How Can I Become a Graphic Designer ? Skills, Tools, Salary, Cost, Schools

Ever daydream about creating amazing designs? Then a career in graphic design may be right for you. Although going to university can give you the right skills and qualifications, you can still become a graphic designer without going down the usual degree route.

Graphic designers play a very great role in the digital world because they create amazing visuals seen every day, every minute, all over the world. These people create entertainment, advertising, news and features in all forms, including print publications and digital media such as game machines, television, web browsers, and social platforms.

So, in this article, you would learn all about being a graphic designer and how to become a better graphic designer.

What is Graphic Design?

According to AIGA, the professional association for design, graphic design is “the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content.”

Essentially, it is the practice of creating visually-interesting imagery that defines the world around us.

With this basic knowledge, we can define who a graphic designer is.

Who is a Graphic Designer?

Graphic designers are design professionals who create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They are also referred to as graphic artists or communication designers.

So, they develop the overall layout and production design for applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and reports.

Also, graphic designers work with both text and images., and combine art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of websites and printed pages.

What Does a Graphic Designer Do? | Job Description

A graphic designer is involved in a lot of creative activities, not limited to the following:

  • Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project
  • Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create designs
  • Create visual elements such as logos, original images, and illustrations to help deliver a message
  • Design layouts, including the selection of colours, images, and typefaces
  • Present design concepts to clients or art directors
  • Incorporate changes recommended by clients or art directors into final designs
  • Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them

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Where Does A Graphic Designer Work? | Graphic Design Jobs

Graphic design is important to market and sell products and critical to brochures and logos. So, you can find graphic designers involved in a number of things. Here are just a few:

  • Illustration
  • Video game design
  • Multimedia specialist
  • Computer animation
  • Interior design
  • Production design
  • 3D animation
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Therefore, graphic designers often work closely with people in advertising, promotions, public relations, and marketing.

Also, most graphic designers specialize in experiential graphic design. These designers work in various areas such as:

  • Architecture
  • Industrial Design
  • Landscape Architects
  •  Interior Designers

Majorly, graphic designers work in four broad areas across our sectors, and these include:

  • Advertising, public relations, and related services
  • Specialized design services
  • Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers
  • Printing and related support activities

How Much Does A Graphic Designer | Salary And Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the median annual pay for graphic designers was $50,370 in May 2025.

According to PayScale, there is higher pay for graphic design managers, with an average yearly salary of $56,255 per year, and a salary range of $36,913 to $82,691 annually.

Also, the employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 3% from 2025 to 2028, slower than the average for all occupations.

So, graphic designers are expected to face strong competition for available positions. Currently, graphic designers held about 290,100 jobs in 2025.

For example, the employment of graphic designers in newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers is projected to decline 22 percent from 2025 to 2028.

However, the employment of graphic designers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow 24 percent over the same period.

Companies are continuing to increase their digital presence, requiring graphic designers to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites.

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Essentials Skills Of A Top-Notch Graphic Designer

To be a graphic designer that stands out, there are various qualities you should exhibit which makes you stand out. You must have:

  • Artistic Ability: You should be able to create designs that engage and appeal to clients’ needs.
  • Communication Skills: You must be able to relate with customers along every step of their design creation journey to ensure their desires are properly expressed.
  • Computer Skills: You must also be specialized in computer software like Corel draw, lightroom, and photoshop, among other design software.
  • Creativity: As a graphic design specialist, you must be innovative and think outside the box. For this reason, you should always think about new approaches to solving client issues.
  • Time-management skills: Due to multiple projects you would be running as a graphic artist, you should learn how to work with time.
  • Analytical Skills: You must also learn to think about your work critically and examine each design extensively to be sure it properly conveys the client’s message.

Top graphic designers essentially blend the fundamental formal knowledge of artistic communication with sophisticated design tools. And these tools a graphic designer uses are dependent on their area of specialization within the field.

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For the print designer, key graphics programs generally include:

  • QuarkXPress
  • Adobe FrameMaker
  • InDesign Adobe
  • Adobe PageMaker

Also, in the digital space, designers use;

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDraw Graphics Suite
  • Adobe Fireworks
  • Adobe FreeHand

Digital designers that also work in the online environment can benefit by using:

  • Adobe Flash Player
  • Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Macromedia HomeSite

Some major software tools for motion graphics designers also include:

  • Autodesk Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • MoGraph
  • Adobe After Effects

Of course, generalists must develop a fundamental skill set in various working environments, or they may choose to specialize just in one or two key programs.

Generally, flexibility, as always, remains a key attribute of a successful graphic design career.

What are the Educational Requirements To Become a Graphic Designer?

Although you might not need a college degree to become a graphic designer, a bachelor’s degree will go a long way to creating a profitable career for you in graphic design.

Check out Undergraduate Scholarships for Graphic Design we listed for you

In truth, graphic designers usually hold a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a closely related field. But successful graphic designers also possess a knack for creativity and a solid grasp of computer software.

Even if you feel too busy to attend college and earn a bachelor’s degree, there are several colleges that offer graphic designs online.

Graphic Design Schools

Bachelor degree programs in graphic arts generally take about four years to complete and are divided into general education, core studies in graphic design, and electives. Students can choose from the following degree options:

  • BACHELOR OF ARTS (BA) OR BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (BS) The BA or BS degree in graphic arts is designed to be a well-rounded general degree, providing graduates with key artistic and production skills, and a foundation in graphic design theory.
  • BACHELOR OF FINE ARTS (BFA) IN GRAPHIC ARTS Considered a professional degree, the BFA curriculum is based on studio practice and concentrates on the development of skills and knowledge in interactive design, typography, and motion graphics.

For this reason, we have outlined schools offer the best graphic design programs for undergraduates:

  • Maryland Institute College of Art
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Rhode Island School of Design.
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Parsons School of Design
  • Pratt Institute
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • California Institute of The Arts

Also, if you want to further your career in graphic design, a master’s degree is important. So, the following schools are considered one of the best graphic design schools:

What’s the Cost of Becoming a Graphic Designer?

Honestly, how much you pay to become a graphic designer will largely depend on whether you go to a public school or private school.

So, on average, an out-of-state student will pay $34,000 annually to obtain his graphic design bachelor’s degree. This covers tuition, feeding as well as school materials. ( The price ranges, however, can vary from $11,000 to about $60,000 each year.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Graphic Designer?

On average, it takes about 4 years to learn graphic design at the bachelor’s degree level. While it can increase to 5 – 6 years if Master’s Degree programs are included. But, most times, students settle for 4 years of learning before venturing into the world of design.

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How Hard is Being a Graphic Designer?

Graphic designers’ job is a very competitive one so schedules vary depending on workload and deadlines.

For this reason, those who are self-employed may need to adjust their workday to meet with clients in the evenings or on weekends.

In addition, they could spend some of their time looking for new projects or competing with other designers for contracts.

Can you be a graphic designer without a degree?

Of course, you can still become a graphic designer without going down the usual route of earning a bachelor’s degree.

You just need to learn the right tools for graphic design and do extensive training and certificates to build that skill well.

Also, you should put in as much work in marketing your craft and building a great portfolio.

Steps To Become A Graphic Designer

To be a graphic design professional takes a lot of commitment and training, so we have summarised some steps you can take to become that badass graphic designer and get paid well for it.

Shall we?

#1 Start Building your Skills In High School

Firstly, you must know that in order to develop any skill, you need time. So, it’s recommended that you build your abilities early, even while in high school.

As early as you can, take courses in design and art. Graphic designers need to have a keen eye and a creative brain, but they also need to develop skills and software fluency. So, preparation is everything.

#2 Get a Degree in Graphic Design

A certificate in the field, or an associate’s degree, may be enough in some cases, but the U.S. Department of Labor reports that top graphic designers are much more likely to land a quality job only after earning a bachelor’s degree.

So, there are currently about 300 post-secondary institutions in the U.S. that offer degree programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. 

Coursework covers a wide range of subjects, such as studio art, principles of design, commercial graphics, web design, advertising as well as graphics-related computer technology.

Classes in marketing and business may be part of the curriculum as well since designers should be able to effectively sell themselves to potential clients.

#3 Volunteer for Internships

Before venturing into the world of graphic design, you should volunteer for jobs that give you hands-on experience about the nitty-gritty of working with clients and also help you build professional relationships.

But, not all college programs in graphic design require internships.

#4 Build a Great Work Portfolio

Building an impressive portfolio actually sells you more than a resume, if you’re applying for a graphic design job.

So, the most effective credential for graphic designers is their professional portfolios, demonstrating their expertise and range of work. 

While presenting a large work portfolio might be hard because you are starting out, you can focus on delivering quality content rather than quantity. Just showcase your best samples, and a portfolio aligned to your client’s interest.

#5 Stay Updated

To be a better graphic designer, you need to keep up to date with software and computer technologies in order to remain competitive.

Completing certification programs in vendor-specific design software can also help build your credentials and set you ahead of your competitors.


Becoming a graphic designer requires a lot of creativity and critical thinking. That is why it is good to undergo training and earn certifications to improve this skill.


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