Graphic Design Certifications and Certificates

Delve into the dynamic and expansive world of graphic design, discovering how certification can enhance your career prospects and skills. Explore the diverse applications and career opportunities that await in this creative field.

Key Insights

  • Graphic design is a versatile creative art form, essential in industries like advertising and branding, encompassing various disciplines from digital to print media.
  • The demand for graphic designers is growing, with opportunities in digital design, UI/UX design, and motion graphics, offering diverse career paths.
  • Certification in graphic design, while not mandatory for employment, can complement a portfolio and make candidates more appealing to employers.
  • Graphic design certificate programs provide structured learning and a credential for resumes, offering a practical alternative to degree programs.
  • Noble Desktop offers comprehensive graphic design certificate programs, focusing on essential tools and portfolio development.
  • The graphic design field offers numerous career options, including digital and visual designer roles, with competitive salaries across various industries.

If you’re looking for a way to demonstrate your skills in graphic design, you might be overwhelmed by the different certifications and certificate programs available. You might also have many questions, such as how important it is to get certified. How do I become certified? Is there a difference between a certification and a certificate? This article aims to answer these questions so you can efficiently choose the right path toward a graphic design certification. Keep reading to find out more.

What is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is a field of creative arts that focuses on projecting visual communication, often built of combinations of text, images, photographs, and other visual elements, with specific goals. Graphic design covers a wide array of different artistic disciplines and endeavors. Still, at its core, it is the act of using visual imagery to communicate with audiences and convey feelings and ideas that language alone wouldn’t be able to express. As a subset of the fine arts, graphic design skills are used in virtually every industry, but they are particularly prominent in advertising and branding. Advertisements, product packaging, logos, branded merchandise, and other promotional materials all demonstrate graphic design skills. Any business or organization looking to reach an audience will want to hire those skilled in graphic design.

Since graphic design covers a wide range of artistic disciplines, no two Graphic Designers will be working with the same toolset or on the same kinds of projects. Some will work in traditional print mediums, such as the publishing or magazine industry. Some will work on designing logos and branded merchandise for companies to place on billboards, hats, and other promotional materials. Some will work on digital projects, building webpages and mobile application assets. Others will design infographics, posters, and signage for activist organizations or non-profits. Graphic design is a wide-open field of diverse artistic endeavors, and learning graphic design skills will open many doors for creatives.

The ever-expanding digital landscape of the 21st century promises consistent growth in demand for graphic design experts to create compelling visuals for websites, applications, social media, and other digital projects. Today’s businesses require talented Graphic Designers to create powerful imagery that evokes emotions to market their products on social media and in other digital spaces. Meanwhile, the fields of user interface (UI) design and user experience (UX) design offer opportunities for designers to create intuitive and engaging experiences for website and application users. Many find this work a rewarding way to use their graphic design skills, while others take advantage of the growing market for designers specializing in motion graphics. By adding 2D or 3D animation skills to a resume, a graphic design specialist can build a career in storytelling animation for films and television or creating motion graphic content for websites, applications, marketing, and branding purposes.

Read more about what graphic design is and why you should learn it.

What Can You Do with Graphic Design?

Graphic design represents a wide-ranging field of visual expression, which means there is virtually no limit to the kinds of images that sufficiently skilled creatives can create. As the field of graphic design is so expensive, creatives can make use of their skills in both professional and personal contexts. As professional Graphic Designers, creatives will be tasked with building imagery that is both evocative and communicates complex persuasive ideas to their audience of consumers. Graphic Designers will build the iconography of companies and brands, build the images that audiences come to associate with those companies, and help construct memorable advertising campaigns, promotional material, and product packaging.

The education field—including traditional in-person institutions and the thriving online course industry—requires a significant amount of visuals that effectively communicate information while also holding students’ attention. From textbooks to instructional videos, educational materials offer Graphic Designers a chance to play a role in an important industry that creates the foundation of knowledge and skills for future generations. Meanwhile, creating informational graphics for news outlets and publications is an exciting way design professionals can contribute to educating the public about crucial events and issues. Other Graphic Designers may find their calling in the entertainment industry, creating posters, promotional materials, website visuals, and meeting other design needs for production companies, films, and television shows.

Graphic design skills are also useful for non-professionals who want to persuade large audiences. Small business owners, start-up entrepreneurs, or even creatives working in marketplaces like Etsy may wish to learn more about graphic design to build their brand identities and set themselves apart from their competitors. Activists and organizers can learn graphic design skills to build more visually appealing and persuasive designs for flyers and infographics. Politicians will hire graphic designers to build campaign materials. As long as someone is attempting to communicate visually to an audience, they will benefit from either learning graphic design skills or working closely alongside someone who knows them.

Should I Get Certified in Graphic Design?

For creative professionals like Graphic Designers, becoming certified is rarely required for employment. What is most important to prospective employers is a compelling and memorable portfolio of sample designs that lets them see what kind of a designer you are. However, becoming certified in graphic design or a graphic design tool (or more than one) may help complement this portfolio and set you apart from other candidates. Being certified will signal to employers that you have taken the time and effort to hone your skills, which can be an appealing quality in an employee.

Is It Worth It to Become Certified in Graphic Design?

Becoming certified in graphic design or a related skill set or application can be an excellent way to jumpstart a career. A certificate or certification-prep program provides a structured learning environment and curriculum to help you learn the skills you need to excel as a Graphic Designer as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Graphic design certificate programs offer a streamlined alternative to a college degree program, giving you an impressive credential for your resume that verifies your commitment to professional development. A certificate or certification can also open doors to career opportunities you may not have been able to otherwise access while offering you leverage to negotiate for higher wages and better employment terms.

How Long Will It Take to Become Graphic Design Certified?

The length of time it will take you to become certified in graphic design will vary depending on the type of certificate or certification you decide to pursue and the specific training program you choose. Those who already have skills in common graphic design applications like Photoshop may be able to earn a certification in the software in a single day by simply taking an exam. Some graphic design certificate programs take the shape of an intensive bootcamp of a few days, while others can be part-time programs ranging from a few months to a year in length. 

How Hard Is It to Become Graphic Design Certified?

How difficult an individual finds the process of earning a certificate in graphic design will vary from person to person, depending on their previous experience and aptitude for the skills involved in the field. A person with a background in art and design may find earning a graphic design certificate or certification relatively easy. On the other hand, those who are brand new to the software and processes of graphic design will have to put considerable time and hard work into learning the essential concepts and skills. Most certificate programs will require students to assemble several professional quality projects to form a portfolio, which can be difficult and time-consuming but well worth it, considering how valuable a quality portfolio is in gaining a job. While becoming certified in graphic design can be challenging, you can do it with enough dedication and determination to succeed.

Graphic Design Careers

A certificate in graphic design unlocks many different career paths spanning numerous different industries. Modern businesses and their clientele have a high demand and even higher expectations for visuals that tell stories, evoke emotions, and effectively communicate a variety of messages. The 21st-century workplace needs designers of many stripes to meet these needs, all following many of the same skills and concepts but specializing in varying approaches, mediums, and goals. Many jobs in the field fall under the title of Graphic Designer, but the list of other roles available to someone certified in graphic design includes Digital Designer, Visual Designer, and Designer. If you are open to stacking your graphic design certificate with additional skills and certifications, you could also consider building a career as a Motion Graphics Designer or a User Interface Designer.

Some pursuing a certificate in graphic design may already be certain they’d like to find work as a Graphic Designer. Many of these positions are within marketing firms, graphic design agencies, and design studios, but larger businesses often employ in-house Graphic Designers. Some Graphic Designers prefer to be their own boss and work as freelancers, potentially specializing in providing services such as logo design and branding, book cover design, or social media marketing visuals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for Graphic Designers is an average growth of 3% through 2032. Nearly 212,000 Graphic Designers worked in the U.S. in 2022, making a mean annual wage of $65,000. 

The career path of a Digital Designer is closely related to that of a Graphic Designer. Digital Designers often work alongside Graphic Designers in design studios and marketing firms or on the in-house design teams of large corporations and nonprofits. Freelancing is also an option for Digital Designers, who often perform tasks similar to those of Graphic Designers but with a focus on creating visuals for digital products, web, and pre-print materials. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a higher-than-average job growth rate of 16% for Digital Designers and Web Designers, which they group together. Indeed reports an average base salary of $95,000 for Digital Designer positions in 2023.

Visual Designer is another job title that a person may hold in their graphic design career journey. Visual Designer roles typically focus on the aesthetics of digital projects, including the layout, typography, color scheme, and illustration. The position can look very similar to that of a Digital Designer, but some organizations may also use the term to describe a role that focuses on creating designs for print, such as food labels or textile patterns. According to Indeed, Visual Designers in the U.S. can expect an average base salary of $80,000.

Finally, the job title of Designer can cover a host of different design work. Corporations may use it as an umbrella title for a role that covers traditional graphic design tasks, but Designers may also specialize in the functional design of digital mockups or physical prototypes of any type of product. A Designer may focus on print design, digital design, motion graphics design, or even game design, depending on the agency or business where they are employed. Entry-level salaries for Designers can vary widely as the title can be used to describe a wide variety of roles. Indeed averages the base salary for U.S.-based Designers of all levels of seniority to $73,000.

How Will a Graphic Design Certificate Help Me Begin a Career?

A graphic design certificate offers a variety of benefits for aspiring designers preparing to launch the career of their dreams. The education gained in a certificate program provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in the daily tasks of graphic design. Graphic design certificate programs arm students with a thorough knowledge of the applications and other tools used for design work, even preparing them to earn certifications in these applications if they choose. The best comprehensive graphic design certificate programs will also support students through the process of building a professional-quality portfolio, which is essential for impressing a hiring team seeking a Graphic Designer. And, of course, the certificate itself makes an impressive line on a resume, sure to catch a hiring manager’s eye and open doors to job opportunities that may have otherwise remained closed without that certificate.

Will I Need a Graphic Design Certificate to Get a Job in the Field?

Whether or not you need a graphic design certificate to land a job in the field will depend upon many factors, including your experience and background, as well as factors pertaining to the specific position and preferences of the team hiring for it. Entry-level job candidates with little to no experience can gain the skills they need for the job they desire in a graphic design certificate program, and the certificate communicates this hard-earned competency to potential employers. A certificate makes you a more competitive candidate for entry-level positions and may even qualify you for some mid-level ones. Additionally, many graphic design certificate programs lead students through creating a high-quality portfolio, which is vital in securing any graphic design position.

While many hiring managers and job openings may not require the hiree to hold a certificate, others will demand either a certificate or a college degree. A certificate can bolster a candidate's qualifications even when the job listing does not list a certificate as a requirement. Those with little experience can significantly benefit from listing a certificate on their resume. Even when a certificate is not needed for an entry-level position, it can make all the difference in a person’s career growth, opening up opportunities in the workplace and offering leverage when negotiating wages and job conditions. Aspiring designers have several different certificates and certifications available to them, so they should consider their long-term goals and which of their options for certification align most closely with their career plan.

What Industries Can I Work in with a Graphic Design Certificate?

Virtually every industry has some need for graphic design in its visual communication with its clientele. Branding, packaging, marketing, and website design are just a few cross-industry applications of graphic design today. However, while some businesses may have the resources to employ an in-house Graphic Designer, many organizations will outsource their design needs to marketing firms, design agencies, or even freelance designers. All of these would fall under the umbrella of the creative services industry, with some crossover into advertising and marketing. Freelancers—which represent 19% of U.S. Graphic Designers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—may provide creative services for advertising and marketing purposes but may also specialize in serving specific industries with high needs for compelling visuals, such as publishing, social media, or web design.

The publishing industry is one where designers will find opportunities to put their graphic design skills to use. The 21st-century digital publishing sector is ever-expanding, and its many opportunities replace those lost as the traditional print sector consolidates its workforce. However, the print publishing industry is by no means disappearing, and the rise in self-publishing offers ample freelance work for designer professionals. Design opportunities in the print industry continue, especially for those who enjoy creating book covers, illustrations, and layouts for independent authors. Meanwhile, ample graphic design work is available in the digital publication world today, as everything from online magazines and ebooks to news outlets and blogs requires high-quality layouts and visuals, just as print publications do.

Another thriving industry that graphic design specialists may enjoy is social media marketing and management. While positions in this field will perform tasks requiring knowledge outside of design, much of their focus is on creating visually appealing communication. The challenges of designing social media posts and ads are immense and sure to keep the work exciting. Trends and algorithms are constantly changing, and the demand for fresh, engaging content is neverending. The competition to be seen is fierce, and an excellent command of graphic design skills can make a huge difference in whether or not a business thrives in the digital age through being visible on social media. Other skills that come in handy when creating innovative and effective social media campaigns include knowledge of evergreen digital marketing principles, industry trends, community management and engagement, and strong communication and writing proficiency.

How to Get Certified in Graphic Design

The choice of how to become graphic design certified will largely depend on how confident you are in your present skillset. Students who have significant on-the-job experience in graphic design skills or who only wish to become certified in a single tool in which they have training should consider attempting to pass a certification exam. Aspiring graphic designers will primarily be interested in certifications offered by Adobe in Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator. Tuition for some graphic design certificate and certification-prep programs will include the fee for a certification exam and the testing process as part of the course plans. However, if you are ready to take the exam without any further training, you can visit Adobe’s website to either take the exam online or to find a local test center.

Students who do not have a lot of hands-on graphic design training or aren’t familiar with the applications will want to look at a certificate-granting training program. These training programs will provide them with the experience they need, and professional instruction will ensure that they get an industry-recognized education as they become certified. Plus, once the course is over, students will have the training to pass a certification exam. Certificate programs are available in graphic design specifically, but students can also find certificate-granting bootcamps and courses in individual tools of the Graphic Designer like Photoshop or related skill sets like motion graphics. One certificate may be sufficient for individuals to meet their educational and career goals, while others may prefer to stack certificates to deepen their knowledge and qualify for more specialized positions.

Certifications vs. Certificates: What’s the Difference?

Those unfamiliar with the profession may be surprised to learn that certificates and certifications are different things, even though they are both means of becoming certified. The difference is in how they gauge whether or not a user is sufficiently proficient in graphic design skills to become certified.

After passing a proctored exam given by an industry-recognized testing organization, certification is awarded to students proficient in graphic design. These tests vary in length and difficulty, but most expect students to have significant hands-on design experience. In addition, many certifications expire after a set period, requiring students to retake the exams to re-up their certification.

Certificates are more akin to diplomas and are conferred upon students after they complete an industry-recognized training program, such as the one offered through Noble. Unlike certifications, which expect students to be already skilled in their specific tool or discipline, these programs do not expect incoming students to have significant graphic design experience.

What Certificates or Certifications Do I Need to be a Graphic Designer?

Several different certificates and certifications are available to help aspiring Graphic Designers build the skills, qualifications, confidence, and resumes that will help them begin their dream career. A graphic design certificate earned in a certificate-granting program is arguably the best option for many, especially those with little to no experience with the skills necessary to succeed in the field. In addition to a certificate that functions much like a college degree listed on a resume, a student in a graphic design certificate program will gain a solid education in the field while building the impressive portfolio vital to landing a job as a Graphic Designer. Graduates of a comprehensive graphic design certificate program will also be ready to ace certification exams in Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator if they wish to add those to their resumes.

Certifications in the most commonly used tools of Graphic Designers can also be beneficial in impressing hiring managers. If you already have a thorough knowledge of Adobe’s design applications, you may be able to sign up to take the exams to earn the certifications issued by the company. These include Adobe Certified Associate in Graphic Design and Illustration Using Adobe Illustrator CC, Adobe Certified Associate in Visual Design Using Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Certified Associate in Print and Digital Media Publication Using Adobe InDesign. If you are not already acquainted with these applications or would benefit from a refresher course, you can attend a certification-prep course that may include the exam fee in their tuition and sometimes even allow you to retake the exam for no additional charge. 

If your aspirations include working with animation and motion graphics, you can stack a motion graphics certificate with a graphic design certificate or any of the certifications listed above. Others may wish to earn a digital design certificate if they prefer to specialize in that direction.

Top Certifications & Certificates for Graphic Design

Becoming graphic design certified is somewhat unique in that prospective designers can become certified in graphic design techniques or they can become certified in one or more graphic design tools.

Either option is available through Noble Desktop, which offers both a Graphic Design Certificate program and individual bootcamps offering certificates in tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator. These certificate courses will provide students with the training necessary to demonstrate to employers that they are proficient in these tools. The Graphic Design Certificate program will teach students various tools and give them hands-on guidance in building their design portfolio.

Certification in individual graphic design applications like Photoshop and Illustrator is available through Adobe. These exams are expected to be completed within ninety minutes, and Adobe anticipates that students should have over a hundred hours of practical training or experience. Several other service providers, such as CIW and CWP, offer certification exams in aspects of graphic design, such as UI design or web design.

Students hoping to prepare for these certification exams may wish to enroll in one of Noble’s certificate programs to gain the expected training and experience.

Graphic Design Certificate Programs to Consider

Noble Desktop’s Graphic Design Certificate program is a comprehensive learning experience that will teach you the skills you need to excel in your chosen career field. In the four modules of this course, you will master Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, the core apps necessary to perform the work of a Graphic Designer. Throughout the course, you’ll be able to apply what you learn about these apps immediately through hands-on projects. Expert instructors will guide you through essential design concepts and principles like typography, composition, and color, and your new expertise in these areas will help you create a professional-quality portfolio by the end of the certificate program. Noble’s Graphic Design Certificate program features the option to retake the program for free within one year and six one-on-one mentoring sessions you can use as career support.

Noble Desktop also offers a Digital Design Certificate for those interested in using graphic design concepts in a Digital Designer or UI Designer career. Students in this program will be able to retake it for no additional charge if desired. The certificate program includes eight one-on-one mentoring sessions that you may use as career coaching. As a student in the Digital Design Certificate program, you will learn the essential graphic design theory and apps and apply what you learn in building an impressive graphic design portfolio. You’ll also attend a Figma Bootcamp and a UI Design Bootcamp as part of this certificate program, both of which will prepare you to enter the field of digital design with confidence.

Another Noble Desktop option is the Photoshop Certification Program. This course may be the right choice for you if you already have some experience in the design field or foundational knowledge of design principles and some of the common Adobe Creative Cloud graphic design apps. A Photoshop certification is an excellent addition to your resume and can give you leverage when seeking a promotion or bargaining for a raise. Like all of Noble’s courses, this training program is available live online or in-person in NYC. The Photoshop Certification Program features two Photoshop courses, six hours of private tutoring, access to additional video training, the Adobe Certified Professional exam for Photoshop, and the option to retake the exam for free, if necessary.

The California Institute of the Arts provides an online Graphic Design Specialization program in partnership with Coursera. Students receive a career certificate in graphic design upon completing the asynchronous program. Graphic Design Specialization students will take courses on the fundamentals of graphic design, typography, imagemaking, and the history of graphic design. Participants will have the opportunity to apply all they learn in a final branding capstone project that they can include in their portfolio of professional-quality work. The California Institute of the Arts recommends this program as a foundation on which to build a formal education in graphic design or as an entry point to motion graphics, editorial design, or interface design.

The University of Colorado Boulder hosts their asynchronous Graphic Design program on Coursera and awards a career certificate to every student upon completion of the course. Students can take this graphic design course as part of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation Specialization or for credit as part of the Masters of Science in Data Science. Businesses and organizations often provide this course to their employees so they can learn to create high-quality PowerPoint presentations, reports, and resumes. Participants will also learn the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. With the graphic design principles and skills students learn in this graphic design certificate course, they will be able to create professional visuals in the workplace, whatever their background or industry.

Shillington Education’s Graphic Design Course is a certificate program available in-person in NYC or live online. The graphic design bootcamp mimics the environment of a design studio with a structure of briefs, deadlines, and peer feedback on students’ projects. As participants learn design principles and theory along with the practical skills to succeed as Graphic Designers, they will build a professional portfolio showcasing their work that they can use in future job searches. Students will receive lifelong exclusive access to The Guide, Shillington’s comprehensive online handbook, which includes lecture and demo notes, industry insights, and animated case studies. By the end of the program, participants will feel confident in their abilities to use Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Figma in their future design careers.

Adobe-authorized training center Ledet provides their Adobe Creative Cloud Print 501 live online in-person in D.C., Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. This course will prepare students to take certification exams in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign as they learn to use the programs to create print-focused graphic design projects. Students will also learn to use the digital asset management Adobe Bridge to view and organize the files they use in their graphic design work. Ledet’s curriculum covers the design principles needed to work with color and text, as well as how to build a document with Master Pages, create a PDF, and effectively work with metadata. The course instructor will provide students with tips and tricks for working with these Adobe programs, arming them with the knowledge they’ll need to pass the Adobe Certified Professional exams on these applications.

Learn Graphic Design with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Interested in learning graphic design? There are a few different options available. It’s possible to either study individual graphic design tools in accelerated bootcamps or learn complementary graphic design skills in more career-focused training programs. Both graphic design training courses are available to students through Noble Desktop, both in-person and online. These courses are taught by experienced instructors who can teach students important graphic design techniques and give them vital feedback on their designs. Even online, Noble strives to keep class sizes small, ensuring that students can interface directly with their instructors. Plus, all of Noble’s courses have the option to retake the course for free within a year. This allows students to hone their skills, cover material that may have given them difficulty, or just get more hands-on practice and feedback on their designs.

For students looking to learn the programs most commonly associated with professional graphic design, Noble offers a wide selection of bootcamps. These include training courses in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, all of which are industry-standard tools. These courses will provide students with hands-on training in the advanced techniques to manipulate and edit photos, build vector graphic illustrations, or construct layout designs. Each of these courses will guide students through practical exercises replicating the kinds of projects built by professional Graphic Designers. Each of these courses will teach an individual tool, but because they are all part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, learning one tool will ease future training and greatly expand how creatives can use multiple programs simultaneously.

Students looking to build a career in graphic design may wish to consider Noble’s Graphic Design Certificate program. This accelerated training program will teach students all three major 2D graphic design tools. Students will learn how Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign work separately, and then they will learn how these programs complement one another, introducing students to new and expansive ways to build graphic designs. Since this is a career-focused bootcamp, students will receive one-on-one career mentorship. The final portion of the course is dedicated to helping students build a practical portfolio of sample designs that they can take onto the job market. For students looking to turn a passion for graphic design into a career, Noble’s certificate programs are an ideal place to receive the necessary skills training.

How to Learn Graphic Design

Master graphic design with hands-on training. Graphic design is the production of digital and print media that follows certain conventions of style, color, and typography in order to evoke a positive reaction from its viewers.

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