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Q&A - Masters Degrees in Graphic Design

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

If you are enrolled in a program for a master degree in graphic design, you will already have a bachelor degree. That means you are already qualified to work in graphic design so you can find a job at a design firm or other company that specializes in graphic design. One other option is to freelance or become self-employed as a graphic designer to have more freedom and control over your time.

Working while you study for your graphic design master degree will help you offset the cost of tuition as well as learn about graphic design careers and develop realistic expectations for graphic design salaries. Employment can provide opportunities to add to your portfolio and network with people who may be able to help you land your dream job

Depending on the structure of your program, you may also be able to get a job as a teaching assistant at your school. As a teaching assistant, you would help professors in undergraduate classes by grading tests and papers, leading discussions and meeting with students.

You may not have the same opportunities to teach if you pursue an online masters degree in graphic design. However, an online masters in graphic design program will allow to you have a flexible schedule, which means you may be able to work more hours at a graphic design firm. Both traditional and accredited graphic design masters degree online programs should offer job placement and career assistance, which may include helping you find work during your program.

Are there any scholarships for traditional or online masters students in graphic design?

There are many scholarships available for graduate students studying graphic design. Some are open to any students who meet this criteria, such as the Golden Key Visual and Performing Arts Achievement Awards which offer $1,000 for the computer-generated art/graphic design/illustration category. Even if you are pursuing a top graphic design masters degree, your portfolio, not your institution’s reputation, is what will help you win this kind of scholarship.

Some scholarships have a very specific focus. For example, the Two Ten Footwear Foundation offers scholarships to graduate students focusing on footwear design and planning to pursue a career in footwear design. You must send in work samples and demonstrate both skill and need to apply for this scholarship.

To be eligible for the International Foodservice Editorial Council’s scholarships, you must be working on a traditional or online masters degree in graphic design or another arts discipline, and you must be interested in a foodservice communication career. These awards range from $500 to $4,000.

For most of these scholarships, you must be enrolled at an institution offering an accredited graphic design masters degree online or on campus. Your school may have its own scholarships and financial aid, both for traditional and online graphic design masters degree programs. If you are getting your online masters in graphic design, you may have better luck getting funding from your institution rather than from outside sources.

Are there any notable people who have earned masters degrees in graphic design?

Many creative people have earned masters degrees in graphic design. Ricardo De Montreuil earned a graphic design MA with a minor in film and art history at Savannah College of Art and Design. He has gone on to direct commercials, music videos and movies and to work with NBC and MTV to develop their Latin American programming.

Author and critic Jessica Helfand received an MFA in graphic design from Yale University. She is best known for Scrapbooks: An American History, which was named the best visual book of 2008 by the New York Times.

Stephen Biesty completes his award-winning architectural illustrations by hand. He received an MA in graphic design at City of Birmingham Polytechnic in the UK. His Incredible Cross-Sections books, which reveal the inner layers of famous and interesting structures, have sold millions of copies and can help students studying in traditional or online graphic design masters degree programs.

A pioneer of game design, Katie Salen has worked to develop games for both commercial and educational markets. She directs the Institute of Play, a nonprofit organization that integrates game design with education and community initiatives. Katie received an MFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design.

After receiving his MFA in graphic design from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, which also offers an online masters degree in graphic design, Christopher Cortez competed on Tommy Hilfiger’s reality show The Cut. He won and now designs Hilfiger footwear in addition to running his design firm, the Cortez Groupe. Although I attended the Academy of Art University a few years after Christopher, I have been lucky enough to attend to his thesis exhibition.

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

The best masters degree in graphic design might be at a brick-and-mortar institution, or it might be at an online school, depending on what you are personally looking for. As with any online graphic design masters degree program, check with the Council of Higher Education Accreditation to make sure your institution is accredited. Many accredited schools offer both an on-campus and an online masters degree in graphic design.

The Savannah College of Art and Design, a highly regarded school, offers an accredited graphic design masters degree online as well as programs in Savannah, Atlanta and Hong Kong.

The Academy of Art University offers both an online masters in graphic design and a program located in San Francisco. One notable alum is designer Christopher Cortez.

A masters degree in technical communication from Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas, takes a broad approach to the many facets of communication, including graphic design. An identical degree program is offered at Texas Tech’s campus in College Station, Texas.