Communication Design Degrees: Bachelor, Training & Online Course Info

About this article
What will you learn in a communication design program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's degree and potential careers.
View available schools

Studying Communication Design: Degrees at a Glance

Communication design encompasses such graphic design fields as advertising and Web publishing. After earning a bachelor's degree in communication design, you may work as a graphic designer and create visual images that communicate ideas to consumers through the use of art and technology.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers were expected to see a 13% overall increase in employment from 2010-2020. However, those who work in computer systems design and related areas, such as Web design, were expected to see a 61% increase in employment over the same period. As more people use the Internet, graphic designers will be needed less in the printing and publishing industries. A bachelor's degree is usually required to obtain employment, and familiarizing yourself with Web design and interactive media techniques can improve your job prospects. If you already hold a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field, technical training may be all you need to obtain employment as a graphic designer.

Bachelor's Master's Degree Courses and Training
Who is this degree for? Individuals without prior education who want to work as graphic designers Individuals who already have a bachelor's degree and would like to teach or further their design knowledge
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Graphic designer ($49,000)*
- Art director ($96,000)*
- Graphic designer ($49,000)*
- Art director ($96,000)*
- Postsecondary art teacher (also includes drama and music teachers - $73,000)*
Time to Completion 4 years, full time 2 years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Portfolio review - Thesis
Prerequisites - Portfolio - Bachelor's degree (may need to be design-related)
- Portfolio
Online Availability Related programs in graphic design are available online Related programs in graphic design are available online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Bachelor's Degree in Communication Design

While enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in communication design, you'll take studio art courses, as well as general education courses. You'll learn how to market to consumers through your visual designs. You'll also be introduced to different methods for broadcasting your messages. The course loads for communication design programs can be intense, and you may be required to take up to 20 units in a single semester. You may also be given opportunities to gain valuable experience through internships and collaborative projects.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree is usually all that is needed to obtain jobs in the communication design field
  • If you receive training in Web design and interactive media, job prospects were expected to be excellent (61% projected increase in employment for graphic designers in computer systems design and related fields for the 2010-2020 decade)*
  • Self-employment opportunities are abundant (29% of graphic designers were self-employed in 2010)*

Cons

  • If you want to work in print or publishing, job prospects were not expected to be positive (2% increase for print jobs and 4% decline for publishing jobs were predicted to occur between 2010 and 2020)*
  • You may need to work nights and weekends to accommodate your clients' schedules
  • You may be required to take several units each semester, while also creating a personal portfolio

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

In addition to helping you improve your technical design skills, the courses in your communication design bachelor's degree program can provide you with an overview of the history of the discipline. Many programs require that you take foundational art and design courses during your first year before you begin the more communication design-specific courses. In many cases, you'll need to build a portfolio throughout your program and undergo a senior portfolio review in order to graduate. Some programs require you to complete an internship and senior thesis. Classes you may take at the bachelor's degree level include:

  • Typography
  • Art history
  • Graphic design
  • Web design
  • Motion graphics
  • Packaging
  • Photography

Online Info

While it may be somewhat difficult to find online bachelor's degree programs specifically in communication design, online bachelor's degree programs in graphic design are readily available. Many of these programs can be completed fully online. You'll take many of the same courses that you would during an on-campus communication design program, such as packaging design, typography and Web design. You may also need to complete a senior portfolio review. To enroll in an online program, you may need to purchase specific software, such as Adobe Creative Suite and Adobe Acrobat Reader. You may also need access to a printer, flatbed scanner and digital camera.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

To improve your job prospects after graduating with a bachelor's degree in communication design, you may want to spend extra time becoming proficient in industry software, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and InDesign. You may find better employment options if you're well versed in using computers and software during the design process. You might want to take elective courses that utilize these tools while pursuing your degree. For instance, you may take a course in advanced Web design or Internet media design.

Master's Degree Courses and Training in Communication Design

If you'd like to continue your education after earning your bachelor's degree in communication design, master's degree programs are available. By earning your graduate degree, you'll not only be able to work in the field as a designer, but you'll also have the option to teach college-level design courses. However, if your intent is to simply advance your career as a designer, experience may be all that is required beyond a bachelor's degree. The curriculum for a communication design master's degree program can cover studio practice, teaching methodologies and research.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Earning a master's degree in communication design might lead to teaching opportunities at the college level
  • Master's degree programs take only two years
  • You'll have opportunities for professional growth through seminars, directed research, collaborative projects and teaching experiences

Cons

  • You may be applying for the same jobs that someone with a bachelor's degree takes
  • A master's degree program may cost a considerable amount of money without leading to higher-paying communication design jobs
  • Since many people are attracted to graphic design jobs, there is stiff competition for available positions

Courses and Requirements

In addition to taking required courses, you'll need to complete a thesis in order to graduate from your master's degree program. Some schools also require that you attend seminars, while others require that you participate in directed research or gain professional experience. Your master's-level courses could include:

  • Visual communication theory
  • Digital imaging
  • Editorial design
  • Typography
  • Interactive design
  • Corporate identity
  • Social media
  • Design history
  • Web design

Online Info

Online master's degree courses and programs in communication design are available; however, online graphic design options are more common. Online programs are very similar to their on-campus counterparts and feature courses in research methods, typography, art history and digital design. They often require that you complete a thesis or senior project as well. However, online programs may focus less on teaching methods than on-campus programs do.

Programs can be completed entirely online, or you may take some classes remotely, in addition to weekend and evening courses on campus. Classes may provide required design software, or you may need to obtain your own. You can communicate with students and teachers through chat rooms, video conferencing methods and blogging.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

If your goal is to teach communication design to college students, you'll want to gain teaching practice, since many colleges look for prior experience when hiring professors. Some master's degree programs give you opportunities to participate in teaching mentorships and work as a teaching assistant. By working as an instructional or teaching assistant, you may receive financial assistance that can be applied toward your tuition. Whether you want to teach or continue to work as a designer, it's important to stay up to date with the latest design software to ensure that your skills are still marketable.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Southern New Hampshire University

  • BA in Graphic Design
  • BA Graphic Design and Media Arts/Web Design
  • BA in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Graphic Design
  • B.S. - Computer Animation
  • B.S. - Media Communications

What is your highest level of education?

Excelsior College

  • BA in Humanities (Communication Studies)

What is your highest level of education completed?