I graduated college several years ago with a degree in English, and have been working in various creative positions in marketing departments since then. My current job is a kind of catch-all web content position--on a weekly basis I do everything from writing copy to making graphics to writing HTML and CSS for web pages, and design tasks have turned out to be my favorite work. Recently, my boss asked for navigational icons for the site, so I taught myself to use Illustrator and made a set of icons of which I am very proud. I am excited by all the design-related skills I've been picking up on the job, and I'd love to pursue a more focused graphic design career going forward.

My question is this: do I need a degree in graphic design to be considered for positions in this field? I feel confident in my ability to put together a portfolio and communicate the value of my experience to employers, but I'm worried that hiring managers will discard my applications without looking when they see that I don't have any kind of art degree or education. At the same time, I would much rather be working and learning on the job than accumulating student debt at this point in my life. If any of you have experience or suggestions for what direction I should pursue, I would appreciate the wisdom!

  • When it comes to web development/graphic design I have found that employers care WAY more about seeing your work than seeing a degree. I have a degree in web development and a certificate in graphic design. I got my current job based solely off my portfolio, never even asked me about education. – APAD1 Feb 20 '18 at 21:21
  • Although that duplicate link is from 2011, the reality is.. 99% of the answers all still hold true today. – Scott Feb 20 '18 at 22:54

That is a big question... with no certain answer (and it may get flagged for that reason) but I would say from experience that a degree in arts will definitely help but it is your portfolio that really matters.

Do all you can to absorb and refine design ideas (books, sketching, looking at works by the masters in whatever field you are pursuing, looking at works in other areas) and get inspired. After all, if you are doing this graphic work at your job, then you already have a position in the field!

Meanwhile, before committing either way, look into night/continuing education courses. And keep making things for that portfolio, you are going to need one to get into school as well.


A portfolio is more important than a degree, these days. People can spend a fortune in schools, feeding the salaries of the professors and contributing to campus amenities or simply get started hustling customers and learning what works and what doesn't in the field of graphic design when applied to the real world.

Just diving in can humble an ambitious would-be designer, it can reveal to one self the extent to which they want to pursue the career. If it's fun and rewarding, even when it does not pan out, then you know you're on to a passion. And no university could really teach that.

To learn any technique or skill there's a multitude of YouTube tutorials and inspiration. There's no shortage of people also asking for free work - a great way to hone beginner's skills without the pressure of actually being accountable for the work. (Hey, if it's free spec work, they only deserve if you decide to drink with your friends and snooze on the deadline (It is not a troll comment, I truly believe this)).

But once you're through doing a bunch of crap Fiverr work, you'll be over it and then you can demand real dough ($$$) since you put in a bunch of time. And once you make enough from your hobby to afford a real university education you could go in for fun and win awards, wow your teachers and peers, and skate through it.

Sorry if this is a bad GD answer and terrible advice; I myself am a college drop-out and I'm not a very good designer either! I went toward the software route!


If you intend to be a professional graphic designer and you have the opportunity to earn a degree in that field than definitely do it.

Many companies will not consider a designer that does not have a Bachelors degree.

This is a very popular field and you can not afford a disadvantage.

Of course a stunning portfolio is very important, although many of the job applications I see simply ask for "a sample of your work" in .PDF form, so have that ready to upload.

You need to be a good designer, you need to have a work history and you need to have examples of work. While you don't need a degree it often makes the difference between qualifying for a good job or not.

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