Which is better to choose university or course?

I want to start my career in graphic design. I found graphic design courses at Skillcombo, but I think better to go to university.

i am really not sure about studying graphic design at a university, it sure helps to be grounded but i feel a more deeper study like marketing or business branding and all that would be better, like me i am trying to apply for a BA degree in animation…This is my opinion, i feel like a lot of guys here gimme whiplash for sharing my views

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Yeah, there are some pretty strong opinions on the subject.

Much depends on a person’s objectives and where they might live in the world, however. Here in the U.S., the graphic design field is oversaturated and suffering from overseas and crowdsourcing competition for many of the one-off sorts of jobs that freelancers often handle.

For that kind of work, a degree isn’t typically needed since most clients making hiring decisions for freelance work are more concerned with cost and portfolio examples in deciding who to hire.

Here in the U.S. and many other countries, landing a good-paying, full-time job at an agency (in-house or otherwise) is very difficult to do without a four-year degree. At all the places I’ve worked over the last 20 years, a relevant bachelor’s degree was the absolute minimum for even being considered. The HR departments immediately eliminated all applications that didn’t meet that minimum requirement. For that matter, a couple of the jobs I’ve had required master’s degrees, which is still uncommon but more common than it used to be.

Here in the U.S., the ideal set of credentials for landing a well-paying job in a creative field is a four-year degree in a relevant field, a graduate degree in a related field, five-ten years of experience at a respected employer, and a killer portfolio. Of course, something less than that is entirely doable too, but here in the U.S., no 4-year degree typically equates to no or low-paying employment for graphic designers at less-than-great jobs — at least for those just starting out and hoping to begin a career in the field.


It might be ok to develop a sense of what software you require and become proficient in it. No problem with anyone learning software.

But learning on your own at home can be a bit lonely. Especially when you hit a rut.

I know online universities and corrpesondance courses have come a long way, and especially since the pandemic it’s become a real runner for people who are stuck somewhere not near where they can travel to.

If you’re stuck, then an online degree might work. But going to a university or college would be better. I’ll explain a bit more below.

Even if that means you need to pack your bags, get in a car and go live somewhere else. That may not be an option for you. I don’t know your circumstances.

Get ready to put on that neck brace :wink:

Yes, having reservations is fair. However, consider you’ll be in like-minded classes with other students pursuing the same field. You’ll have access to lecturers, libraries, perhaps older students and even mentors, there’s a great social side to going to a college or university.

So being grounded and having people to fall back on, bounce ideas off, and even sit down with the lecturer or teacher and have a pow wow about ambitions.

I got on great with one of my lecturers, we’d often go for a pint after college and he’d tell me all sorts of stories from back in his day. He was a fascinating man, who had an interesting life.

I just don’t think you’ll get the same experience studying at home by yourself.

Well they did say graphic design. Marketing/branding are not the same thing.
Branding actually falls into graphic design - but it’s a branch of marketing, so to speak.

So it depends on what this person wants out of graphic design, is it Branding, or is UI/UX, is it web design, or VR design, or Print Publishing, logos, book illustrations, or what is the actual part of graphic design they want to get into.

I always welcome views, and I try to be as friendly as I can, and my main fault is I don’t consider the persons situation when replying, whether they’re a student or a self learner, or young or old, or have a mental issue that I don’t know about.

So - in replying - it’s honest, and it’s not only to help the OP but to help you.

Because as professional designers posting on the forum helping other designers - I actually care about how you go about your business and how things are working out.

So when I see something that doesn’t seem right, I will call it out.
And that’s just being honest, it’s to help you. It’s to help whoever finds the thread years down the road.

Try not to take things personally - especially online.

You have the ability to simply ignore posts that you don’t like, move on - concentrate on the posts you do like, the people you like seeing responses from.

And most of all enjoy yourself.


As others have said; go to university. Simply put, you’ll give yourself the best chance at having a long-term, sustainable, professional career,

Peer and lecturer critiques are a huge part of the learning process. You will gain in ways you can’t yet even know yet. Plus, you are highly unlikely to, as Just-B says, get even a sniff at a studio job without a good degree.

I could go on but it has been said – with reasons why. I imagine that most pro designers here would give you similar advice to that you have already received.

No one I have worked with over the years, in a professional setting, has not been to university. Moreover, when I have come across people who call themselves designers, but are uneducated, the critical thinking and ideas generation tend to be less … well, just less – or even non-existent. Proficiency in software is not enough. I know I am opening myself up to a barrage of criticism here, but this is based on my personal experience.

Of course, there will always be exceptions. There are always people who are naturally gifted, but mere mortals, such as myself, this is not usually the case.

In addition, I still look back at those years as some of the best I ever spent. Hard work, but loads of fun and some life-long friends came out of it. A group of us usually get together somewhere in the country (last few years excepted) and we always just pick up where we left off and belly-laugh our way through another weekend. Priceless.

Of course, you are likely to have to move to a city with a good university. Unless you already live in one, then most of us will have had to do that. It’s normal. There are systems in place to support it.

Naturally, you have to be good, but the university entrance programme will give you some idea of this anyway – you won’t get a place if you’re not!

It is definitely worth stepping out of your comfort zone and moving to somewhere that has a good university. If you don’t, ultimately you would likely move from your hometown anyway to get any sort of job.

When I said, ‘I could go on…’ it seems, I did!

Good luck.

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Yes. The in-person group critiques might be the most crucial part of a design education.

The peer pressure of having one’s work hung up and dispassionately analyzed by a group of fellow students and instructors each week for four years creates a competitive swim or drown situation where one either improves or drops out of the race.

I have a bookshelf next to my desk. My first project from my first college design class sits on one of the shelves. I’m looking at it as I write this. At the time, my 17-year-old self thought it was pretty good, but I remember the shock of hearing everyone’s unvarnished opinions — many of which were not especially complimentary. I keep it there as a reminder.

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A Few things to Consider…

  1. What are your goals?

Are you an entrepreneur or do your foresee yourself working for someone throughout your career? Think very hard on this and give yourself an honest answer before you move forward.

  1. How much debt are you comfortable incurring?

Run the numbers!!! Let me say this once more - Do a little simple math and “Run the numbers”!

On the path to reach your Goals, how much is it going to cost?

Next factor how you will pay it back and take into consideration your living expenses while paying it back.

Will you be able to afford it? Look up the national average salary/wages for a designer in your area of the country.

Do the math!

Path1: Entrepreneurship (business owner, freelancer)

If you must go to college, I personally would consider a degree in business/marketing. You can learn design online from a million and one resources or get a minor in design while supplementing and sharpening design skills from online courses. I would get an internship as quick as possible as well. No piece of paper will ever beat real world experience.

Path2: Working for someone (agency, design firm, corporation, etc…)

Find out what employers are actually looking for! Pick up the phone and call agencies and design firms to see if they require a 4 year degree to work for them. It’s literally that simple!!! Take initiative and pick up the phone and run a simple survey.

Call 20 agencies and ask them!

Require Degree?

Do not require degree?

If they say yes we require a degree, ask them… what if I have 4 years of experience and strong portfolio to back it up.

At the end of the day, I hire strictly on experience and portfolio.

It’s a new day and a new world! Productivity and being resourceful rules.

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I agree with most of what you wrote, but I disagree somewhat with the statements above.

Yes, business skills are extremely important for any entrepreneur. But if one’s objective is to own a viable design firm built upon a reputation of top-notch work, design education is certainly equal to learning business skills.

Starting a business immediately out of college with no practical experience might not be the best route. More than likely, a hopeful design entrepreneur, will start out trying to find work as a designer, and if the degree on the resume says business instead of design, that business degree won’t typically help.

Yes, there are a million and one places online purporting to teach design skills. However, most are one-off tutorials made by amateurs who concentrate on software rather than design.

Those that I’ve found that concentrate on design as a component in self-directed learning are inevitably inadequate for at least two reasons.

First, as I stated earlier, ongoing, in-person critiques are crucial for the reasons already mentioned.

Second, a formal course curriculum ensures that a student learns design thinking skills within the context of a step-by-step process where each step builds on those preceding it. A self-directed program based on online videos leaves the naive student deciding which courses to take and typically avoiding those that don’t seem appealing. In other words, giant holes in the education are all but inevitable. A poorly constructed foundation isn’t something that bodes well for becoming a well-rounded designer with diverse skills complementing others.

Referring to a university education as a “piece of paper” is dismissive, if not unintentionally insulting. That “piece of paper” from a well-accredited university represents the successful completion of a rigorous formal education program designed to help ensure that the graduating student has the essential foundational skills to enter the profession.

In the decades I’ve spent as a creative, marketing, and communication director, I’ve found Sprout’s comments to be accurate. In at least nine out of ten times, the finalists in any creative position I’ve hired were university graduates in their specialty — whether video, photography, writing, copy editing, or design.

As Sprout said, there are exceptions, but when I’ve hired talent, I’ve always based the hiring on a well-rounded skill set, critical thinking skills, educational depth, passion, and previous work or, at least, an aptitude that demonstrates potential.

I’ve sometimes found these qualities in some working design professionals without a formal design education, but they’re far more common in university graduates. I don’t want to dismiss those talented designers who haven’t followed the traditional path, but it’s a more problematic path to walk.

More typically, in the self-taught group, I’ve found talented one-trick ponies who are good at their thing but lacking in breadth and depth with adjacent areas. In those jobs where we received 100–200 applicants, it was always a no-brainer, time-saving strategy to draw a line that said no relevant bachelor’s degree means no portfolio review.

All that said, I want to mention again that I agree with the other things you mentioned. Too many prospective students don’t perform a thorough cost-benefit analysis of which field to enter and what kind of education to pursue. I know I didn’t do that when I decided to head down this road. Luckily, it worked out for me, but I wouldn’t blindly jump into it today as I once did.

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But now we reward those people who can’t do math with forgiven loans on the backs of those of us who actually paid our debts. So sign up quick and take out that loan you can’t afford in a field where there are no jobs (like Graphic Design.)
No, not bitter at all (/sarc)- until they form a line where I can get my money back too.

But that’s a whole separate topic.

When we hire designers, they’re outside contractors with a proven body of work. It’s all about past work and references. We don’t care about degrees (though not one of our usual contractors is self-taught, they all have at least 4-year degrees.)

But the only interns we take on are out of trade school or college programs. You want those early skills you have to be in an educational program, working towards credits (we do pay our interns.) Show your chops and you might get hired for the summer too.

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Being self-taught out of necessity (Graphic Design as a professional function found me; no pursuit on my part), I can respect the notion that someone can be capable of competent design without a university degree. But, what I’ve found to be lacking in most “uneducated” designers is polished communication, and the very objective of good graphic design is communication.

Sure it’s possible for a design career to include only cursory copywriting tasks, but over the years there’s been a long parade of aspiring designers posting here, asking for critique of their portfolio sites that expose them as incompetent writers right out of the gate—many of them even with a university degree. Even if you’re perfectly capable of turning out slam-dunk logos by the dozen (seems all anyone talks about these days is designing logos), you won’t be able to sustain a lucrative place in the world of commerce without better-than-average language skills.

Every stage of every design project requires effective, multi-directional communication. The development of writing, speaking, and business communication skills that should be inherent and required in the completion of a university degree program are critical to becoming an effective professional designer.

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That was one thing I could never understand while in college. I was an older student and all of the youngsters bitched and moaned at written exams or having to do research. I loved that stuff. I was hiring an intern some time back for a large image research project (sourcing and acquiring.) I’d say 2/3 of the student applicants made it clear how much they ‘hated doing research papers.’ Bing. Wrong answer, thanks for playing. LOL!

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Lots of opinions on this one but, that’s not a surprise. I had this same discussion many times with my college buddies. I’ve done everything in my life late and college was no exception. I was an older student and ex military so… just a bit critical.

I would just add this: you don’t need unnecessary hardship. You also don’t know what you don’t know. It’s hard to piecemeal together an education when you aren’t in a position to know what you might need. Of course no one needs crippling debt either. That’s no way to start a career, but we send folks into the hole right away.

The military helped me pay for a four year degree and then night school to supplement that four year degree when I changed directions. I would not suggest my path to anyone. I only explain to make the point that it is unlikely, whatever you choose, it will be the only answer you need. You’ll need luck and you’ll need grit and you’ll need to make the best of whatever choices you make. Good luck OP.

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Yes. Writing ability was one of the side skills I always looked for when hiring designers. An inarticulate cover letter with various mistakes was always a deal killer.

An effective team situation requires that all the players understand what the other team members do and how they do it. Designers don’t need to be professional writers, but they need to be able to write coherent sentences with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Similarly, a copy editor must have a reasonable understanding of and appreciation for design.

I’m unsure how students manage to graduate from a university without knowing much more than the basics of how to think and write, but it happens way too often.

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First, thank you for your service.

They say the average student debt on graduation is somewhere between $28K and $32K. That is less than the price of a brand new car these days, something a person with a decent job can pay off in 5 years. The problem part of this equation is ‘decent job.’ Graphic design, educated or self-taught is running a median income of something like $35-40k per year pre-tax (though some sites say $50k, I don’t believe it.) Not barely livable. If I were considering this job option today, I’d see if I could find some other more lucrative, better paying way to use my ‘art’ in my job.