Graphic Design Major Requirements with Course Information

Learn about degree program requirements for the graphic design major. This article includes details on educational prerequisites, courses and career outlook statistics.

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Essential Information

Graphic designers create visual images to be used in advertisements, packaging, print publications, logos and websites. Art schools and liberal arts colleges typically offer graphic design programs that lead to bachelor's degrees. Graduates of such programs can seek a variety of careers, including layout artist, website designer, publication designer, art director, illustrator and animator. Graphic design majors learn to communicate visually through the use of type, color, photography and graphics, which are applied to print, Web or multimedia formats.

The curriculum in a graphic design bachelor's degree program teaches students basic and advanced design concepts, in addition to the latest design software. For example, coursework might include two-dimensional design, computer graphics, animation and typography. Most programs require students to assemble and submit a portfolio project. Graphic design majors are encouraged to gain hands-on experience by completing an internship for class credit.

Educational Prerequisites

Prospective students must be high school graduates or have a GED. Visual arts experience is recommended. Submission materials include a completed application, SAT or ACT scores, and transcripts from high school, a GED program or previously attended colleges. Some graphic design programs require students to complete two years of art and design prerequisites and submit a portfolio as part of the application process.

Program Coursework

Graphic design majors take general art classes in addition to courses that are specific to their field of study. The following coursework is typical in a bachelor's degree program in graphic design.

  • Principles of design
  • Creating computer graphics
  • Desktop publishing
  • Typography
  • Two-dimensional design
  • Three-dimensional design
  • Graphics for the web
  • Digital photography
  • Principles of color
  • Multimedia and animation

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, predicts job growth of 13% in the graphic design field between 2010 and 2020. Designers with web design and animation skills will be most in demand; graphic designers who work with print will have more competition for jobs. Graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $44,150 in 2012, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

Professional graphic designers who want to advance their careers may pursue a graduate degree, such as a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Graphic Design, a master's in visual communication or a related degree. Additionally, many colleges and universities offer continuing education classes in graphic design that can help designers keep their skills updated or learn new design software. Designers can also take advantage of career development resources offered by professional organizations, such as the AIGA.

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  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Graphic Design
        • Interior Design and Decorating
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Graphic Design
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Miami include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • General Visual Communications Design
        • Graphic Design
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Iowa (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Iowa State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Fashion Design
        • General Visual Communications Design
        • Graphic Design
        • Interior Design and Decorating
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Temple University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Graphic Design
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics