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Choosing Design as a Degree Can Give You an Edge

Choosing Design as a Degree Can Give You an Edge

Grant Friedman

I’ve found that there are two types of designers; those with a traditional education in art or design and those who are mostly self-educated.

Design is unique in that it is one of the few professions where you can teach yourself the basics in the comfort of your own home without much formal training. I, for one, consider myself a self-educated designer.

I went to school, studied hard, but got a degree in something other than art or design. While I was always passionate about design and even took some classes in Photoshop and Illustrator, for whatever reason, I decided not to pursue a degree in the arts. At the time, I felt that it didn’t matter. I felt that I could pursue my interest in design on the side while I worked towards a degree in another topic. This is a decision that I have come to regret.

It wasn’t until the last couple of years did I realize how important a degree in art or design was in terms of finding a job. After college, I fell into a cozy job in state government where I worked as a graphic and web designer. I was in charge of several state websites. I loved that job! I had a corner office inside the capitol building and I was very happy to be where I was. I worked in that role for a couple of years knowing that eventually; I would have to move on to a more design-centered position in an agency setting. I figured that my resume and experience would help me to easily find a job after my time in state government was up.

It didn’t take long however for me to find out just how wrong I was. The first interview that I had after leaving my position with the state was with a rather large agency in my area. I thought that the interview was going well until she mentioned my education and experience. Her exact words were “we typically look for designers with a traditional background in art or design.” It was at that moment that I realized I may be in trouble. Suddenly, all the time I spent teaching myself design, all the experience I had attained, and all the accomplishments I had made over the years meant nothing. I realized that design was a highly competitive industry and that a degree in art or design really could be the deciding factor to help give me a leg up on the competition.

After having this epiphany, I realized that there was nothing I could do about it. I knew that going back to school wasn’t really an option at this stage in my life so instead of giving up, I decided to learn everything I could about design, start a blog and do what I could to help give back to the design community.

It’s been a couple years since then and I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make it in the industry. If you’re just starting out, consider a degree in design. A degree in design will help to increase your odds of finding a job after school. If you’re like me and don’t have a degree in design then you have a couple of options. You could go back to school. While I decided it wasn’t really an option for me, it might be for you. Do some research, find a school that is known for its art or design program and enroll. If going back to school isn’t an option, your best bet is to learn everything you can about design and do your best to really beef up your portfolio. There are a lot of successful self-educated designers out there; many of which owe their success to the quality of their portfolio.

In conclusion, I hope that this article helps some of you younger designers with your decision to go to school or not. While I can’t promise that a degree in design will ensure your dream job, I can promise that a degree in design will give you a solid foundation in which to build on. While I do believe that there are two types of designers; those with a traditional education in the arts and those who are mainly self-educated, in the end both groups are always learning and improving their skills. So no matter which category you fall into, never stop learning.

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