Need advice about future in graphic design

Hello all, I made an account just asking for advice because I have no people in my life with any knowledge in this field… I have a dilemma; I know I want to pursue graphic design, but as of now I can only afford to go to a local state school (at a smaller city) whose program is new and not known… the school itself is not really known. It seems to be a solid program, but I’m also at a weird point in my life in which I can choose to enlist in the military to put off college for later. If I do that, I would have more money to go to a more well-known and better quality school of my choosing. Given that, I would be in my mid or late twenties by then (which is not a problem to me, but still a factor to consider). Does it really matter where I go to school, and how much does that factor in my future career prospects? Is a “known” school worth it? If I go to a well, “unknown” school how much harder would it be to land a job? Do hirers care mostly just about portfolio? I am motivated and able to self-learn, already went to school for fine arts for two years (pls don’t ask why I’m not in school as of now, its a long story), so I question the need of college in the first place but I understand a degree is helpful in any job prospects. I apologize for the barrage of questions, I have just been asking myself these questions with no one to go to for advice for the longest time. I understand that hirers put portfolio above school name, but I wonder if the networking/connections found in a good school would be the worth the wait/money. In my young life I have learned that in some job fields school-name recognition is of importance; I don’t know if that is the same for this field. I have no one to ask about this except people online. Thank you all. This forum looks cool and I hope to frequent it more in the future :slight_smile:

It’s getting so a bachelor’s degree in design is necessary in the U.S. to have a reasonable chance of landing a job and making a career out of this field.

I don’t think it makes much difference as to how well-known the school is as long as it’s accredited and offers the degree you want. The degree will get you in the door for the interview, but it’s the portfolio that will land you the job.

Far more important than the school’s fame is the quality of the design education you’ll get there. Not all design programs are created equal, so I’ll suggest really looking into the curriculum before making a decision.

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Is there a local design institute? Do you know anyone that might hire designers in their business? Ask them if the school you are considering would put you in a good place to be considered for a graphic design position.

For entry level or design jobs, I’m going to say it’s very important. But once you have a few years real world experience, your portfolio and experience will count for more.

Does your military programme have any placements that could put you in graphic design?

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Buda, the US military has an alarming habit of finding out what you are good at, then having you do something completely opposite. Vets do get some preferential treatment in the job market though. Even after a few years experience, unless you get an invitation, you are still competing for a new job with everyone else looking for a new job. You still need that degree.

The important thing is to get that BA (or BFA) and while doing it, get some work experience. Do not wait until you get out of college to start looking for work. Internships, part time jobs, weekend work, anything that has to do even remotely with design will help you land a job when out of college. Check sign shops and printers too. I’d hire a designer with production experience over one who just knows piddly layout work.

Looks like I lost my thread from the other forum on what to look for in a graphic design college. Will have to post a new one. Short version though is you want one that requires portfolios to get in and to get out, offers assistance with finding internships, and has plenty of critique-able course work. Look at the course requirement listings. Again, don’t wait until the required internship in your junior or senior year. Do one a semester if you can starting as soon as you have the chops to do so.

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Adding another thought; Catchafire https://www.catchafire.org/ is a volunteer matching website, with non-profit clients needing design and other types of help.

Unpaid, but you can gain connections and portfolio pieces.

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There are really only 2 ways I know to get started:

  1. Find a small shop and become an apprentice/helper. Try to find a place where you can do “whatever they need” as well as learning the design “business” along the way. That should give you at least partial access to the software. Then just practice practice practice…

  2. Get the degree. Growing up our local Community College had a better basic design 2 year program than the local state university. You can start off at a CC for 1-2 years and get all the basics and required courses out of the way dirt cheap and no one will care a bit as long as you have a nice book (portfolio). If you do well you might be able to transfer on a scholarship/partial or otherwise to finish off a 4 year degree.

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I also volunteered for the local (state) Addy Awards once I was in school. That is a great way to make contacts if you are looking for high-end or corporate work.

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Just make sure the community college credits can transfer in their entirety to the university you might plan to attend. Lot’s of university design program have a four-year design curriculum that really does take four years to work through — no matter what credits you might have built up from another school.

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Hi there,
Thanks for your good question.

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True - especially the top schools. They require students to fulfill their entire curriculum. Look for cross-over programs. Most state universities have these sort of programs.

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