Do You Need a Degree To Be a Graphic Designer?

Updated November 28, 2022

Graphic designers create images, websites and logos for advertising materials to represent a company's brand voice and visually communicate marketing messages. Some businesses require that their designers have a four-year degree while others may emphasize experience and skills. Learning more about the graphic design field can help you decide if a degree is right for you. In this article, we discuss the skills needed to be a graphic designer, the types of work you might pursue and tips to help you succeed without a degree.

Do you need a degree to work in graphic design?

Many employers require graphic design candidates to earn a degree in graphic design or a related field. This can also depend on the company's industry, type and size. Some companies may choose to hire graphic designers with several years of experience if they don't currently hold a degree. Others may also consider graphic designers with any bachelor's degree, even if it's not a graphic design degree, if they have relevant experience or can showcase an impressive portfolio of their work.

You can typically gain graphic design experience without a degree by pursuing freelance roles found online through freelance job sites. Some companies may give you the option to work in an entry-level graphic design role who while earning your bachelor's degree in graphic design during evenings and weekends. This allows you to enhance your skills and experience and can make you a more impressive candidate for promotions and senior-level roles.

Related: Learn About Being a Graphic Designer

Benefits of having a graphic design degree

Receiving a relevant degree can expose you to new skills, techniques and experiences that you can apply toward your graphic design career. Common benefits of earning your graphic design degree include:

  • Learn new coding languages: Many graphic design programs offer courses to train you on programming and coding languages, which you can use to design web pages and other programs. Listing these languages on your resume can make you stand out from other candidates.

  • Gain hands-on experience: During your lessons, you may learn how to use certain design programs or develop specific skills. Professors may then assign projects that teach you how to apply this newfound knowledge toward practical work assignments.

  • Build industry connections: The professors and students in your program can be great connections for your network. You can reach out to them when you graduate to gain job search advice or leads for potential job opportunities.

  • Create a design portfolio: You can typically add the projects you work on in your courses to your design portfolio to showcase to hiring managers. A design portfolio contains pieces of your best designs to demonstrate your talent and style to employers.

  • Qualify for senior-level positions: Earning a degree typically gives you the additional design and business skills and knowledge needed to qualify for higher-level positions or receive stronger salary offers.

Related: 11 Graphic Designer Jobs You Can Get With an Associate Degree

Skills needed for graphic design roles

There are certain skills and abilities graphic designers need to create compelling, entertaining and visually appealing designs for a company's audience. They should be creative and artistic in order to develop unique, one-of-a-kind designs that correctly display the brand's colors and images. Impressive graphic designers should also have advanced technical abilities to use different design software programs for advertisements, images and graphics.

Common skills needed for graphic design roles include:

  • Creativity

  • Attention to detail

  • Drawing and sketching

  • Technical skills and coding languages

  • Organization and time management abilities

  • Multitasking skills

  • Design strategy

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

  • Advanced knowledge of color theory

Related: How To Pursue a Career as a Graphic Designer

Types of graphic design employment

Whether you need to earn a graphic design degree can typically depend on the type of employment you choose to pursue. Common types of graphic design employment typically include:


Some graphic designers choose to work independently in a freelance role. This typically involves completing projects for different companies without committing to one full-time role. You can typically select which organization you'd like to work for and the projects you'd prefer to complete. Employers may pay you hourly or on a project-by-project basis. Since you typically undergo a less formal application process for freelance work, these employers rarely require you to obtain a specific degree.


Certain companies may not have enough work available to hire a full-time graphic designer, so they may allow you to pursue part-time work. This typically means you work under 30 hours a week or when needed. Some employers may hire you to complete part-time work if you don't have a degree. If you earn a degree while working part time, you may increase the likelihood of staying on with the company if they decide to hire a full-time graphic designer and advance further in the role.


Most employers typically prefer candidates who earn bachelor's degrees or higher in graphic design. Full-time graphic designers typically work in a wide variety of industries, from marketing agencies to government entities. If you're hoping to work in an established organization and move up to senior positions, it's best to pursue a full-time position. Earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design can give you the skills, knowledge and expertise to perform a wide variety of tasks for the company, such as designing logos, building websites and developing advertisement concepts.

Related: 11 Types of Graphic Design Jobs To Explore

Tips for becoming a graphic designer without a degree

You can become a graphic designer without earning a degree if you hold the proper skills, experience and knowledge. Use these tips to become a successful graphic designer without holding a degree:

  • Study the fundamentals of graphic design: To excel in the graphic design field, you must understand the basic concepts of graphic design, like color theory, brand messaging and visual communication. You can learn this through reading design textbooks or taking online courses.

  • Gather the necessary tools and equipment: You should practice designing graphics and marketing materials, which requires the right software tools and computer equipment. Consider purchasing the necessary design programs, a desktop computer, keyboard, mouse, pen tablet and laptop.

  • Learn how to use different software systems: Employers usually consider candidates who have extensive knowledge of different software systems. Research these applications online and use the tutorial courses provided to learn more about how to use and excel at them.

  • Build your portfolio: Create your own designs based on what you learned from the courses, online training and textbooks. Showcase your impressive work in your portfolio, which you can provide hiring managers to feature your talent and expertise.

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