such as logos, websites, ad campaigns and book covers. They use specialized software to create concept designs and carefully select colors, fonts, images and layouts. Graphic designers typically collaborate with others on projects, and they must be able to present their designs to clients or supervisors and then incorporate necessary changes.

Good design isn’t just about a pretty image. At the heart of a graphic designer’s work is the ability to convey a message through visual imagery. Strong design is valued in nearly every industry, which means graphic designers enjoy employment options ranging from full-time employment by a single brand or working with multiple clients on a freelance basis.

Graphic design is a valuable skill that can open the door to several career paths. We analyzed over 6,700 job postings to find the top-ten job titles for Graphic Design majors—here’s what we found:1

  • Graphic designer
  • Visual designer
  • Production artist
  • Graphic artist
  • Production designer
  • Marketing specialist
  • Web designer
  • Marketing assistant

Graphic design salary and outlook

There’s good news for anyone considering a graphic design career: graphic designers aren’t the stereotypical “starving artists” that may spring to mind when thinking of people in a creative career. Graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $48,700 in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).2

Considering this was the median graphic design salary, that means there is additional earning potential as well. And as a general rule of thumb, compensation can increase for designers who choose to specialize in a niche area of the field or for those who advance into leadership roles.

Graphic design careers are also seeing steady growth, with the BLS predicting four percent employment growth from 2016 to 2026.2 However, some industries are seeing far more demand for these visual artists. Graphic designers are needed to assist with web and software design as new technology continues to develop, so employment in fields like computer systems design are expected to grow by as much as 20 percent.2

Qualities needed to work in graphic design

Being a graphic designer is about more than just creativity, although that certainly comes into play. So is it a deal breaker if you’re not the best at drawing or sketching? Obviously it’ll help to have some artistic ability, but students with varying levels of traditional drawing skill can find success in a design program. “There are many different types of talent in graphic design school,” says Maddy Sharkey, design student and digital marketing assistant at Brainchild Studios.

There is a wide range of both technical and transferable skills that are valued in the graphic design world. We’ve rounded up the top-ten skills graphic design employers are looking for:1

Top technical skills:

  • Adobe Creative Suite®
  • Typesetting
  • Website design
  • Social media
  • Project management
  • Packaging
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Budgeting
  • Art direction

Top transferable skills:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Collaboration
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Organization
  • Editing
  • Problem solving
  • Multitasking
  • Time management

Graphic design courses

Graphic Design programs feature courses that teach both foundational design principles as well as the technical skills needed to master design-specific software, such as the Adobe Creative Suite®. They also allow students to build their portfolios before they enter the workforce.

Graphic design courses offer you the opportunity to hone your creative vision and project management skills while gaining technical knowledge. They also introduce students to one of the most important aspects of a graphic design career: teamwork. “The greatest attribute a school can offer you is critiquing the work of your classmates,” Sharkey says. “When you look at work and discuss why it is or is not working as a design, you are gaining a knowledge that is irreplaceable.”

Here are some examples of courses you might find in a Graphic Design program:

  • Principles of design
  • Printing techniques
  • Website design
  • Computerized design
  • Typography
  • User experience design

Find your future in design

Forget about staying in your going-nowhere career forever. You’ve seen that the world that graphic design can offer as a place to use both your creative and technology skills, plus a stable career path with an optimistic job outlook. Maybe a Graphic Design major could be just what you’re looking for.

Now that you have the scoop on graphic design careers, it’s time to think about taking your first step toward this creative career. Learn more about how to get started by visiting Rasmussen College’s Graphic Design degree page.

1Source: (analysis of 6,757 graphic design job postings, July 01, 2017 – June 30, 2018).
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed October 16, 2018] Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
Adobe Creative Suite is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated.

About the author

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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