Ready for a change in your career trajectory? Maybe you chose a business degree as a good general course of study in college. Or maybe you got into business and it just didn’t float your boat the way you thought it would. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to transition to a career in graphic design and, believe it or not, a business degree is a great place to start. Here’s an outline of what you can expect from a career in design, along with some tips for transitioning from business to graphic design.
Graphic Design Salaries and Outlook
Before you decide to make this leap, you might want to know what you can expect to make and whether you’ll be entering a growing field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for graphic designers are expected to increase at a rate of 3% from 2018 to 2028, which is slightly slower than the average for all occupations (5%). However, there are some areas of graphic design that are expected to outpace that growth. For instance, jobs for designers in electronic shopping and mail-order houses are predicted to increase by nearly 48% and jobs for those in the retail trade are projected to rise by 21%.
The BLS also has detailed salary numbers for graphic designers — as of May 2018, graphic designers made a median annual salary of $50,370. The highest-earning industries to work in for designers were the federal executive branch and aerospace product and parts manufacturing, where they made $83,090 and $79,250, respectively. The best places to work as a graphic designer — by salary, at least — were Washington, D.C., New York and Massachusetts.
Of course, these are all just numbers and they’re just one part of the equation. If you have a passion for design, job growth and potential salary may be less important than the joy you’d get from a career in the field.
Moving from Business to Graphic Design
Ask 10 graphic designers how to become a graphic designer and you’re bound to get 10 different answers. Some start out with an associate’s degree, though most of those who are working in the field have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. However, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in business, this path doesn’t make much sense. Here are some paths that might be a better fit:
Get a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design
There are master’s degree programs in graphic design. Many are offered completely online and cover topics like typography, visual communication and art history. Having some background in art is helpful (undergraduate coursework or a portfolio of your work), but it may not be an admission requirement at every school. Most master’s programs in this field take between two and three years to complete and include a major project. Getting a master’s degree will give you an advanced understanding of the profession and will help you land a job but it can also be expensive and time-consuming.
Take a Graphic Design Boot Camp
If you want to make a career transition and do it as quickly as possible, a graphic design boot camp might be a good choice. Boot camps are intensive training programs that condense learning into a matter of months. These crash courses are like full-time jobs: for 40 hours a week, you’ll be in classes, working with a mentor one-on-one or developing your design skills independently. Boot camps focus on learning commonly used software, understanding art and getting a foundation in the principles of good design.
Many also have relationships with employers and can help you land a job in the field within weeks of graduation. In fact, some graphic design boot camps let you “pay” by taking a percentage of your salary for a set period of time when you get your first gig. It’ll take a chunk out of your paycheck but you don’t have to pay upfront and it means your boot camp school only gets paid if you get a job.
Teach Yourself Graphic Design
It’s been said that graphic design is one part talent, two parts Adobe. If you feel you have the talent, you might be able to teach yourself the rest. Be a sponge. Start by immersing yourself in art history, fine art, photography, fashion and other visual mediums — they all inform one another and will help you develop your eye. Then, experiment and ask for feedback from people you trust. You learn by failing, especially in art, so try everything and listen to advice when it rings true.
Thanks to the internet, there are also a huge number of free — or virtually free — ways to learn graphic design if you’re self-motivated. You can master the software by finding tutorials, registering for a forum or taking classes offered by the software makers themselves. You can also explore more in-depth classes at sites like Coursera, Canva, Udemy or Skillshare.
Whatever path you choose, having a business degree can only help. In business school, you’ve probably learned soft skills that will help. Things like interpersonal relations, communication, work ethic and leadership that will smooth your transition and make you more likely to be successful in your new profession.