How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree(10 Steps)

How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree

How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree: Our research shows that most graphic design jobs in the United States and worldwide don’t need a degree. Graphic design is a great creative job that you can do even without having a college degree. There are many chances for freelancing and abundant online educational resources.

You can start by freelancing to get some experience. Then, you can use that experience to get a full-time job as an in-house graphic designer.

In today’s marketing world, making things look good is super important for every brand. When people first see a brand, 94% of what they think is based on how it looks. Also, posts on social media with pictures do way better – like 650% better!

Big companies spend a lot of money on making ads, logos, and other important pictures. But here’s the thing: even though there’s a big need for good graphic designers, it’s not hard to get started. You can learn and use professional tools, and there are lots of resources to help you learn.

Because of this, many people in this field teach themselves everything. They never went to a design class, but they’re good at what they do.

Making around $50,170 a year and growing by 3% each year, being a graphic designer is something a lot of people aim for. Now, let’s talk about how you can become a professional graphic designer without going to college. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Also read: How to Become a Blockchain Developer Without a Degree(7 Steps)

We will cover some important topics in this article

  • what are the roles and responsibilities of a graphic designer?
  •   Key skills to become a graphic designer
  •   Is a degree important to becoming a graphic designer
  •   Roadmaps to become a graphic designer?
  •   What steps to follow to become a graphic designer without a college degree?

what are the roles and responsibilities of graphic designers?

How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree

A graphic designer is like a creative expert who makes cool pictures for people. Some use computer programs like Adobe Photoshop, and Canva while others still love using old-school stuff like pencils and paper.

No matter the tools, a graphic designer’s job is always the same: to make art that tells a message well. So, they need to be good at art and know what their clients want.

In today’s world AI is also a helpful tool for a graphic designer to make their art more impressive and also time-saving.

Graphic designers can have different jobs in many areas, and what they do can change a lot depending on where they work.

But here are some usual things modern graphic designers do:

Making Logos

Graphic designers often have the job of making logos for different companies. What they do is take the client’s idea and make it into a simple, nice design, like the logos you see for Tesla, Apple, McDonald’s, and others. This design should work well and user user-friendly in every situation. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Designing Marketing Banners and Posters

Graphic designers often make things like brochures, flyers, and posters for advertising. They need to make pictures that show what their client’s brand is about. And not just that, the pictures should also grab the attention of the people they want to reach.

Designing Website Layouts

Nowadays, many graphic designers are in charge of making websites look good. This job requires them to know a lot about how people use websites (that’s UX design) and also about the technology used to build websites.

Designing Eye Catching packaging

Graphic designers do more than just work on packaging; they also make products look good on the outside. For this, they have to create a design that not only looks nice but is also practical. They consider what the client wants and make sure the design fits the size and shape of the packaging.

Creating album covers

Graphic designers often make covers for books and CDs. What they do is follow what the client wants, like how it should look and how much money they have for it. But the cool part is, they have to capture the feeling of the book or album in just one picture.

Key skills to become a graphic designer without having a degree

Being a good graphic designer isn’t just about knowing how to design. You also need other skills, both technical and not-so-technical, to do the job well.

Also read: How to become a Counselor Without a College Degree? (6 Simple Steps)

Soft skills

Here are some of the basic soft skills needed for graphic designers:

  • Creativity: If you want to work in creative jobs, having a cool portfolio is a must. But, here’s the thing, some people get confused about being creative. Just like any skill, being creative gets better with lots of practice and trying new things. When you’re just starting, it’s normal to feel like your ideas are not great. Keep trying different stuff until you find your style. There’s a quote that says real creators are scared, but those copying are super confident.
  •   Communication: For graphic designers, talking to clients and other designers is super important. They need to share their ideas well. Also, when people give feedback, they should take it in a good way to make their work even better.
  •   Flexibility: For a graphic designer to be successful, they need to be able to change their style to make their clients happy. Sometimes, this means designing something different from what they’re used to, but that’s the exciting part.
  •   Visual communication: Graphic designers also need to be good at showing ideas through pictures. They use things like lines, shapes, colors, and more to make cool images that tell their client’s message well.
  •   Time management: Whether graphic designers work for a company or by themselves, they have to be good at finishing their work on time. Being bad at managing time makes things stressful, and that’s not good for being creative.
  •   Leadership skills: The best graphic designers are often the ones who can lead a project and help other designers. If you want to do great in your career, start learning how to be a leader early on. It will help you a lot as you go along in your career.

Technical skills

Developing a variety of technical skills is necessary to become a graphic designer in addition to the soft talents previously mentioned. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

These include:

  • Typesetting: Typesetting is like the art of putting words on a page so they look nice and are easy to read. Even though it might seem easy, it’s quite tricky. It involves choosing the right spacing between words and lines and picking the best font and size. For graphic designers, knowing how to do typesetting is super important because it’s used when making things for print or digital stuff.
  •   Layout: Typesetting and layout are like close buddies. Typesetting is about arranging text so it looks good, while layout is about putting together more things like pictures and charts. When you’re doing a good layout, you need to think about how information is organized and how everything looks.
  •   UI/UX design: UI and UX designers think about how people use digital stuff, like apps, websites, and even hardware and software. While graphic designers don’t usually create entire digital products, it’s good for them to know a bit about UI/UX design basics. It helps them understand how things work together for a better user experience.
  •   Graphic design software: Graphic designers need to be good at using design software. Most of them stick to one software that they know well. Many use apps from Adobe Creative Cloud a lot, but there are also many other options out there

Even though the list of skills might seem a bit overwhelming, remember, you don’t have to be a pro at all of them. Nobody is! Just focus on getting good at the basics and slowly learn more skills.

Now, let’s answer the important question: Do you need a degree to be a graphic?

Is a degree is important to becoming a graphic designer

How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree

No, you don’t need a degree to work as a graphic designer. Few employers only consider an applicant’s educational background when hiring a designer; instead, most are far more interested in the applicant’s relevant work experience and design portfolio. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

In the field of graphic design, a college degree is becoming less valuable for the following reasons:

Self-teaching: In the design world, many graphic designers teach themselves instead of going to school, way more than in other jobs. You don’t need a degree for it. Plus, it’s way easier now to learn things on your own with online tutorials, courses, and videos on YouTube. So, you can skip traditional school and still become a great graphic designer

Accessibility: Nowadays, everything a graphic designer needs is super easy to get. With a computer, the right software, and some skills, almost anyone can start doing graphic design. You don’t even need formal training or big networks.

Freelancing opportunities: Nowadays, designers can easily get jobs without doing things the usual way, thanks to freelancing and the gig economy. If a freelance graphic designer has a really good portfolio, big clients are happy to hire them.

The research shows that in 2022, most graphic design jobs won’t need you to have a degree. And this is true even if you’re not doing freelance graphic design work. You can still get cool graphic design jobs without going to college.

Also read: How to Become a Data Engineer without a Degree (6 skills needed)

Professional paths for graphic designers without a degree

Whether you went to college or not, the career paths for graphic artists are pretty much the same. There are three main ways you can go in graphic design:

Freelance graphic designers: Being a freelancer has lots of good things. You can pick when you work and you’re like your own boss. You also get to choose which projects and clients you want to work with. But, because you’re in charge, finding work can be a bit tough, especially at the beginning. And since freelancers usually don’t have the support of big design studios or agencies, you have to handle your money stuff too. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Agency graphic designers: When you work in a studio or agency, you can team up with other designers and learn from the pros who’ve been doing this for a while. It’s like being part of a team. Plus, agency graphic designers usually have cool tools and help from their bosses, which makes learning on the job easier. But, there’s a trade-off – agency designers might not get as many choices in projects or clients. They also need to follow the rules set by their bosses.

In-house graphic designers: When graphic designers work in-house, it means they have a steady job with one company. Even though it might seem like doing design for just one company could be a bit dull, it’s quite helpful. In-house designers get to know everything about the company – what they sell, what they do, and how they want to look. This helps them create a complete design style for the company, not just random designs.

Steps-How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree?

Here are the few steps you should follow to become a Graphic Designer

  1.  Learn the Basics of graphic design.
  2. Join an Online Course 
  3.  Master the Graphic design software
  4.  Start developing your unique style.
  5.  Get involved with the design community.
  6.  Offer your services as a freelancer.
  7.  Build an online graphic design portfolio.
  8.  Stay Updated with the technologies
  9.  Secure a Job in graphic design.
  10.  Read Success Stories of Graphic Designers

1. Learn the Basics of graphic design.

Pablo Picasso once said, “To break the rules like an artist, learn the rules like a pro.” That makes a lot of sense in graphic design. Before you can have fun with different design programs, it’s important to know the basics of graphic design. This helps you try out different styles more easily and gives you a strong foundation. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Try to understand:

  1. The main design ideas like hierarchy, contrast, and balance.
  2. The different types of graphic design, like packaging, web, and logo design.
  3. The steps in design, like coming up with ideas, doing research, drawing, making prototypes, and more.

Learning the basics of graphic design can be done in different ways. You can read a book, join an online course, or even do your research. Just make sure to trust good sources for your info because there’s a lot of wrong stuff out there. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

2. Join an Online Course

Consider the following university-led online programs:

There are many other certification options available, too. Getting certified in different software is a good idea. For example, if you use Adobe products a lot, getting an Adobe Certified Professional certification can be helpful.

3. Master the Graphic design software

The software you use is super important in graphic design. So, it’s really important to pick the right program for what you want to do. There are lots of options, and each one has its good and not-so-good sides. Just make sure to choose the program that’s best for the kind of design work you want to do.

Let me give you a quick overview of the software that lots of people use right now:

Adobe Photoshop– Photoshop is like the superstar of design software. It’s mostly for editing photos, but you can also use it to create new images. It’s got a bunch of cool features, from simple stuff like resizing pictures to more complex tasks like crafting detailed artwork or tweaking digital photos.

Adobe Illustrator– Illustrator, also from Adobe, is like a math wizard for graphics. Instead of using pixels, it uses cool math stuff called vectors to make designs. It’s perfect for graphics, icons, and logos. The best part? You can make your images bigger or smaller without losing quality. That’s why things like business cards and posters love using it. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Inkscape– Inkscape is like the free version of Adobe Illustrator. And guess what? It won’t cost you a dime! If you’re just getting into graphic design and want to try your hand at vectors without spending money, Inkscape is a fantastic choice.

GIMP– GIMP is like the free version of Adobe Photoshop. Sure, it might be a bit more challenging to figure out, but hey, it won’t cost you a penny! If you’re keen on learning photo editing without shelling out cash, GIMP is your go-to. Just be ready to spend a little time getting the hang of it.

Adobe InDesign– InDesign is like the superhero of print design. It’s not quite Photoshop or Illustrator, but it’s a pro at creating books, magazines, newspapers, and other cool publications. People also love using it for making snazzy flyers and brochures. So, if you’re into making stuff that gets printed, InDesign is your creative sidekick

There are lots and lots of other graphic design tools out there; the ones mentioned are just some of the popular ones. Because new software is always coming out, it’s smart to keep an eye on what’s new. Even though Adobe is still a big player, you never know when a new and awesome design tool might pop up. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Canva– Canva is similar to your trusted web design friend. You don’t need to be a design pro to create all sorts of cool stuff on this easy-to-use platform. Whether it’s presentations or social media posts, Canva has your back. It’s like a fun and simple playground for design, where everyone can join in. No matter if you’re a beginner or a pro, Canva is there to turn your ideas into awesome designs that catch the eye

4. Start developing your style.

Remember what we said earlier about learning the rules before breaking them? Well, here’s how it works: the more you know about the software you’re using, the more creative you can be. Start by checking out different design styles and combining them. As you get more comfortable with designing, you’ll start adding your ideas and experiences. This is how you’ll develop your unique style.

Let’s talk about some popular design styles:

  1. Simple, 
  2.  Flat 
  3.  Material
  4.  The Skeuomorphic

Expressing yourself as a designer takes time. It’s like trying different things and seeing what works. Be patient, and you’ll find a design style that feels just right for you.

5. Get involved with the design community.

No matter if you’re a beginner or a pro, there are groups both online and offline where designers like you hang out. Being part of these groups not only improves your skills but also helps you connect with other designers. Some groups even give perks, like discounts on stuff that graphic artists use. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Here are some popular design communities:

Don’t forget, there are lots of social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Twitter where you can find design groups and forums.

Twitter is especially cool for making direct connections with experienced graphic designers. If you follow well-known designers who’ve made it big in their fields, it’s a great way to get inspired for your graphic design projects.

6. Offer your services as a freelancer.

One awesome way to gain experience as a graphic designer is by offering your services as a freelancer. It pushes you to show off your skills and deal with clients.

Remember, every designer has been where you are, so taking that first step can be a bit scary.

Here, it’s important to control your expectations. Building a reputation as a freelancer takes time. Once you start getting jobs, even the small ones, do them well. When you exceed what your clients expect, they’ll refer you to others and come back to you.

Popular freelancing marketplace where you can find work as a graphic designer:

  • Fiverr
  •  Upwork
  •  Guru
  •  99designs
  • Freelancer
  • PeoplePerHour
  • Designhill

When it comes to freelancing, Upwork and Fiverr are the big players. Lots of people use them. Once you’ve got some experience, you can check out design-focused sites like 99designs. These places might pay more, and the clients might be top-notch. But, keep in mind, they might also expect a bit more from you. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

7. Build an online graphic design portfolio.

The best way to show off your work as a graphic designer is through a portfolio. When you’re just starting, include all your relevant projects, even if they’re from school or personal stuff. As you get more experienced, you can be pickier about what goes in. But, a good graphic design portfolio always follows some key guidelines:

  1. Show Variety: Include different types of projects to show you can handle all sorts of designs.
  2.  Highlight Skills: Make sure your best skills shine through in your projects.
  3.  Tell Stories: Explain each project a bit – what was the problem, and how did your design solve it?

If you’re not sure where to begin with your portfolio, take a look at some other graphic designers’ portfolios for ideas. But remember, what works for them might not be perfect for you because everyone has their specialty. Be yourself; your portfolio looks the coolest when it’s made just for you and your skills.

8. Stay Updated with the technologies

If you want a new job, it’s really important to keep learning about the latest design software and trends, even if you didn’t go to school for it. Technology keeps changing, and new updates come out every year. Taking classes to refresh your software skills or learning the best ways to do graphic design will help you stay up-to-date and stand out from other people applying for the same jobs.

9. Secure a Job in graphic design.

Being a freelance graphic designer has lots of perks, and you can make a good living. But, some designers prefer the stability and perks of working at a design agency.

Even if you’re a successful freelancer, we suggest giving a regular nine-to-five job a shot. Working at an agency gives you a structured environment and more resources. Plus, you’ll get valuable experience working with other designers and handling clients. [How to Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree]

Getting a job at a design agency can be tough, but it is achievable if you have the skills and a great portfolio, even without a degree. Start by reaching out to nearby agencies to see if they have any openings. If you’ve got a strong portfolio, the right skills, and lots of freelance experience, getting in shouldn’t be too hard.

10. Read Success Stories of Graphic Designers Without Degree

Explore the stories of those who walked the path before you to gather insights on transitioning into a creative career or using your current skills to thrive as a graphic designer. Take Mary Lin, who once ran a cupcake bakery before her creative spark led her to graphic design, or Inez Padiachy, who shifted from sociology and sign language studies to embrace a career in graphic design. Their journeys can offer valuable advice and inspiration for your creative endeavors.


In conclusion, it’s doable to be a graphic designer without a degree, especially in today’s digital world. If you teach yourself and show off your skills with a good portfolio, you can find lots of opportunities. Just keep learning and stay updated with what’s happening in the design world. Joining a design community, getting certifications, and taking online courses can help you succeed without going to college.

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