Finding a Design Degree: The Road Less Traveled

Posted on September 29, 2016 | Updated on January 25, 2023

Imagine it: You’re in your senior year of high school and facing everyone’s questions about the future. “Where are you going to college?” “You want to be an artist?” “How are you going to make money?”

Courtesy of GIPHY

Courtesy of GIPHY

College sounds like a good idea, but what can I do with a design degree?

The internet and freelance work has seemingly devalued the need for a graphic design degree. Why spend four years in college, followed by many more years paying off student loan debt when you can start working today?

Your instincts are telling you to get a design degree, but the truth is there is no definitive answer. The path you take in your career is completely up to you, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help. Whether you’re thinking about going to school, you’re currently in school, or you feel an itch to go back to school, here’s how to find the perfect design degree for you.

Is a Design Degree Important?

Yes. I’m aware this is a controversial statement. After all, you can watch YouTube videos and read an ample amount of Kindle books to learn how to design. You can learn the basic technical skills of graphic design without going to college.

However, the pursuit of your degree is where you’ll learn more than you possibly could from a 5-minute video. You’ll meet professors who are experienced in the field. You’ll also connect with other students who are also passionate about design. Meeting other graphic designers and students will open the door for job opportunities after college.

Employers also like to hire designers with a degree. Out of 32,000 graphic design job postings, 91% of employers prefer candidates who have degrees. This automatically puts you ahead of many freelance designers who want the same job.

A design degree is important because you can network with other designers and stand out to employers. Not to mention that internships are great ways of connecting with businesses, and you might be considered for a position post-graduation.

Concentrations, Minors, and Jobs

A design degree does more than present you with many opportunities. There’s so much you can do with a design degree. The more specific you get, the more enjoyable and rewarding your college experience will be.

You should look into concentrations and minors to go with your degree. It will help you narrow down precisely what you want to do after you graduate. Here are some concentrations and minors to keep in mind, as well as jobs you can get with them:

Digital Art and Design:

Digital art and design is very similar to your major. It will help you learn more about designing for online mediums and across any medium. A concentration in digital art and design will help you become a graphic designer or animator. You’ll use many platforms to practice creating art on the computer. It’s the least specific concentration, but you’ll be able to apply the skills to any design job.

Marketing and Advertising:

It doesn’t take a business guru to realize the importance of minoring in marketing and advertising. Advertisements rely on great design to stand out in a crowded marketplace of other great designs. Businesses need graphic designers to help market their products. There’s a demand for young, hungry designers!

As a designer for a marketing department, you’ll design company logos, products and the website. You could also design packages for products. You’ll focus on using design to represent your company’s brand. You might also run marketing campaigns, designing commercials, posters, social media graphics and more.

Editorial Design:

Editorial design is a fantastic minor for graphic designers. You’ll learn about traditional print media and how to organize vital information in an organized and efficient structure — a great practice for any design job. You’ll also learn to design posters that translate strong messages, focusing on typography and fonts that appeal to viewers while adding to the story of your design. It could lead to work for a newspaper or magazine. Everything you learn can be transferred to other types of design jobs.

Computer Science/Web Design:

Computer science is a very technical minor. You’ll learn the nuts and bolts of coding and programming. It will include a lot of typing in random assortments of letters and numbers, with a strong possibility you won’t see positive results. If you like the technical side of programming with artistic design, this might be the minor for you.

Programming is often about strong usability, but it’s important that the user interface is appealing and easy to follow. That’s where you, the designer, come in. You can work with web developers to create programs and applications that are both well designed and easy to use. Your background in programming will give you the knowledge of what it’s like to program an entire system, making you attractive to employers.

Film and Theatre:

Are you also interesting in film, television or theatre? You can combine both of your passions into one incredible job. Every show, movie, television network and play has a logo. They have commercials, marketing campaigns and promotional posters.

You could design all the marketing materials and help filmmakers tell their story.You can also use the minor to become a production designer. They’re responsible for the visual concept of the production, which includes sets, lighting, costumes, props and more. You’ll read a script and visualize each scene before helping to bring it to life.

Best College for You

Choosing where you go to school is a stressful next step. You need to find a school that has a great program while being affordable. It also has to feel like home because you’re going to be spending the next four years there.

Be sure to choose a college that offers the major and minor you want. Don’t pick a college because it’s close to home, a party school or your friends are going there. There are many reasons why a school is special to you, but there’s no point in investing your time and money if it doesn’t help you pursue your design career.

Gain Experience

You can gain experience while you’re at school. There are plenty of freelance jobs out there, so create your own online portfolio and show off some of your best designs. Reach out to employers who are looking for freelance work. The amount of money you’re offered doesn’t matter. The experience will more than pay off after you graduate.

Get Your Degree

Trust your instincts — obtain your design degree and perfect your craft along the way.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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