Explore the various career paths in the diverse field of graphic design, from entry-level positions to high-level roles. Learn the significance of a robust portfolio, the role of internships, and the value of a degree in this profession.

Key Insights

  • A career in graphic design often starts with entry-level positions, allowing designers to build a portfolio and gradually move to more crucial roles.
  • While a degree in graphic design isn't a requirement, it can offer a competitive edge. Some professionals suggest self-learning requires significant time and discipline.
  • Internships provide practical, on-the-job experience in graphic design tasks, equipping students with valuable experience and portfolio content.
  • Entry-level graphic designers often work in studios on diverse projects, while mid-level designers may advance to specialist roles or team leadership positions.
  • Senior graphic designers typically work in-house, significantly involved in the design process, managing substantial projects, and shaping a project's direction.
  • Learning through a comprehensive graphic design course, such as those offered by Noble Desktop, can help aspirants break into the field or enhance their career opportunities.

Since graphic design is such a varied and diverse profession, there are a lot of different career paths that prospective designers can take. However, most of these paths are structured in similar ways, with designers entering into entry-level positions, building a resume and a portfolio, and gradually moving into more and more important and in-demand positions. While some Graphic Designers will learn new skills along their career paths, many will continue using basic tools such as Illustrator and InDesign in increasingly more elaborate projects.

Getting Started

The first important step for any aspiring Graphic Designer is learning about the field and preparing yourself for entry into the career field. In most cases, this will involve earning a degree in the field of graphic design. Still, there are alternatives, such as accelerated career training programs for students who don’t want to attend a four-year university. During this time, it will be important for students to work on building their portfolios to ensure that they are competitive on the job market.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Graphic Designer?

Whether Graphic Designers need a degree is a surprisingly divisive topic amongst professionals; some will say that a degree isn’t nearly as valuable as a portfolio, while others point out that self-teaching requires a great deal of time and discipline. There are plenty of Graphic Designers who hold a bachelor’s degree in art, design, or a related field. Some companies require a degree, but it’s becoming increasingly common for creative professionals to gain experience through freelancing and completing personal passion projects. 

The short (and overly simplified) answer is: A degree is not a requirement, but it helps. If you’d like to pursue a degree to help you stand out in a competitive market, you might consider minoring in public relations, marketing, or advertising. Since Graphic Designers are commonly employed to help sell a good or service, knowing some marketing principles could help you understand the ins and outs of a solid campaign. These added skills will make you more marketable and help you land a lucrative career outside of graphic design if you need more time to build your portfolio.

Read more about if you need a degree to become a Graphic Designer.


Many students will start their graphic design career at an internship or other temporary hands-on training job. These internships serve the purpose of giving a student practical, on-the-job experience doing the kinds of tasks that will be expected of them when they become professional Graphic Designers. Increasingly, unpaid internships are falling out of favor, so students can expect to be compensated for their labor in these programs, making them far more desirable ways to break into the field. Regardless, however, they are great ways to build a portfolio and to demonstrate to future employers that you are experienced in the day-to-day aspects of your job.

Entry-Level Graphic Designer Jobs

Entry-level graphic design work will most likely take the form of working as a Graphic Designer at a large design studio or another firm. These designers will often be placed into positions where they are asked to work on an extensive collection of diverse projects in rapid succession. One day, they may be asked to work on designing a logo for a small tech startup; the next week, they may be asked to work on the branding for a client’s new line of toothpaste. Entry-level graphic design work will most often be studio work for clients rather than consistent employment for a single company.

Some other entry-level job titles include Associate Graphic Designer, Junior Graphic Designer, and Assistant Graphic Designer.

Mid-Level Graphic Designer Jobs

By the time they reach the middle point of their careers, many Graphic Designers will have moved on from studio-based design work. They will either find jobs working as specialist designers or begin to work as team leaders and managers for studio designers. By this point, Graphic Designers will start to work on more elaborate projects and will have greater control over the kinds of assignments they receive. For designers who receive additional skills training, here is when they may start working on webpage design or motion graphics design. This is also when designers may start to lead teams of designers and work more closely with clients to shape the vision of a project.

Some job titles often associated with this kind of graphic design position include titles like Design Manager or titles specific to graphic design specialists, like Motion Graphics Designer or Video Game Designer.

Senior Graphic Designer Jobs

By the time a Graphic Designer reaches the upper tiers of the career field, they will likely find themselves employed by in-house firms rather than in graphic design studios. These designers will be much more involved in the design process since their contributions to the projects are among the most important aspects of the design work. These designers will have major responsibilities on huge projects, like rebranding efforts or new product launches. Some especially senior Graphic Designers may find employment as Creative Directors or even VPs of creative or Chief Creative Officers. These Graphic Designers will manage huge projects and will often be the primary voice contributing to a project’s direction.

Another Path: Freelancing

Some Graphic Designers may end up avoiding the entry-level studio design aspect of their careers by freelancing. These Graphic Designers won’t work for a firm and will instead take on individual contracts on a case-by-case basis. This gives them additional control over the kinds of work they take and gives them the chance to shape their design portfolio with more deliberateness in their work. The downside here is that freelance designers will need to handle a great deal of the administrative work that a manager would take care of during studio work. In addition, since freelance work can be competitive, designers will want to be sure that they aren’t aggressively underbidding themselves and doing extra work for less money.

How Do I Find A Graphic Designer Job?

Several avenues can lead to finding a graphic design job, but most people will take advantage of multiple methods. A college degree is a common way for entry-level designers to get their foot in the door. Majoring in art or design can lead to many networking opportunities and ensures that your education is comprehensive, which may not be possible through self-teaching. If formal education isn’t a good fit for you, that’s no reason to stop pursuing this career path. A degree isn’t necessary for all graphic design openings. However, your experience and portfolio have to be that much more stellar if you’re competing with candidates who do have a degree.

Although some Graphic Designers freelance full-time, this is another excellent way to find employment with one agency. Aspiring professional designers generally freelance at the start of their careers to build their portfolios and gain practice, but these opportunities often lead to a more stable career. If you performed well in a freelance capacity, you might be at the top of a hiring manager’s list when a position opens up; after all, why would they want to take the risk of hiring an unknown candidate when you’ve already proven your capabilities?

Online design communities on Facebook and Reddit and local chapters of The American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) are other ways that many professionals can get inside tips on how to find work. These networks are full of industry experts, making them a great (and free!) resource for Graphic Designers just starting their careers. Even if you don’t land a job this way, you can still join one to get help troubleshooting your designs and learn more about the latest and greatest trends and technologies. 

Learn the Skills to Become a Graphic Designer at Noble Desktop

If you want to start a career in graphic design, the graphic design classes offered by Noble Desktop are an excellent place to start. Students can take all their classes remotely or in-person at their Manhattan campus. For students who want to start slow by just learning one popular design program, Noble offers an Adobe Photoshop Bootcamp, an Adobe InDesign Bootcamp, and an Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp. These beginner-friendly courses take just a few days to complete and will provide students with foundational design skills.

For those who feel ready to dive into a more comprehensive program, Noble Desktop’s Graphic Design Certificate might be a better fit. Students will complete hands-on assignments using popular design programs, including Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. This program is ideal for those hoping to start a career as a Graphic Designer. Certificate students at Noble Desktop receive individual career mentorship, where experts in the design industry help craft resumes and portfolios and provide helpful tips for finding lucrative employment. 

If a class isn’t feasible for your current schedule, Noble Desktop has a host of resources on its website to help start your graphic design career. You can browse their collection of articles about Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign if you’re curious about how each program works. You can also review information about other design tools to see if another field might interest you more.

Key Takeaways