WHAT ARE MY STUDY OPTIONS?
First, you will have to decide whether you are going to invest in a college degree in graphic design or will learn at home. There are really four options you can choose from: a bachelor’s degree from a university, an associate degree from a college, self-study supplemented by college coursework and self-study only. Each has it’s benefits but downsides as well.
If you choose the more expensive bachelor’s degree option, the first and most obvious benefit is that you will have a degree once you are done. This will give you recognition when applying for jobs and can help you land internships and clients while you are still in school in order to build a portfolio. Additionally, your education will likely be better-rounded and can include interdisciplinary studies, such as business, marketing, sales or art. The downside: It is expensive and time-consuming. This is a great option for someone who does not yet have a bachelor’s degree and is looking to get one anyway. It can also allow you to switch careers in the future, since many others require some sort of BA.
You can also go to your community college, online college or out-of-state. In any case, it will be cheaper and shorter than a BA, will still provide you with a well-rounded but more targeted education, and your resume will have proof of accreditation in the field. Again, this will be time-consuming and will require a financial investment. Remember that both formal study options will also help you grow your network as you learn. Begin with your classmates, who can in the future be your colleagues, and include your professors, career fairs, events, etc.
Your other option is to study by yourself. In this case, you can either complement your personal studies with college courses, or simply use online tutorials, read related literature, and play around with the software. This, of course, is the cheapest option as well. For most of us, this is the harder path, because one will need patience and a lot of perseverance. Do not be fooled, however, this will still require some financial investment. Firstly, you will need a Mac or a higher end computer. Plus, Adobe Suite, the main graphic designer software, is not cheap, it will cost you about $75 per month. Remember that you can also take free courses on websites such as Lynda.com and Coursera.org.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
Portfolio. Portfolio. Portfolio! You can have a PhD in Graphic Design, but for all anyone really cares, your portfolio will be the one to sell you and not your accreditation. So how do you build one when you need it to land jobs? If you go through formal education, you will start building one through your courses. If you are at home, you can choose to build one based on possible assignments you expect in the future. On the other hand, there are a number of freelancing websites, such as freelancer.com, elance.com, and fiverr.com where you can sell your work for very cheap, but at least you’ll be making some money, and most importantly, growing your portfolio. Or you can do some charity work. Find a not-for-profit you are interested in (anywhere in the world) and do some work for them for free.
Then what? While you apply for jobs and look for freelancing projects, make sure to grow your portfolio. Design your own image. Print business cards. Remember, business skills can be very valuable in this career, especially if you plan to freelance. You will need to be Sales, Marketing, Finance, IT, CEO and the designer at the same time. Start with the network you already have, and build it from there. Have a LinkedIn page and a Twitter account. Contact experts in your field, ask them for a quick chat, buy them a coffee, and do not ask them for a job. Ask them about their experience and for advice. If they like you, they will be able to connect you to more people.
This will also help you understand where you can find yourself in the future and how to get there. We went to a few experts ourselves and this is what they told us.