Computer Illustration Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Class Info

About this article
What kind of job can you get with a degree in computer illustration? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and computer illustration degrees.
View available schools

Studying Computer Illustration: Degrees at a Glance

There are not many undergraduate degree programs in computer illustration, but there are related programs in graphic design or media arts. Some degree programs train students to create computer illustrations used for business logos, advertising, book illustrations, artwork and computer-generated effects. A few degree programs at the associate degree level may teach students about creating technical computer illustrations, such as those used for drafting, blueprint design and 3-D modeling.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the field of drafting was expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate from 2010-2020, with only a 6% increase. Drafting professionals trained in multiple design software programs are expected to have the best chances for finding jobs. In the multimedia industry, graphic designers were expected to see at 13% increase in employment from 2010-2020, while multimedia artists were expected to see an 8% growth from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.

Associate Degree Bachelor's Degree
Who is this program for? - People who want to know more about computer and digital illustration for entry-level careers in multimedia design
- Aspiring drafting professionals
Artists interested in computer and digital illustration careers in the fields of animation, print media, graphic design and marketing
Common Career Paths (with approx. median annual salary) - Desktop publisher ($37,000)*
- Technical drafter ($46,000)*
- Web production artist ($58,000)**
- Graphic designer ($44,000)*
- Multimedia artist ($61,000)*
- Animator ($47,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Pass core classes in media arts, technical illustration or graphic arts
- Meet general education requirements
- Complete final projects, if required
- Design a professional portfolio
- Take final exams
- Pass core graphic arts or digital arts classes
- Meet elective requirements
- Participate in media arts internships, if applicable
- Complete general education coursework
- Create professional portfolio
- Complete final projects
Prerequisites - High school diploma - High school diploma
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (2012 statistics).

Associate Degree in Computer Illustration

Most associate degree programs related to computer illustration teach students about the skills and techniques used in creating digital artwork. Students are trained to use different computer illustration software programs. They also receive instruction with using computerized illustration tools for drawing, such as digital pens. Most degree programs also teach students about color technique, layout, text placement and texture. Most of the coursework will train students for illustration careers related to marketing, animation and design.

Some programs may provide more technical training in the field of drafting, but there are not as many technical illustration degree programs as there are multimedia degree programs. There are, however, a variety of programs in the field of drafting. According to the BLS, a drafter is typically required to hold at least an associate's degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many degree programs will help you build a professional portfolio so that you can showcase your work during interviews
  • Several programs include courses in teamwork skills and leadership, which are essential for many careers in the multimedia design industry
  • You'll receive training with using a wide range of illustration software programs, including programs that allow users to manipulate images, design new graphics and blend different mediums

Cons

  • Many careers in animation, illustration and graphic design require an applicant to hold a bachelor's degree*
  • Between 2010 and 2020, computer illustration careers in desktop publishing are heading toward a significant decline (-15%), since employers are delegating desktop publishing duties to other workers*
  • The majority of drafting jobs are in the manufacturing and construction industries, which could mean that technical computer illustrators will need additional training within these specific fields*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The curriculum format for the majority of these programs includes coursework in artistic creativity, technical skills training, business communication and vocational skills training related to computer illustration careers. Courses in business or vocational skills training often cover topics related to self-promotion, marketing, technical writing, project management and professional business practices. In addition to coursework, several degree programs will also require that you complete a portfolio to graduate. Portfolio requirements vary by program, but most programs require that you include several examples of your best works from different classes. Core technical skills training courses may include some of the following:

  • Digital media
  • Drawing
  • Layout design
  • Computer and digital illustration
  • Graphic design
  • Photoshop digital imaging
  • Web design

In addition to coursework through creative, animation or graphic design programs, you may take a different set of courses through a program that focuses on technical illustration or drafting. Coursework through such a program could include subjects like computer-aided design (CAD), print reading, engineering design, digital media and illustration.

Online Degree Options

There are some fully online associate degree program options in fields related to computer illustration. For example, online associate degree programs in graphic arts will train you to work in fields such as web design, advertising, multimedia design and graphic design. Although online degree programs such as these may prepare you for some entry-level positions, the BLS points out that you will be competing with graphic designers and multimedia artists who most likely hold bachelor's degrees in these fields.

Stand Out with This Degree

Your career goals will significantly shape the ways you can stand out to potential employers. For example, if you wanted to go into drafting, you could simultaneously earn certificates related to technical illustration or computer aided drafting and design (CADD). Certificate programs in these fields may train you to better understand engineering mathematics, blueprint design and technical design standards.

For graphic artists and graphic designers, the BLS indicates that a familiarity and certain level of skill with web design will prove useful for securing employment. If you're interested in entering this field, you may consider becoming proficient with computer languages used in web design, such as HTML or CSS.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Illustration

Majors related to computer illustration include graphic design, digital design and graphic arts. Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs have become somewhat common for these majors. The majority of BFA and bachelor's degree programs will prepare students for communicating visually through designing textual graphics, logos, animated graphics, advertisements, brochures and book illustrations. Students will learn to illustrate digitally, but they will also receive training with more traditional methods of graphic drawing and layout design. Several degree programs prepare students for careers in various fields, including marketing, film, video game design, print layout design and interactive media.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Though not a hard requirement, most employers of graphic designers and animators prefer an applicant with a bachelor's degree
  • Several degree programs provide internship opportunities for students to gain real-world experience in the computer illustration industry
  • Many degree programs offer vocational-specific electives in fields such as journalism, web design and marketing

Cons

  • Some jobs in computer animation and illustration are being sent to other countries that have cheaper labor forces*
  • Between 2010 and 2020, multimedia artist careers in the film and video industries are expected to decrease by 5%*
  • Graphic design careers in the field of print publishing (excluding the internet) are expected to decline by four percent during the same decade*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

Some degree programs require students to take introductory coursework in computer science. Other degree programs focus on students learning about multiple design software programs, including Illustrator, Flash and Photoshop. Many degree programs have students design in different mediums, such as photography, animation, illustration and typography. Most degree programs related to computer illustration will cover the following topics:

  • Digital imaging
  • Animation design
  • Interactive media design
  • 3D design and modeling
  • Layout
  • Advertising design
  • Media law

Most BFA and bachelor's degree programs in this field will require students to complete portfolios. Some degree programs offer more training with designing printed portfolios as well as digital portfolios. A few degree programs require students to complete media arts internship programs prior to graduation. The majority of degree programs require students to complete a final capstone project. Some universities allow students to work on final projects in groups.

Online Program Info

Some degree programs offer hybrid online options, allowing students to review some lectures online. There are also a few graphic arts bachelor's degree programs offered completely online. In traditional bachelor's degree programs, students can use the design software programs and digital drawing tools owned by the university. However, online degree programs may require students to purchase these items on their own, which could prove expensive.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Information from the BLS shows that employers in these fields are looking for applicants with experience and with impressive portfolios. While still in the bachelor's degree program, you can build your experience by participating in internships or doing freelance work. Internships will most likely provide you with more structured training at established graphic arts businesses. Freelance jobs allow you to work for multiple clients, but finding freelance work can be difficult for beginners.

To get hired as a full time computer illustrator, you will need to build your professional portfolio while still in school. Take advantage of the portfolio design classes offered by your college. Many courses will train you to showcase your artistic skills in both printed and digital forms. Some classes may teach you how to create a website for your digital portfolio, and these classes may include training on how to protect your intellectual property.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Game Art
  • B.S. - Graphic Design

What is your highest level of education?