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An associate degree in graphic design can give students a foundation in the subject, as well as basic design skills. While the type of degree varies by school, students typically earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in graphic design. Although a bachelor's degree is often required for graphic design positions, an associate degree may serve as an intermediary step toward a higher level of education. Individuals interested in this profession may also apply the skills gained in their course work toward graphic design internships or entry-level positions in related fields.

Online Associate Degree in Graphic Design: Coursework and Overview

In addition to general education requirements, students earning an associate degree in graphic design take a combination of courses in the field as well as introductory courses in other disciplines. Although the curriculum varies by school, many courses overlap across degree programs. Below are some examples:

Graphic Design Degree Courses

  • Drawing: Classes introduce students to the fundamentals of drawing and a variety of drawing mediums and concepts, such as line, perspective, and value.
  • Color Theory: Students gain an overview of the principles of color, analyze the psychological effects of color, and explore color applications for print and on-screen mediums.
  • Typography: Courses review the history, variety, and applications of typefaces. For example, courses commonly examine how to use typography in page layouts.
  • Portfolio: Courses help students develop an entry-level portfolio of their graphic design work and also evaluate techniques for presenting their work to potential employers or clients.
  • Web Design: Students learn how to create and design web pages using relevant software such as Adobe Dreamweaver. Courses also often review HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and their use in web page development.

Courses outside of the Graphic Design Degree

  • Art History: Introductory courses, sometimes required for graphic design degree programs, examine art across multiple time periods and civilizations, which may include the prehistoric era and Near Eastern culture.
  • Psychology: Courses present an overview of major concepts in psychology, such as cognition, motivation, personality, and behavior. An introductory psychology class is a part of some graphic arts associate programs.
  • Mathematics: While the level of mathematics required varies by school, graphic design programs generally require students to have a proficiency in algebra or higher. College-level algebra courses cover a variety of mathematical concepts, such as quadratic equations, exponential functions, and logarithmic functions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) reports that training in website design and interactive media could be important for future prospects in graphic design, while other courses such as writing, marketing and business may also be useful.

Potential Careers for Individuals with an Associate Degree in Graphic Design

Although graphic design careers often require candidates to have a bachelor's degree, taking coursework at the associate level can provide individuals with a skill set applicable to related careers. Below are some careers in which an educational background in graphic arts may help:

  • Multimedia artists and animators develop animation and visual effects for a variety of media forms, including television, movies, and video games. They also build storyboards and edit animation and effects. Many artists and animators specialize in a specific area, such as animated movies or character design for video games. Although a degree is not required for these positions, bls.gov notes that many multimedia artists and animators have a bachelor's degree in computer graphics, art, or a related subject.
  • Desktop publishers design page layouts for online and print items, such as newspapers and brochures, using the necessary computer software. They also collaborate with graphic designers to develop images that complement the text and fit the appropriate amount of space. According to bls.gov, educational qualifications vary: while many desktop publishers have an associate degree, others have a bachelor's degree. Courses such as graphic design, graphic arts, and graphic communications can help to prepare these professionals.
  • Graphic designers create graphics and visual images for use in websites, product illustrations, and logos. They are also responsible for choosing audio content, colors, images, text style, and layout and presenting their designs to clients or art directors. Bls.gov states that a strong portfolio and a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related discipline are the usual requirement for these positions. Taking a portfolio class can help students organize and present their work in a manner attractive to potential employers.
  • Web designers create the layout and look of websites and integrate graphics and other content onto websites. They may also write web design programs in computer languages such as HTML and JavaScript. Taking classes in web design can help to provide experience using HTML and other relevant skills for this career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated in 2014 that web designers typically need a bachelor's degree, and web developers may need an academic background in computer science or programming.

In addition to pursuing a career, individuals with an associate degree in graphic design can use their studies as a foundation for additional education in the subject; as noted above, a bachelor's degree is often required for graphic design careers. Students interested in furthering their education should speak to an admissions counselor to determine the next steps.


"Desktop Publishers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/desktop-publishers.htm

"Graphic Designers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Arts-and-Design/Graphic-designers.htm

"Information Security Analysts," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm

"Multimedia Artists and Animators," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm

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