This month Recruiter Lauren Friesen tackles the tough question of college degrees. Do you need a college degree to become a Graphic Designer?
The long-winded answer is: it depends. It depends on the industry, it depends on the company, and it depends on the niche - UX positions won't necessarily require the types of degrees that traditional Graphic Designer jobs do. A huge, conservative financial company might want to see that B.A. while a small start up agency might not.
It's a good idea to have a degree though, because college in general teaches you a lot of life skills - how to manage time, how to keep on deadline, how to network - these are all skills you need to be a successful Designer. It matters less where that degree is from.
The Pros and Cons of a College Degree
I would say the pros of having a Graphic Design specific B.A are as follows: you tend to get more technical experience with software, hands on design, and instructors who are veterans of the industry. You leave school with a tailor made portfolio, you take industry specific business classes. I have a BFA with a focus on GD and it helped me tremendously when I left school - some of my friends with BFAs only or Advertising degrees had trouble.
One of the biggest cons with having a degree is that this industry changes with lightening speed - something you learned in school five years ago could be non-existent in today's market. Technology, hardware, trends in design, those all change. So after a while, a degree becomes something that no longer matters, what matters is the work you do to constantly keep abreast of the change that happens in your industry, and make sure your work fits the bill. You can't rest on your laurels or your big fancy Pratt degree these days.There are some great, legendary designers and artists out there who are from the 70s and 80s, but would I want them to design my website? Maybe. Maybe not, unless they've really been adaptive. The good ones always are.
One thing I've noticed after spending 17 years in the design world, is that the creative who constantly reinvent and adapt are the success stories. The ones who were amazing in school and at the beginning only continue to be amazing if they stay sharp and they keep their focus. A degree can't teach you that, that comes from inside.
Want more debate? Check out Artisan Talent CEO Bejan Douraghy's guest blog on Graphic Design USA.
Lauren Friesen is a former Art Director turned Senior Talent Representative in Denver, Colorado. When not playing job fairy for Artisan Talent, she enjoys long distance running, interior design, vintage perfume collecting, and reading vast amounts of true crime.