In the U.S., the main avenues to studying Graphic Design are 2-year college or 4-year college. Entrance requirements vary by program, so pay close attention to what is requested for the admissions application at your desired institution.

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Academic Routes

Technical Routes


Academic Routes

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2-Year College

4-Year College

2-year College

Depeding on the institution, your program entrance requirement may just be your high school diploma or GED (general education development/diploma).

Your courses at a 2-year college will consist of general education courses and introductory courses to a graphic design program. Some introductory graphic design courses can include Photoshop, Illustrator, Web Design, 2-D Design, Digital Photography, Branding & Ad Design, Typography, and Portfolio & Business of Design.

Beginning your program at a 2-year college and transferring to a 4-year university will help you save money. Check with your college on if they have partnerships with 4-year institutions that you’re eligible to transfer to after receiving your associate’s degree.

An associate’s degree in graphic design is not a strong enough credential to get you a job as a Graphic Designer, so intend to transfer to a 4-year college/university after completing your associate’s degree for a fuller degree and credential, and job opportunities.

4-year College/University

It is unlikely you will need a portfolio as part of your admissions application since you will be taking general education courses for at least your first 2 years and won’t be admitted to your major program until the end of your sophomore year. You’ll likely start developing a portfolio in your sophomore and/or junior year(s).

You would typically receive a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts (BFA) when majoring in Graphic Design at a 4-year university. This means your course of study won’t only include some of those courses listed above, but also art courses such as art history, ceramics/sculpting, printmaking and painting. These will all factor into skills you’ll need as a graphic designer. You’ll also have room for electives so you can take any other graphic design classes that interest you and are available. Throughout your degree program, you’ll be able to build a portfolio of work that showcases your creativity, originality and ability. This is essential because employers typically ask graphic designers to provide a portfolio of their work before being hired for a project.

Technical Routes


Internship opportunities can vary from working in advertising agencies to a commercial printing business. Students already in a graphic design program participate in internships to work alongside professionals in the field, gain experience and put concepts from courses into action.


Browse Coursera to find free courses in graphic design or any related fields. You can also try to get credentials/certificates in Adobe software such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, etc. (Note: these software require purchasing.)

Check with your institution of interest to find out more about their admissions application and the graphic design major requirements. To learn more information about the job outlook and career of a graphic designer, check out the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Posted by:LaVerne Handfield

2 replies on “Graphic Design in the U.S.

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