When embarking on the career path of graphic designer, you may wonder if you’d be better served to pursue only certifications or take the time to earn your degree. Which is the right future career move?
While you may not need a degree to become a graphic designer, having an undergraduate degree such as an associate degree makes you a more appealing job candidate. Plus, a degree program will provide you with a more comprehensive skillset needed as a graphic designer. You can augment your college education with a certification such as Adobe InDesign, or several such as InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator so that you stand out to hiring managers even more.
In this guide, we’ll compare earning a graphic design certification versus an accredited degree so you can decide what the roadmap to your future career will look like.
Let’s begin by talking more about certifications. You can select from a wide variety, so where should you even start?
Here are a handful of the most recommended and commonly-used certifications for supercharging your graphic design career.
The Adobe Illustrator certification or Adobe InDesign certification proves your proficiency in these Adobe software, which are part of Adobe's Creative Cloud suite. You’d also technically become an Adobe Certified Professional or ACP.
The Illustrator certification assesses your knowledge of vector graphics while the InDesign certification assesses your competency with page layouts and page designs.
To earn a certification, you must pass an exam. Each exam lasts for 50 minutes and uses real-world assessment so you can showcase your expertise.
Adobe recommends having 150 hours or more of instruction before taking either of these exams. You should also possess hands-on Adobe experience.
This is where your college education and degree come in handy. During your college coursework, many college programs such as Bryan University's online accredited Associate Degree in Graphic Design provide you with experience using each software and designing various projects as part of your homework assignments.
This college experience directly prepares you for the certification exams. Plus, Bryan University will even pay for the exam fees!
If Adobe XD and user experience design pique your interest, then you can take the Adobe XD Certification exam, which takes roughly 96 minutes. User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are becoming an increasingly popular and important part of the design process needed by many employers.
Since you’re going through Adobe to take this exam, the test format will be the similar to other Adobe certifications, although the exam is lengthier.
The recommended amount of experience would apply as well and once you successfully earn the credential, the certification is good for 24 months.
Many colleges will provide you with this skillset in addition to popular UX/UI design programs such as Figma. For example, Bryan University's online accredited undergraduate certificate program in UX/UI design provides these skills, in addition to many other skills.
Another certification that you might pursue is Adobe Photoshop, which tests your knowledge of image design and manipulation.
This certification exam also lasts 50 minutes and requires at least 150 hours of instructional and hands-on experience using the software.
The hours you’ll have to pour into studying for a graphic design certification exam are immense. There's also the cost of the exams that you'll need to plan for, unless your college pays for you to take the initial exam.
You may wonder, is earning a graphic design certification even worth your while? It absolutely is for the following reasons.
When you have a graphic design certification or several to display on your resume, it proves to hiring managers that you’re immensely knowledgeable in that software or graphic design discipline.
If you can prove right out of college that you’re masterful in certain graphic design applications, that could make it easier for you to land a great-paying job that’s only the start of your new career.
Another benefit of carrying a graphic design certification is that it elevates your credibility. Again, credibility is something that can be difficult to prove for a new graduate fresh out of college, but a certification shows that you have credibility in spades.
If you’re still not completely convinced to pursue your graphic design certification, know that having the certification will certainly enhance your resume. You’re indicating to a hiring manager that you were committed enough to plan for the future stages of your career by obtaining a certification now.
Next, it’s time to switch gears and discuss degree options for graphic design.
Just like you can choose from a huge variety of graphic design certifications, you can enroll in a robust list of graphic design courses and degree programs. How do you choose the ones that are the most optimal?
When choosing a graphic design degree, we suggest you consider the following characteristics.
You can indeed earn your graphic design degree online, working and learning from the comfort of your own home. You’d be provided with the computer software you need to excel, and you’d build a portfolio of projects.
By the time you graduate, you’d have a complete portfolio of graphic design projects using all the best graphic design software programs.
This graphic design portfolio could be critical to you being hired or it could be the jumping-off point for earning and retaining clients if you want to be a self-employed graphic designer.
Besides the benefit of being able to work from the place you’re most comfortable–your home–a graphic design degree online grants you the freedom to study at a pace that suits your lifestyle.
You’ll also save time and money, as you don’t have to drive back and forth to campus, nor do you have to pay for room and board.
A good graphic design degree should prepare you for what working life will be like as a graphic designer.
That will primarily be about the hard skills that a designer needs to excel, such as learning programs including Figma and Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, After Effects, and XD.
You’ll also want to become masterful in color theory, UX/UI processes, and design fundamentals.
Further, you’ll learn soft skills such as problem-solving, interpersonal relations, and communication so you can be a more efficient graphic designer in working with clients and team members.
You could even become equipped with business skills should you decide that your goal is to work as a self-employed graphic designer.
Ideally, you also want to become well-versed enough in graphic design software through an online degree program that you feel readier to take on your certification exams.
You’ll want to select a graphic design degree that provides you with hands-on experience in various graphic design software programs and also provides support from certified instructors in case you get stuck and need additional help.
So the question from here becomes, which should you go for, a graphic design certification or an accredited degree?
We recommend both! And, why choose one when you can earn both concurrently?
Some online graphic design colleges such as Bryan University allow you to enroll in a graphic degree online and earn certifications within the same program. Your coursework will prepare you for certifications in all areas of graphic design including those mentioned above.
Bryan University will even cover the exam fees for up to two certifications!
Concurrent enrollment like this doubly benefits you. You’re usually required to undergo educational training ahead of taking a certification exam to ensure you have the software experience and the knowledge to pass the exam.
Your time in a graphic design program would more than adequately prepare you for the rigorous questions on these exams.
Further, by working on your degree at the same time, you can fast-track your college education so that you can enter the working world sooner.
At Bryan University, our dual graphic design programs will help you realize your career dreams of becoming a graphic designer.
The UX/UI Design Undergraduate Certificate program is a great place to start. As a student, you’ll learn design technologies and principles, UI/UX processes, animation and motion, website design principles, and business foundational techniques.
By the time you graduate from the program, you’ll have been prepared to take the Adobe XD Experience Design certification exam, which is paid for by the university.
You can then explore career options like UX analyst, UX/UI developer, UI designer, or UX designer.
Bryan U’s Associate Degree in Graphic Design program builds upon the knowledge from your undergraduate certificate and gives you comprehensive skills to start a career as a graphic designer or website designer.
You’ll become an appealing job candidate for employers such as government agencies, media and business organizations, technology companies, business consulting groups, or advertising and marketing companies.
You’ll also have access to a network of success coaches, tutors, and peer mentors who are rooting for you to succeed. Plus, our students can participate in interactive online events like faculty mentoring sessions and industry speaker events.