How to Become a Graphic Designer without a Degree (2024)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Although a degree can help you get a job as a graphic designer, it’s not an absolute requirement. Discover how to become a graphic designer without a degree.

How to Become a Graphic Designer without a Degree (1)

If you have creative abilities, good communication skills, and a willingness to learn, you may not need a college degree to become a graphic designer. Explore how to pursue this career without a degree. But first, find out what a graphic designer does and what you can expect regarding salary and job outlook.

Read more: What Does a Graphic Designer Do? And How Do I Become One?

What does a graphic designer do?

Depending on the employer's or clients' needs, a graphic designer creates visual designs for websites, print and digital ads, brochures, posters, and other mediums. A graphic designer might work for:

  • A company as part of an art department or marketing team

  • A design consultancy firm

  • Various clients as a freelance creator

Duties and responsibilities

Typically, a graphic designer might have many different duties and responsibilities. Some of the more common graphic design work tasks include:

Graphic designer salary and job outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a graphic designer in the US makes a median annual salary of $57,990. The BLS predicts 3 percent growth for graphic design jobs from 2022 to 2032, which is about as fast as all occupations [1].The growth rate equates to about 22,800 job openings per year.

How to become a graphic designer without a degree

Having a strategy is helpful when pursuing a career in graphic design without a degree. Consider the following valuable steps.

Step 1: Develop essential graphic designer skills.

Graphic designers need two types of skills: technical and workplace. Technical skills include those that help you complete your specific graphic design work, including:

  • Drawing ability

  • Knowledge of typography

  • Familiarity with graphic design software

Workplace skills include those that help you work in a job with other people. In graphic design, these might include:

  • Communication skills

  • Ability to collaborate with others

  • Resilience

To develop both types of graphic designer skills, consider taking individual classes in your community. Topics to focus on might include:

  • Basic drawing

  • Typography

  • Print design

  • Digital design

  • Motion graphics

  • User experience (UX) design

  • Adobe Illustrator

  • Adobe Photoshop

Step 2: Engage in self-study.

To learn about graphic design independently, you can read books, take online courses, or listen to podcasts. Good introductory subjects might include:

Step 3: Get certified.

Earning certifications like the Adobe Certified Professional or AIGA Professional Design Certification credentials may help develop your knowledge and skills in graphic design and enhance your resume and portfolio. You can find options for graphic design certifications both in-person and online. Some benefits of online certifications over in-person options include schedule flexibility, lower costs, and constant access to lectures and other course materials.

Step 4: Establish a professional network.

When you take classes or attend graphic design events, it's important to begin building a professional network. Networking offers many career benefits, including:

  • More job opportunities

  • Increased knowledge

  • Higher status and credibility in your field

  • New friendships or mentorships

Read more: What Is Networking? How to Grow Your Network

Step 5: Build a portfolio of your work.

Paired with a good resume, a portfolio can help you highlight your work and demonstrate your graphic design skills. Your portfolio contains real or hypothetical graphic design work you've completed. Without a degree, an excellent portfolio is essential to showing employers your skills and qualifications for the role.

When creating a portfolio include physical pieces like book covers, invitations, logos, posters, product packaging, and digital work like photos or videos. Remember to include only your best work to leave a positive impression regarding your potential and abilities.

Read more: Tips for Creating an Impressive Graphic Design Portfolio

Step 6: Get graphic design experience.

To gain experience in graphic design, you should consider freelancing. You can promote your work through a professional website that you create yourself. When developing your website, don't forget to include:

  • Contact information (email address and phone number)

  • A few sentences about your design philosophy and point of view

  • A short professional bio

  • A link to your graphic design portfolio

When you're ready, gain even more graphic design experience working for an employer in an entry-level job.

3 entry-level positions in graphic design

To understand more about working in graphic design, it helps to know where you might start. Explore three entry-level possibilities in the graphic design field:

Read more: Why Graphic Design Is a Good Career Choice: Salaries, Requirements, and More

1. Logo designer

Median annual pay (US): $52,397 [2]

Job duties: Creates symbolic artwork that represents the name, type, and brand of a business

Skills to have: Sketching skills, familiarity with design software, and good communication, collaboration, and research skills

Possible career path: Logo designer → graphic designer → senior graphic designer → director of graphic design

2. Junior graphic designer

Median annual pay (US): $50,624 [3]

Job duties: Works under a senior graphic designer to create visual designs for clients that depend on the client's needs

Skills to have: Ability to use images, fonts, color, shapes, symbols, and texture to create designs; skills in communicating and collaborating with colleagues; knowledge of graphic design software

Possible career path: Junior graphic designer → graphic designer → senior graphic designer → creative director

3. Junior web designer

Median annual pay: $66,921 [4]

Job duties: Assists senior web designers in designing websites based on client input regarding layout, style, theme, etc.

Skills to have: Expertise in design and various computer programming and software systems

Possible career path: Junior web designer → web designer → senior graphic designer → creative services manager

Next steps on Coursera

To start your graphic design career path, consider taking Fundamentals of Graphic Design offered by Cal Arts (California Institute of the Arts) on Coursera. This six-module course covers beginner-friendly graphic design concepts like color, rhythm, pattern, and how to incorporate them into designs. Upon completion, gain a shareable Professional Certificate to include in your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

How to Become a Graphic Designer without a Degree (2024)

FAQs

Can I be a graphic designer without a degree? ›

A degree is not a prerequisite for a career in graphic design; having a strong portfolio showcasing talent, skills, and creativity carries more weight. Graphic Designers in the United States earn an average salary of $58,000 with higher earnings in states like New York, New Jersey, and California.

How to start in graphic design with no experience? ›

How Do I Become a Graphic Designer With No Experience?
  1. Intern or volunteer.
  2. Work on personal projects and build your portfolio.
  3. Contact design agencies.
  4. Network with other Designers.
  5. Develop your specialty.
  6. Gain a solid understanding of user experience.

Do companies hire self-taught graphic designers? ›

The exciting news is that your path to graphic design proficiency is no longer exclusively tied to formal education. In 2022, landing a graphic design job hinges on cultivating fundamentals, gaining practical experience, understanding client dynamics, and bravely putting yourself out there.

Can I become graphic designer at home? ›

Resources for learning graphic design at home include books, free online tutorials, graphic design forums, and open-source programs like GIMP. Noble Desktop offers a variety of graphic design classes and certifications that provide project-based learning and can be taken remotely.

Can I call myself a designer without a degree? ›

While many fashion designers get started by earning a degree from a design school, it's possible to have a lucrative career as a fashion designer without getting a formal education.

What qualifies you to be a graphic designer? ›

Most graphic designers have post-secondary education in visual communication or graphic design. Having a strong portfolio makes all the difference in finding employment. Computer skills are a must.

Can graphic design be self-taught? ›

Yes, you can self-study graphic design using online resources, tutorials, and design software. However, formal education offers valuable guidance and networking opportunities for comprehensive learning.

How to start off as a graphic designer? ›

  1. Complete a Course. ...
  2. Learn the Basics. ...
  3. Make Time for Learning, Training, and Education. ...
  4. Learn the Essential Tools. ...
  5. Hone the Requisite Skills. ...
  6. Build a Strong Portfolio With Volunteer, Freelance, and Sample Projects. ...
  7. Build Your Network and Get Involved With the Community. ...
  8. Consider a Graphic Design Internship.
Nov 15, 2021

What are the minimum entry requirements for graphic design? ›

Entry Qualifications

The minimum entry requirement for the VCDG is KCSE certificate.

Is graphic design a good side hustle? ›

Graphic design talents are in high demand, and you don't have to be a full-time graphic designer to take advantage of the field as a side hustle. A side gig doing graphic design may offer more creativity or flexibility than a full-time job or allow you to explore a passion.

How do I train myself to be a graphic designer? ›

How to learn graphic design
  1. Learn the basics. ...
  2. Build your skills with online courses. ...
  3. Master the ins and outs of design programs. ...
  4. Create a portfolio of projects. ...
  5. Grow your network. ...
  6. Get some work experience. ...
  7. Continue to learn and grow.
Nov 29, 2023

Is graphic design a realistic career? ›

Yes, many graphic designers are able to make a living from their careers.

Can I learn graphic design on my own and get a job? ›

The good news is this: Your path is no longer only directed towards going to school, or investing in a formal education. To land a graphic design job in 2022, you need to cultivate the fundamentals—develop some experience, understand how to work with clients, and be willing to put yourself out there.

Can I study graphic design on my own? ›

Whether you want to pursue graphic design as a hobby, a career, or a side hustle, you can learn it on your own with the right resources, tools, and strategies. In this article, we will share some of the best ways to learn graphic design on your own, from online courses and tutorials to books and blogs.

Do you need qualifications to be a graphic designer? ›

You'll usually need: a foundation diploma in art and design. 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma. 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree.

Can anybody be a graphic designer? ›

Some people are born with a creative streak. Others are developed as they get older. Some don't even find theirs until they've been a career for years! Though, it doesn't matter when you found your creativity, if you've got it then you can be a graphic designer.

Can you be a graphic designer without knowing how to draw? ›

Graphic Designers do not need to draw but instead need to create appealing designs using assets such as images, typography, illustrations. In contrast, an Illustrator will focus on drawing to communicate a message.

Does graphic design require coding? ›

Graphic designers do not need to be great coders, but it is beneficial for them to understand the fundamentals of coding languages such as HTML, CSS & JavaScript. Also, learning to code can ease the interaction with the tech team & improve your designs since they would've got their atleast their basics straight.

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