Learn more about the school and career options for working in graphic communication. Explore the different opportunities, education requirements, and potential salary earnings.
A graphic communication degree can open various career opportunities, including art, animation, web design, commercials, film, and video. The graphic communications industry is one of the largest ones in the US; it globally facilitates a variety of platforms, including printed forms, digital imaging, and the internet. It encompasses everything from commercial printing to book and magazine publishing, creative design, web design, and more.
Graphic communication jobs are as varied as the industry itself. With a graphic communication degree, you could work in the following:
Graphic communication job opportunities are available in many industries with salaries based on your chosen area.
Graphic communication is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of skills, including art, design, technology, and business. Graphic communication involves using computer software programs to design, create, or layout artwork for print and digital media. Depending on the job, you may work with specialized tools. For example, if you work as an animator, you’ll use software to create visuals in motion. If you work as a web developer, you’ll use design and technology to create web pages that fulfill clients’ needs.
In this role, you may need the skills to do everything from the technical aspects to the artistic designs or animation. You might use a combination of media such as photography, illustration, and animation to convey the message or emotion your employer is seeking.
Graphic communication is a broad field, which opens the door to various specializations. The most common type of graphic communication degree is a bachelor’s degree, but you’ll also find associate, master’s, and doctoral programs in the field. Because graphic communications is so diverse, you will have the opportunity to experiment in different areas, including:
Animation and video graphics
Color theory and design
Printing management and operations
An associate degree typically takes two years to complete and requires approximately 60 to 70 credits depending on the school’s program requirements. This degree may prepare you for a career working with design software and give you an opportunity to create a portfolio to showcase your best work. The associate degree option allows you to develop career-specific graphic communication skills to prepare for an entry-level position working on the technical side of graphic communications, including media development.
A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete and requires 120 credits on average. This graphic communications degree option may help prepare you to work on the creative side or in an industry management position. It typically focuses more on aesthetics and design than an associate degree and will incorporate coursework in other subjects, including math, history, and English.
A master’s degree can take anywhere from one to three years to complete and requires you to complete an average of 50 to 70 credits. To gain admission into a master’s in graphic communication, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, including graphic communication, advertising, or journalism. A master’s degree in graphic communication can help to advance your career in the field. Most programs require that you complete a capstone project and a portfolio before graduating.
There is a wide range of roles that you may be able to pursue in this diverse industry, including those with more creative emphasis, like graphic designers or photographers, or one that’s more related to business, such as roles like project managers or design director.
*All base salary data sourced from Glassdoor as of June 2022
As an animator, you’ll create special effects and other animations to bring motion and life to designs and drawings. You might find work in different industries, including technical consulting, software publishing, television broadcasting, and more. Some animators work as freelancers, and others work as employees within companies. In either case, you may expect a fair amount of collaboration with not just the art and design department, but with team members from production and marketing.
Average annual salary (US): $52,571
As a desktop publisher, you'll be responsible for a range of tasks, including working graphics into templates, designing graphics, proofreading copy, and creating documents such as flyers and brochures. You'll work to create, combine, and format elements like photos, drawings, data, and text. In this role, you'll use a combination of technology, artistic flair, and critical thinking.
Average annual salary (US): $48,835
In this role, you’ll create designs and engaging visual elements to help convey ideas and messages. Common tasks include creating appealing layouts for packaging, marketing materials, reports, and other materials. You may need a good foundation in design to use elements like typography, images, and colors to create a finished product. Some graphic designers are self-employed, others work for specific companies or agencies.
Average annual salary (US): $50,091
Visual design is a broad field encompassing digital design but emphasizes creating what users see on the screen. In this role, you may use design concepts and art to layout visual concepts to help digital viewers easily interface with the digital media. You may also ensure a consistent experience on various platforms, including games, wearable technology, apps, websites, and mobile devices.
Average annual salary (US): $69,039
Because this is such a wide field, it offers a range of potential career paths. Depending on your specialization or area of focus, you might work at or with advertising, marketing, or public relations agencies. These businesses may have in-house design teams that you’ll work with or you can pursue a self-employed route..
You may opt to work in hands-on design as a graphic designer, artist, or photographer. There are also alternative career paths that allow you to explore other facets of graphic communications. Examples include:
Hybrid web design/developers: In this role, you would combine your design skills with coding to create and maintain websites and provide a positive user experience.
Project managers: In this role, you'll work behind the scenes of design to ensure that each project runs smoothly and delivers the intended results.
Business strategist: At first glance, you might not think that this role would keep you within graphic communications, but you would be behind the scenes of many design projects, particularly large-scale corporate projects, to ensure each project is aligned with the business's image and culture.
Demand and salaries vary widely depending on the type of job, industry, and location. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for all media and communication workers is $62,340 .
It’s a fast-growing field that’s outpacing the national average. According to BLS, occupations in media and communications is projected to grow 14 percent from 2020 to 2030, while the national average is approximately 8 percent . Demand is expected to continue because there’s a growing need for information creation on a range of platforms and media.
When you decide that graphic communications is the field you want to pursue, you’ll want to consider a school that meets your needs, including location, finances, program structure, coursework, and if there are any available internships.
It also helps to keep your goals in mind when choosing a program or degree level because the career you want may help you determine what to pursue. Additionally, consider the program’s prerequisites. Most schools require an applicant to have a high school degree or GED, and they may also have GPA and SAT/ACT score minimums that must be met. However, if you’re pursuing an advanced degree, you may need the following:
A bachelor’s degree in a related field
A minimum GPA
Graduate entrance exams
When choosing a school, an important consideration is location. Many colleges and universities offer in-person and online classes. Remote learning allows students to maintain a full-time job while earning a degree. In-person learners can attend evening classes if the school offers them. Commuting time and expense should be considered as well as on or off-campus living.
How you will finance your education is something you’ll want to explore with your desired school. Working with the financial aid office to review all available options can save you time and money. They can assist you with the resources for applying for grants and scholarships and state financial aid.
Colleges have different program structures, so you’ll want to review each one that you’re interested in. Typically, the structure will include major and minor information and other academic plans. Depending on the degree level you’re seeking, you may only have core classes in graphic communications or additional courses in areas like English, mathematics, history, and science.
Graphic communication is a broad field, a student’s coursework will depend on the chosen specialization. Check the coursework offered on the school’s website or request a college catalog. Consider if the program offer classes in the areas you’re most interested in to help you make your choice.
Many colleges and universities participate in internship programs, so that students can gain valuable work experience and explore different facets of graphic communications. You can check with the schools you’re interested in to learn more about internships and what you’ll need to qualify. Working with school resources is one way to find internship opportunities. Other areas to look for possible internships include websites like Indeed and LinkedIn.
Graphic communication is an exciting career with a variety of opportunities. If you’re thinking of taking some classes or enrolling in a degree program, you can explore some of the coursework offered on Coursera to find the areas you’re passionate about. For example, you could discover more about the business end of graphic communications with the Google Digital Marketing & E-Commerce Professional Certificate, delve into the impact of graphic communications with courses like Advertising and Society, or learn an essential graphic design skill by taking a course like Introduction to Typography.
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1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Media and Communication Occupations : Occupational Outlook Handbook” www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/home.htm. Accessed May 8, 2022.
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.