How to Become a Graphic Designer in 4 Simple Steps

What is a Graphic Designer

Before we start analyzing how to become a graphic designer, let’s examine some general characteristics of this profession.

Graphic designers have been behind some of the most iconic and most seen marketing campaigns ever, as well as images, website content, brand imagery, the list goes on. They are visual communicators, portraying and delivering messages through the use of images, colors and fonts primarily.

It’s a job that allows you to use all of your creative flair to create something different and special. Work that you can be proud of and enjoy doing. Most graphic design roles involve working as part of a team, but typically on your own individual projects. There can be long hours to get projects finished, but there can also be a really rewarding feeling when you see your work being viewed by millions of people.

What do Graphic Designers do?

Working as a graphic designer you will be receiving instructions from clients and designing graphics to their specifications. To do this you will typically use free-hand skills for an outline, computer software to create the graphics, and work with other people to put everything together.
On occasion you will work as an in-house graphic designer. Large companies employ designers to produce all of their branding, marketing campaigns and online content. Regardless of external clients or internal management, the roles and skill-sets are similar.

A summary of some typical duties include:

  • Communicating with clients and advising how long a job will take and what you can bring to the project
  • Delivering completed projects on time and adjusting for any unforeseen problems that may arise
  • Producing high-quality design work using cutting-edge software
  • Being able to work alone and as part of a larger team

Graphic designers average salary is: $50,370.

Important Qualities of a Graphic Designer

Graphic designers fill an important role when it comes to online content and creating visuals. The higher quality the graphics, the better brand loyalty, high conversion rates, and better user-engagement they will provoke.
While graphic design skills can be learned and improved upon, there are some desirable skills that make becoming a graphic designer a lot easier. Here are some of the key areas where being stronger is advantageous to doing graphic design work.

Experience with Design Software

The more experience you have with graphic design software the more employable you will be. There are various packages that are widely used, and a lot of bespoke packages will follow similar guidelines.
Technology is always advancing in the world of graphic design software, so keeping your knowledge up-to-date is important. Using software makes up a huge part of most graphic designers days.

Having a Creative Mind

Being a graphic designer often means you have some creative freedom. In some instances you will be responsible for creating and making changes to designs, this means relying on your creative intuition.In a crowded field or up against other designers, having a creative mind can separate you from the rest of the crowd.

Project Management

You will be in control of managing your own projects and this means being responsible for deadlines and delivering work completed in a timely fashion. Whether you are managing others, or have a manager yourself, you will have your own workload to manage.

Understanding Typography

Typography is a key skill in a graphic designers skillset. Understanding which fonts to use and how to use them sets a bad designer apart from an excellent one.

Fonts and words are just as important as images. Being able to choose the right fonts to resonate with people and draw their interest to stop and look at your work is a difficult task. But the choice of the typography plays a big part in this.

what is a graphic designer

Becoming a Graphic Designer

Step 1: High School Coursework

Computer Courses

The majority of a graphic designers’ work is to design websites and other stuff using computer based programs. Taking computer courses in high school will help them get familiar on how computer systems work and get accustomed using them.

English Courses

Graphic designers usually work as a part of a team and they will have to effectively communicate with their colleagues, other graphic designers, software developers etc. They will also have to communicate with clients talk with them about their ideas and sell them in a convincing manner. English courses will help them build a strong communication skills basis.

Business Courses

Understanding how business work is a key skill for graphic designers no matter the type of employment they will choose. If they decide to start their own company it makes total sense to understand how business work but even if they work at another company the majority of their clients will be other businesses so it is vital to have a clear understanding of how business work.

Step 2: Get an Undergraduate Degree

Graphic Design Professional Certificate 1 year

Graphic design certificate admissions are a high school diploma and demonstration of basic skills in computer based design programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. These programs consist of 30 – 38 credits.


  • Page Layout & Design
  • Graphic Design I
  • Digital Imaging
  • Color Theory for Graphic Design
  • Typography
  • Digital Publishing Methods
  • Computer Illustration
  •  Graphic Design II
  • Graphic Design III
  • Graphic Design Internship Seminar
  •  Graphic Design Internship

The cost of a graphic designer certificate program is $14,775 – $41,326.

Graphic Design Associates Degree Program 2 years

A high school diploma and a portfolio with some of the candidates’ designs are required in order to enroll in a program like that. The duration is two years and consists of 54 – 91 semester credit hours. Curriculum General Education Courses (28 credits)
  • Introduction to the Visual Arts
  • Introduction to Communications
  • Advanced Communications
  • Composition and Language
  • College Math
  • Art History: Prehistory to the Early Modern Era
  • Art History: From the Early Modern to the Contemporary
  • American Art History
  • Introduction to Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Composition and Language
  • World Literature
  • U.S. History I: First Contact to Reconstruction
  • Western Civilization I: Antiquity to the Renaissance
  • College Math II
  • Introduction to Ethics
  • Aesthetics
  • Physics
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Sociology
Core Courses (60 credits)
  • Introduction to Web Design
  • Design Fundamentals
  • Observational Drawing
  • Perspective Drawing
  • Image Manipulation
  • Digital Color Theory
  • Life Drawing
  • History and Analysis of Design
  • Mixed Media
  • Advanced Typography
  • Design Principles
  • Corporate Identity
  • Portfolio
  • Packaging Design
  • Digital Illustration
  • Concept Design
  • Introduction to Layout Design
  • Typography–Traditional
Electives (3 Credits)
  • Intermediate Illustration
  • Contemporary Typography
  • Advertising Design
  • Interactive Portfolio Design
  • Business of Graphic Design
The cost of a graphic design associate’s degree program is $14,775 – $96,200.

Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design Degree Program 4 years

Admission requirements for these programs are:

  • Official High school transcript
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Have earned at least 9 post-secondary semester credits

In order to complete a degree program like that you will need to complete 120 – 132 semester credit hours.


General Education Requirements (45 Credits)

  • English Composition I
  • English Composition II
  • Applied Finite Mathematics
  • The Heart of Mathematics
  • Precalculus
  • Applied Calculus I
  • Applied Calculus II
  • Mathematical Proof and Problem Solving
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Applied Statistics
  • Diversity
  • Global Society
  • Wellness
  • Preparing for the Future

Core Courses (60 Credits)

  • 2D Design I
  • 3D Design I
  • Drawing I
  • History of Western Art: Ancient to Medieval
  • History of Western Art: Renaissance to Modern
  • First Year Seminar†
  • Elements of Graphic Design
  • Time Based Design
  • Drawing II
  • First Year Writing
  •   College Experience
  • Typography
  • Design Imagery
  • History of Graphic Design
  • Typography and Imagery
  • Interactive Media Design (SMTL)
  • Design Production
  • Information Design
  • Web and User Interface Design
  • Professional Practices
  • Design Systems and Methodology
  • Environmental Graphic Design
  • Branding and Identity Design
  • Collaborative Design
  • Senior Capstone Project

The cost of a graphic design bachelor’s degree program is $38,400 – $110,220.

Step 3: Get a Graduate Degree (Optional)

Master of Arts in Graphic Design 2 years

If you plan on pursuing a master’s degree in graphic design you will need:

  • A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or something relevant
  • 3 Letters of recommendation
  • A portfolio with your designs
  • A 500 – 750 letter of purpose

The the credit requirements for completing this type of degree is 40 – 63 credit hours.


  • Visual Communications Lab
  • Type Systems
  • Digital Design Studio 1
  • Type Experiments
  • Making Ideas Visible
  • Type Forms
  • Visual Literacy
  • Type Composition
  • Visual Thinking
  • History of Graphic Design
  • Anthropology: Experiencing Culture
  • Crossing Borders: Art & Culture in a Global Society
  • Cultural Narratives
  • Mythology for the Modern World
  • Culture & Identity in Modern American Theater
  • Industrial Design in a Globalized World
  • Graduate Seminar in Europe
  • Professional Practices for Designers & Advertisers
  • Writing and Research for the Master’s Student

The cost of a graphic design master’s degree program is $58,095 – $108,135.

Step 4: Create a Portfolio

Like the majority of art professionals a good portfolio is a better way to express an individuals skill than a resume. A good portfolio will demonstrate to your potential employers your graphic design skills and the different areas of graphic design you have mastered.

So when creating a portfolio make sure not only to include your best projects but also as many different kinds of projects as you can so you can demonstrate that you can work in all different fields of graphic design.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Graphic Designer and How Much Does it Cost?

Option 1 : Certificate

Degree Time Cost
Certificate 6 months to 12 months$14,775 – $41,326
Certification 1 month
Total 6 months to 12 months$14,775 – $41,326

Option 2 : Associate’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$14,775 – $96,200
Certification 1 month
Total 2 years & 1 month $14,775 – $96,200

Option 3 : Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$38,400 – $110,220
Certification 1 month
Total 4 years & 1 month$38,400 – $110,220

Option 4: Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$38,400 – $110,220
Master’s2 years$58,095 – $108,135
Certification1 month
Total6 years $96,495 – $218,355

Graphic Designer Training Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

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