What Can I Do With a Graphic Arts Certificate?

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Graphic arts certificates can propel eager graphic arts students into the growing field of visual communication. You can earn a graphic arts certificate in less time and at less cost than four-year degrees, allowing you to enter the field more quickly. The drawback is that job options are more limited, but gaining work experience might be more valuable to some students. Regardless, graphic arts touch nearly every industry, so you can apply graphic arts skills in any number of places.

What is a Graphic Arts Certificate?

  • Graphic arts certificate programs are available at two- and three-year professional schools, technical schools and community colleges, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. These programs prepare students for technical support positions in graphic design as well as launch students toward full programs at four-year institutions.

    The American Institute of Graphic Arts says graphic arts students need coursework in the compositional arrangement of basic two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms. Other areas of study might include typography, commercial graphics production and web design.

What You Can do with a Graphic Arts Certificate

  • Since a graphic arts certificate is the most basic entry into graphic arts education, you can work in just about any field, at least on an entry-level basis. What graphic designers do is visually communicate an appropriate message to the right audience. So graphic arts work can be found in nearly every field. It is most often linked to publishing, advertising and communications. Designers work most frequently with images and type, but the graphic arts field has expanded to include work in film, video, Flash animation and other new media.

    The graphic design field includes numerous jobs: art director, media designer, logo/brand identity designer, multimedia programmer, illustrator for technical publications, photo editor and website designer to name just a few. After three years or more of on-the-job training, graphic arts certificate recipients can usually move on to these advanced positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Entry-Level Work

  • Graphic arts certificate recipients don't start at the top of their fields. With a graphic arts certificate, you can generally secure a job as a graphic arts assistant. These jobs typically involve purely technical work, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. High-level planning and conceptual work is left to experienced designers. However, graphic arts certificate recipients can find positions that build out the designs planned by creative directors.

    Some of the more common graphic arts assistant jobs can be found in these fields:

    • Advertising design
    • Website design
    • Production artist
    • Desktop publisher
    • Flash and graphic arts animation.

    According to the U.S. Department of Labor, graphic arts assistants help designers with a number of tasks including gathering relevant information, preparing layouts, selecting color schemes, images and type styles, working with copywriters, arranging elements within the design and helping printers.

    Students who earn graphic arts certificates can also be hired on the production side of graphic arts work. This experience can help build a portfolio of useful experience needed for higher-level jobs.

    In the field of video production, a graphic arts assistant will sometimes produce segments like the ending credits for a show.

    Graphic arts certificate recipients can also find work as assistants to freelance graphic designers or smaller, independent design firms.

Higher Education

  • A graphic arts certificate will also enable you to earn higher degrees. A certificate program provides a first step toward an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. A graphic arts certificate can allow recipients to be employed quickly (even if it is at an entry level) so they can pay for additional schooling or work at a slower pace toward an advanced degree. Certificate recipients sometimes have easier entry into advanced schools.

Other Options

  • Even a basic level of graphic arts knowledge, such as that gained with a graphic arts certificate, could enable you to do basic freelance work. Nearly 25 percent of graphic designers are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As you build a freelance resume, you will earn money, learn and refine skills and gain valuable experience that can help you move ahead in the field to more advanced positions. You can also use a graphic arts certificate to complement skills in broader fields such as marketing, advertising and publishing. An employee in these fields with graphic arts experience will be seen as more valuable.

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