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Graphic Design Schools

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With salaries in the $60,000 range and jobs that involve both art and technology, the graphic design industry draws many hopefuls to it. Like most creative fields, though, it can be highly competitive: many entry-level positions require at least a bachelor's degree, but it's not required. A degree from a design school or a dedicated program, however, does have its benefits.

College and university graphic design programs can focus on multimedia, visual communication, advertising, animation, web development, or a number of other specific fields in this growing market. Since programs introduce students to a variety of design applications, graduates of these programs tend to be well informed in both industrial and technological aspects of design. Plus, they will have amassed a large portfolio by the time they graduate, an important ingredient in finding work in the design world.

Not all design programs are the same, so it's important to research as many of them as possible before making a commitment to one. Sometimes would-be students forget to ask the obvious questions and discover the answers too late. For instance, it's wise to understand every entrance requirement, what tuition covers, and the average costs of other necessities, such as textbooks.

Because the definition of graphic design constantly widens, it's important to ask what, exactly, a degree program includes. The importance being that the field you want to study might actually be offered in a different program. What software do they use, and how current is their equipment? Do they offer any of their classes online?

Students naturally prefer to work with the newest technology, but in some cases, if the program is too full, you might wait all semester to get your hands on the latest software and equipment. If you prefer more hands-on training, ask about class size and lab accessibility. Finally, see if the school has job-placement programs or other ties to the industry for recent graduates.

Shorter term certificate programs, from one to two years long, are a great way to get certified quickly and start the sometimes arduous process of finding a graphic design job. A more substantial program, such as a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), will take more time, from three to four years, but will provide a more in-depth education. This, in turn, may make it easier to find a better job off the bat.

While getting a degree in graphic design will put you a step ahead of those who don't have one, it's no guarantee that you will get land your dream job. Competition is fierce, and most companies only hire entry-level employees, who they then promote as positions become available. For these and other reasons, many graphic designers work on a freelance basis.

Having some background or training in business or marketing is an important tool for the freelance graphic designer. The variety and scope of design programs acknowledges this, offering training in tangential fields. When deciding which school or college to attend for your graphics degree, consider which related courses they also offer so you receive the most well-rounded design education possible.

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