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Graphic design is vital for just about any business.
Well, any business that is serious about their marketing and their appearance.
From the latest startup company in London to the small pet shop in Nottingham, everyone needs a graphic designer at some point or another.
Whether it’s to create a logo, a sales sign, or a new website, graphic designers are always in demand.
Becoming a great graphic designer isn’t a difficult task – it’s just time-consuming.
Like everything, practice and experience go a long way. How much time and skill you need really depends on what you’re looking to accomplish.
If you’re looking to gain just a little bit of skill to accomplish the occasional personal project here and there, there are some free online courses that should suffice.
There are a couple of examples at the end of this article you can jump down and check out if you’re interested.
If you want to get a job at an agency or in a graphic design position at a company, you’ll probably need better credentials than just a free online course.
You’ll need some serious education and practice to show you have what it takes to be a full-time graphic designer.
These courses dive deep into the capabilities of graphic design programs and give you a great foundation to build on.
The good news is that online education has never been easier or more accessible. You can now take quite a few courses online that will ensure you get the skills required.
These courses aren’t free, but they’re much more in depth so that you can get the most out of the software you’re using.
Why Become a Graphic Designer?
First of all, it’s a fantastic job. You’re getting the opportunity to be creative every workday and put your talent to use. Second, as mentioned above, there are plenty of positions.
Growth in the graphic design field isn’t astronomical, but it is steadily growing every year.
You can also expect to make more than the national average in salary as a mid-level graphic designer in the US, Canada, and the UK.
In fact, a mid-level designer can expect to make at least the national average on the low end. Usually, it’s higher. Average salaries are usually publicly searchable for most major countries.
There are lots of openings, but there are also lots of people looking to snatch up those jobs. It’s a competitive field, and you’ll need to perform better than your colleagues to land the best jobs.
If you can, you’ll make more than the average salary, and have the opportunity to become a Creative Director faster.
This is where your education becomes really important. Once you know what your goals are, you’ll be able to find the course or courses that fit your needs best.
The Advantages of an Online Graphic Design Degree
Now that you’ve settled on a plan of action, why would you take an online course instead of heading off to a traditional design school?
Surely the brick and mortar schools are better than the online ones, right?
Nope. This is just what your feelings are telling you.
The schools themselves already know the benefits of online learning and have shown that students perform just as well if not better than their traditional counterparts.
Online courses have many benefits:
- Flexibility. Generally speaking, an online course is way more likely to fit into your lifestyle. If you work 9 to 5, have kids (or any other time-consuming commitments), these courses can generally be done at your pace. Even if that means at 3am. How many traditional schools do you know that teach courses at 3am?
- Interaction. This one may seem backwards. Your first instinct may be to say that you’re no longer in a classroom with other people, how can there be MORE interaction. Classrooms don’t have the tools available to communicate with other students while working. This limits you to the people directly around you. Online courses can give you all kinds of communication tools as required to access all classmates and experienced professionals.
- Discipline. This one again may seem backward. Wouldn’t there be more discipline in the classroom? The opposite is true. People in groups tend to get off track more. You, and you alone, are responsible for your actions in an online course. Self-discipline works extremely well in these cases. This may be due to the fact that only those serious about learning are going to take an online course.
- Review Lessons. The best part is that online courses are built to be consumed online. This means you can go back and revisit lessons and notes easier than the classroom. If the teacher in the class is talking, there’s no way to revisit it without asking them or recording them. Of course, you should be taking notes, but are your notes as accurate as the teacher’s words?
- Technology. Online courses implement the latest in technology much quicker than traditional counterparts. Things can be quickly adjusted, reviewed and inserted into the lesson plan. When in school, the limitations of the computer lab or IT team may limit how quickly changes can be implemented into the learning process.
Getting an online degree isn’t for everyone. You have to want it. You’re ultimately responsible for yourself, and have no one to blame if you don’t show up.
Like we mentioned above, this is actually a really good thing. If you don’t have self-discipline, you’ll need to learn it in order to finish the class. Online learning will teach you this by default.
It’s just another bonus of taking an online class.
The Best Online Graphic Design Programs
The bad news about online learning is that anyone can put up a course of any type and charge money for it.
Just because it costs money doesn’t mean it’s valuable.
You’ll need to do your research, read forums, check reviews and make sure the online course you’re looking at is legit and beneficial.
The list is too long to name them all, but these are a few of the best programs you can take online.
Each of these schools will allow you to achieve an actual degree at the end of the program:
- Academy of Art University – San Francisco. This is one of the more popular choices. The school itself is 87 years old and has a great reputation. Many of their graduates go on to work for the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley. They offer a variety of degree programs that will help you get your foot in the door.
- International Academy of Design and Technology – Detroit. This school makes the list because it actually specialises in visual design and the arts. When you dedicate an entire school to one field, you know you’re getting the best the industry has to offer.
- DeVry University – Various Locations. This is one of the more common household names in online education. This school is unique in the fact it maintains 95 campuses across the US. If you’re located in the United States, you can actually visit a physical location as needed.
- The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh. The main draw for this program are the accelerated classes they offer. If you have the time to burn, getting your degree at a quicker pace can jumpstart your new career sooner than later. They offer a variety of programs to help you specialise in the skills you need.
- Full Sail University – Winter Park, Florida. This is the most affordable option on the list. If you’re looking for a quality education on a budget, this is the way to go. With both bachelor’s and master’s programs, you can take the next step in your education with this online course.
There are many other courses available, this list just presents five of the best. Remember to do your own research to make sure the school you choose will work for you and is offering the credentials you’re looking for.
Free Online Graphic Design Courses
If you don’t need the fancy piece of paper at the end, or the complete in-depth experience, online courses will help jump start your graphic design knowledge.
Many online learning platforms are perfect for teaching graphic design, so there is no shortage of tutorials or beginner classes.
Here are a few places to start.
- Adobe – Who better to teach you the program than those that have created it. They have lots of great beginner information and offer some paid options if you’d like to get a little more info.
- Alison – Many free courses for graphic design are available here. Some are slightly more advanced, and there are usually thousands signed up for each course. It’s a great resource for beginners and is updated all the time as new courses become available.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology – That’s right, MIT offers most of its courses online for free. There is a catch: you can have the lectures and the assignments, but you don’t get the answers. You’ll still learn a lot – there just won’t be anyone to look it over at the end. This is good if you have a mentor willing to help.
- Youthedesigner.com – Lastly, this site offers many beginner level options to help you get the hang of the basics. The goal of the site is to help empower future designers today without the expense of a degree.
Online learning isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to get a degree on your own terms, it’s extremely beneficial.
Do your research, find the school that works for you, and you’ll be earning your online graphic design degree in no time.
Author Bio: Elaina Meiser is an enthusiastic blogger interested in writing about everything worth reading in the digital age. She also strives to share her own perspective about activities for personal and professional development. Connect with Elaina via Twitter.