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Q&A - Certificates in Graphic Design

Can I work while studying for my certificate in graphic design?

The decision to work while completing your certificate in graphic design may depend upon the requirements of your program, the flexibility of your schedule and your personal finances. If you decide that working is right for you, there are many job opportunities to pursue.

Firms specializing in design, publishing, advertising and public relations frequently employ graphic designers, as do online and print magazines and newspapers. In fact, any employer with a website or a marketing department will likely need a skilled designer to maintain the site and to create materials. Many graphic designers choose to pursue freelance work, which allows for increased flexibility in workload and schedule.

Maintaining employment while completing your studies has multiple benefits in addition to providing financial security. It will provide you the opportunity to decide whether a career in graphic design is the best fit for you.

Adding work experience to your resume may also help to increase your graphic design salary upon completion of your graphic design certificate program. If you cannot find a full-time job, consider applying for internships, which will introduce you to the industry and allow you to try different forms of design. Finally, working will allow you to network with people already established in the design field, thereby opening doors to future job opportunities.

As some certification programs discourage students from dividing time between work and classes, you might consider talking to an advisor or program director about the amount of work you will be expected to complete outside of class, and whether part-time or night courses are available. Students earning a graphic design certificate online may benefit from the added scheduling flexibility of online courses, which can better accommodate a part-time or full-time work schedule.

Are there any brick-and-mortar colleges that offer an online graphic design certificate program?

A number of campus-based colleges and universities currently offer graphic design online certificate programs.

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 an online graphic design certificate in graphic and digital design that can be completed online, on campus or in combination. Course offerings include design fundamentals such as typography and composition and color, but also offer unique courses such as the history of graphic design, which discusses design from the mid-19th century through the digital revolution

Savannah College of Art and Design offers a graphic design certificate online that focuses on digital publishing. Courses include publishing and design fundamentals, including layout, graphic imaging and typography. Students of the program choose a focus on pre-press or web publishing for further specialization.

Alternatively, students may pursue an online digital publishing management certificate where they will address advanced topics in publishing and design, with an emphasis on content management and design processes. The college has a reputation for a student-faculty ratio of 16:1, with 82.8% of its classes having fewer than 20 students.

University of Massachusetts, Lowell offers a certificate program in multimedia applications, which is available online or on campus. The program offers courses such as computer graphics and illustration, advanced website development and 3D computer animation. The university was rated by U.S. News & World Report as 1 of the top 100 public universities in the U.S.

What are common assumptions about students who choose to get a certificate in graphic design?

Prospective students may fear that graphic design certificate programs do not help graduates obtain employment in the design field. While many graphic design employers prefer designers with a bachelors or even an associates degree in graphic design, job opportunities for designers with a combination of experience and education are available.

Employment for graphic designers in computer systems design is projected to grow by over 60% by the year 2020, creating many job opportunities for experienced designers with a commitment to the field. Presenting a strong portfolio along with a certificate will be key to staying competitive.

Graphic design certificates are often viewed as easy alternatives to degree programs. However, certificate programs vary widely in length and rigor, with many programs lasting from 1 year to 2 years.

Students pursuing a design certificate learn core concepts such as color theory and typography while gaining expertise in design trends and cutting edge software. In addition, certificate programs provide useful information to individuals in a variety of professions who may be seeking certification for career advancement or personal growth.

Another common misconception is that all graphic design certification programs will offer web design training. It is important to note that certification programs are as varied as the students who attend them. While some graphic designers specialize in web design, others primarily work in print, illustration or animation. You will want to make sure that your certification program is offering the combination of courses that best suits your area of interest.

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

Admission to graphic design certification programs, even graphic design online certificate programs, can require significant preparation prior to submitting the application. Most graphic design programs will require both online and on-site students to have basic computer proficiency at minimum, and often require familiarity with Mac OS, which is considered the industry standard operating system.

In addition, applications may require the completion of core art courses, as well as submission of artwork or a full portfolio in order to gauge your artistic background and experience.

Taking a computer course or volunteering your time to help a community organization develop its website before applying to a certificate program could make the difference between acceptance and rejection. Read through the eligibility requirements carefully to be sure that your qualifications are a good match.