← Back

Q&A - Graphic Design Certification

What are the best professional certifications in graphic design to earn?

Professional certification programs focus on establishing professional ethics, standards and core competencies. Currently in the United States, there are not formal graphic design certifications. An official graphic design certification would allow graphic design professionals to clearly define their design skills, as well as establish a level of knowledge and experience in the business side of design.

A graphic design certification differs from obtaining a certificate in graphic design from a school that is accredited. Accreditation is a non-governmental system of academic review. In graphic design, industry peers produce an independent judgment about the extent to which an institution or program achieves its own educational objectives and meets the standards established by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Many graphic design professionals feel credentials in creative disciplines should revolve around your creative work and what you are capable of, rather than paper credentials. In this field, the best true evidence of your training and abilities will be your portfolio. Yet, graphic design certification programs in other countries, such as the Registered Graphic Designer (RGD) designation through the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario, Canada, claim that formal certification is a signal of quality and competence to the profession, the public and the government.

To potential clients and hiring companies, certification can prove that you are at a high level in your field. It can establish with certainty to clients and colleagues alike that your knowledge, experience and professionalism in design position you in the highest order of the profession. For you, as a design professional, it can also serve as a means for networking and attracting clients.

What organizations offer certification in graphic design?

As of now, 1 of the only professional graphic design certifications comes from the Association of Registered Graphic Designers in Canada. However, accredited bachelor degrees, associate degrees and graphic design certificate programs are available from 2-year to 4-year professional schools.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 250 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Many of the top schools in the country also offer a graphic design masters degree. An accredited graphic design degree or certificate is currently the best formal qualification for a graphic designer in the U.S.

A handful of countries around the world have established design certification systems, including Canada, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Many professionals feel graphic design certifications would help define standards for the profession. There is a proposed design certification model for the U.S. that would be administered by a new entity called the Design Certification Council of America, though it has not been fully developed and is not yet available.

In the absence of official graphic design certification programs in the U.S., there are several other related certifications that will demonstrate your expertise in areas related to the field. The most common graphic design software suite in the industry today is Adobe Creative Suite, including Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and a variety of other interactive design programs. You can demonstrate your expertise in these important tools by becoming Adobe Certified.

In other areas related to graphic design, there are extensive technical and computer certifications. Microsoft, Apple and many other companies offer training and certification for computer skills. Many computer certifications are also available through the National Computer Science Academy. These certifications can help to establish your technical expertise until an official graphic design certification online or offline is available in the U.S.

Can I earn a certification in graphic design online?

For certifications such as the RGD in Canada, you can find materials for the graphic design certification online. You must submit the application, including a record of your education and professional experience, to be considered for this certification. The RGD also provide a list of suggested reading resources to prepare you for the examination. Required in-person sessions for taking the written portion of the examination are held throughout the year.

The proposed graphic design certification in the U.S. would not be available online. The current proposed certification would include a written test, education verification, industry experience, case studies and an interview. Supporting materials for the written test and instructions would likely be hosted online, but the multi-step process would involve sending in documents and also an in person interview and portfolio review.

Many technical computer certifications are available online. Some are available as free multiple-choice exams that do not require any formal preparation, such as those through the National Computer Science Academy. Other programs require training through an official training center with varying online options available.