CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a graphic designer.

Step 1

Is becoming a graphic designer right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do graphic designers do?
Career Satisfaction
Are graphic designers happy with their careers?
What are graphic designers like?

Still unsure if becoming a graphic designer is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a graphic designer or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

High School

If you are interested in pursuing a career in graphic design, there are several high school courses that can help you build a strong foundation in design principles, software skills, and art techniques. Here are some courses that you may find helpful:

  • Visual Arts: This course will help you develop your artistic skills and creativity. You will learn about different art techniques, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, and printmaking. You will also study art history and learn how to analyze and critique artwork.
  • Computer Graphics: This course will introduce you to the basics of graphic design software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. You will learn how to create and edit images, design layouts, and manipulate typography.
  • Web Design: This course will teach you how to design and develop websites using HTML, CSS, and other web technologies. You will learn how to create responsive layouts, design user interfaces, and optimize websites for search engines.
  • Marketing and Advertising: This course will help you understand the principles of marketing and advertising. You will learn how to create effective campaigns that communicate a message and persuade people to take action.
  • Photography: This course will teach you how to use a camera and edit photos. You will learn about lighting, composition, and color theory. You will also study the history of photography and learn how to critique and analyze photographs.

Keep in mind that these courses may not be available at every high school. If your school does not offer these courses, you may be able to find similar courses at a local community college or online. Additionally, you can always explore free online resources to learn more about graphic design principles and software skills.

Step 3

Formal Education Steps

To become a graphic designer, there are several formal education steps that you can take to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge. Here is an overview of the typical educational path:

  • High School Diploma: A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to pursue a career in graphic design.
  • Bachelor's Degree: Many graphic designers have a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design or a related field, such as fine arts or visual communication. A bachelor's degree program typically takes four years to complete and includes courses in design principles, typography, color theory, and software skills.
  • Internships or Entry-Level Jobs: After completing a bachelor's degree program, many graphic designers gain experience through internships or entry-level jobs. These positions can provide valuable hands-on experience and help designers build their portfolios.
  • Continuing Education: Graphic design is a field that is constantly evolving, so many designers continue to take courses or pursue advanced degrees to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques. This may include attending workshops or conferences, pursuing a Master's Degree in Graphic Design or a related field, or taking courses in specialized areas such as web design, user experience design, or motion graphics.
  • Certification: While not required, some graphic designers choose to obtain certification to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to potential employers. There are several certification options available, such as the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) certification, which tests proficiency in Adobe software.

It's worth noting that there are many successful graphic designers who do not have a formal education in the field. However, acquiring a degree or certification can help you stand out in a competitive job market and provide a solid foundation of skills and knowledge. Additionally, building a strong portfolio of work is crucial for any graphic designer, regardless of their educational background.

Step 4


Internships can be a great way for graphic artists to gain practical experience and build their portfolios. Internships are competitive, so it's important to start your search early and be persistent. Even if you don't land an internship right away, continue to work on your portfolio and seek out opportunities to gain experience in the field. Here are some tips on finding and applying for internships in the graphic arts field:

  • Research Companies: Start by researching companies that interest you and align with your career goals. Look for companies that have a strong reputation in the industry and offer internship opportunities.
  • Check Job Boards: Check job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn for graphic design internships. You can also check the websites of specific companies that you are interested in to see if they have any internship openings.
  • Network: Networking can be a powerful tool for finding internships. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with professionals in your field through social media platforms like LinkedIn. Let them know that you are looking for an internship and ask if they know of any opportunities.
  • Prepare Your Portfolio: A strong portfolio is crucial for any graphic artist. Make sure that your portfolio is up-to-date and showcases your best work. Include a variety of projects, such as logos, packaging, posters, and websites.
  • Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter: Customize your resume and cover letter for each internship that you apply for. Highlight your skills and experience that align with the internship requirements and the company's needs.
  • Follow Up: After submitting your application, follow up with the company to express your interest in the internship and ask about the status of your application. This demonstrates your enthusiasm and professionalism.
Step 5


A portfolio is a crucial tool for graphic designers, as it showcases their skills and capabilities to potential clients and employers. Take the time to curate your portfolio carefully and make sure it accurately represents your strengths and expertise. Here are some things that you need to keep in mind:

  • Quality Over Quantity: A portfolio should showcase your best work, not every project you've ever worked on. Choose a selection of projects that demonstrate your range of skills and expertise.
  • Show Your Process: It's important to show the process behind your work, not just the final product. Include sketches, mock-ups, and drafts to give potential clients and employers insight into your creative process.
  • Tailor Your Portfolio: Customize your portfolio to the job or client you are applying for. Choose projects that are relevant to the industry or job you are targeting and highlight your experience in that area.
  • Keep It Simple: Your portfolio should be easy to navigate and visually appealing. Avoid clutter and excessive text. Let your work speak for itself.
  • Showcase Your Strengths: Use your portfolio to highlight your strengths. If you excel in logo design, for example, make sure to include several strong logo designs in your portfolio.
  • Update Regularly: Your portfolio should be updated regularly with your most recent and relevant work. Set a schedule to review and update your portfolio every few months.
  • Online Presence: In addition to a physical portfolio, having an online presence is also important. Create a website or online portfolio that is easily accessible and showcases your work in a professional manner.
Step 6


Certifications are not necessary to have a successful career as a graphic artist, but they can help you stand out in a competitive job market and demonstrate your expertise to potential clients and employers. Before pursuing a certification, research the requirements and cost of each certification to determine if it aligns with your career goals. Here are some popular certifications for graphic artists:

  • Adobe Certified Expert (ACE): This certification is offered by Adobe and tests proficiency in Adobe software, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. There are several levels of certification, including entry-level, specialist, and expert.
  • Certified Graphic Designer (CGD): Offered by the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), this certification is for designers with at least four years of professional experience. The certification process includes a portfolio review and an exam.
  • Certified Web Designer (CWD): Offered by the International Webmasters Association (IWA), this certification tests proficiency in web design principles and technologies, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Certified Brand Strategist (CBS): Offered by the Brand Establishment, this certification is for designers who specialize in brand identity and strategy. The certification process includes an exam and a portfolio review.
  • Certified User Experience Professional (CUXP): Offered by the Nielsen Norman Group, this certification is for designers who specialize in user experience (UX) design. The certification process includes an exam and a portfolio review.
  • W3C Certified: Offered by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), this certification tests proficiency in web standards and technologies, such as HTML, CSS, and XML.
Step 7

Online Resources

There are many online resources available for graphic artists to learn new skills, stay up-to-date with industry trends, and connect with other professionals. Here are some popular online resources for graphic artists:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud: Adobe Creative Cloud is a suite of software programs that is essential for many graphic designers. Adobe offers tutorials, training videos, and forums to help users learn and improve their skills.
  • Skillshare: Skillshare is an online learning community that offers thousands of courses in design, illustration, and other creative fields. The platform offers both free and paid courses, and users can interact with instructors and other students.
  • Behance: Behance is a social media platform for creatives to showcase their work and connect with other professionals. It's a great place to find inspiration, get feedback on your work, and discover new trends in the industry.
  • Dribbble: Dribbble is another social media platform for designers to showcase their work and connect with other professionals. It's a great place to find inspiration, discover new trends, and network with other designers.
  • Canva: Canva is a graphic design platform that is great for beginners or non-designers. It offers templates, graphics, and other design assets that can be customized to create professional-looking designs.
  • AIGA: AIGA is a professional association for design that offers resources, events, and networking opportunities for graphic artists. It's a great place to connect with other professionals and stay up-to-date with industry news.
  • Creative Bloq: Creative Bloq is a website that offers articles, tutorials, and resources for designers. It covers a wide range of topics, from graphic design to web design to 3D modeling.
Step 8

Employment Opportunities

Graphic artists have a wide range of employment opportunities available to them in various industries. Here are some common employment opportunities for graphic artists:

  • Advertising agencies: Graphic artists can work for advertising agencies, creating visual designs for print and digital advertising campaigns.
  • Marketing departments: Many companies have in-house marketing departments that employ graphic artists to create marketing materials such as brochures, flyers, and social media graphics.
  • Graphic design firms: Graphic design firms specialize in creating visual designs for a variety of clients and projects.
  • Publishing companies: Graphic artists can work for publishing companies, designing book covers, layouts, and illustrations.
  • Web design companies: Web design companies employ graphic artists to create the visual elements of websites, including layouts, graphics, and typography.
  • Freelance: Many graphic artists work as freelancers, offering their services to clients on a project-by-project basis.
  • Non-profit organizations: Non-profit organizations often need graphic artists to create designs for fundraising campaigns, events, and other promotional materials.
  • Education: Graphic artists can also work in education, teaching design principles and software skills at the high school or college level.