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Q&A - Graphic Design Associates Degrees

Can I work while studying for my associates degree in graphic design?

There are many employment opportunities available to you as a student of an associate degree in graphic design program. In addition to financial gain, working will hone your design skills, improve your portfolio and will broaden your network of industry contacts.

Pursuing job opportunities with design firms, publishing houses and advertising agencies is often a good place to start. However, consider broadening your job search to include magazines and newspapers, professional membership associations and even non-profit organizations. You may also find work as an in-house graphic designer in the marketing department of a company that produces salable goods.

Any company or organization that generates a large amount of print and web material may be in the market for a designer, and staying open-minded will allow you to seize that opportunity. Graphic designers also have a number of freelance opportunities available to them, which may be a good fit for students juggling employment and graphic design programs.

It is important to evaluate your current schedule to determine whether you can effectively balance employment and education without jeopardizing the quality of your work. Students completing an online associates degree in graphic design may have an easier time balancing the 2 due to potential flexibility in class schedules.

However, even if you are attending an onsite graphic design college, you can build your resume and improve your finances by working. You might consider working part-time to start and moving to full-time if you feel comfortable extending your availability.

What are common assumptions about students who choose to get an associates degree in graphic design?

There can sometimes be an assumption that an associate in graphic design does not lead to quality jobs in the profession. While some graphic design jobs do require a bachelors degree, as the graphic design profession continues to grow, associates degrees are more widely accepted to meet the needs of employers. An exciting portfolio, alongside the associates degree credential, will open the door to many valuable job opportunities.

Another common misconception is that associates degrees are only for beginning designers. Although an associates is often a first step toward a graphic design career, highly seasoned design professionals can also benefit from the degree. As the professionalization of the field continues to expand, employers increasingly require job candidates to have post-secondary education.

For a designer without a degree but with years of experience, earning an associates degree can be a relatively quick and affordable way to stay competitive among candidates with less experience and more education.

Finally, there are some who continue to stigmatize designers who graduate from an online associates degree in graphic design instead of a brick-and-mortar program. While debate over the efficacy of online education may continue, access to online education programs shows no signs of slowing. Many challenging and rigorous online graphic design programs are available today, with graduates who go on to excel in their field.

What is the hardest part of the application to an on-campus or online graphic design associates degree program?

The application to a graphic design associates degree program is typically straightforward, with a few standard components. The letter of intent, or personal statement, is a short summary of your reasons for pursuing a graphic design associates and how you intend to utilize the degree. Schools often ask that the letter of intent be kept to 1 or 2 pages, so be sure to state your points clearly and concisely. Including a well-written personal story may work to distinguish you from other candidates.

Many associates degree programs will have minimum technology and software skill requirement and will ask you to document your level of proficiency in certain areas. This is important particularly if you are pursuing an online associates degree in graphic design and need to have the appropriate software to access your classes. It may be to your benefit to take a course in any programs that are unfamiliar to you prior to submitting your application.

Applications will likely contain a creative element, which will require you to submit sample artistic work or a portfolio. Some schools will instead specify a creative assignment in the application and ask that you submit it along with other required documents. Make sure to follow instructions exactly and, most importantly, to have fun with it! Receiving input from a mentor or trusted friend can be useful for getting useful feedback before submitting your final application.

Are there any brick-and-mortar colleges that offer an online associates degree program?

Hundreds of colleges and universities that offer on-campus programs also offer an online associates degree in graphic design.

The New School for Design is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as having 1 of the top graphic design programs in the country. The program offers both a graphic design associates degree online and on-campus, with part-time and evening courses available. A fast track is also available, allowing students to earn their degree with 34 credits in a single year. Course offerings include traditional design courses like typography, digital layout and color theory, but also include options such as drawing and printmaking.

California College San Diego offers a 15 to 20 month associate degree program in graphic arts with a strong emphasis on advertising design, multimedia applications, web design and marketing. The college is known for offering online, on-campus and hybrid programs that can accommodate the schedules of students working full-time. Courses include logo and identity design, portfolio design and package design.