Graphic designers have a huge impact on our visual world. If you are considering pursuing a design career but aren’t sure which to take, a career in graphic design offers many choices such as art director, creative designer, illustrator, web designer, logo designer, layout artist and many more. Graphic designers are needed by many industries and have endless option when it comes to where they choose to live and work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) those interested in graphic design can expect to make an average of $41,830 in the state of Alabama, which is lower than the national average of $53,380. With time and education, some graphic designers make $82,250 at the top end of the scale.
There is a lot of competition facing new graduates coming in to the field with many talents designers competing for the same jobs, so a good education is crucial to getting noticed by potential employers.
There are more than 90 colleges and universities in Alabama offering graphic design options, so students have a multitude of options to choose from. The number of schools can be overwhelming so it helps to have a breakdown of what a program can offer you.
What Is Required?
Obtaining a formal postsecondary education in graphic design is not a requirement nationally or in the state of Alabama, yet in such a competitive market, getting a degree can go a long way towards helping you stand out from other prospective designers.
Many employers will not consider hiring someone who has not obtained a formal education. You will also find that many programs require students to build a portfolio of works that can be invaluable when approaching employers after graduation.
What to Look for in a School
The fact that there are such a high number of schools offering graphic design programs in Alabama, it can be really hard to decide which program to choose. Some of the important criteria that can make for a winning program are:
- Practical Studio Work
Theory is helpful in gaining a full understanding of the industry, but hands on training is invaluable for preparing a student for life after school.
- Personal Support
Find a program where previous students speak highly of their professors. They should be accessible to you during your program and should want to help you succeed, especially at the higher levels of the program.
- Internship Opportunities
Putting emphasis on gaining real world experience before leaving college or university is invaluable.
- Diverse Content and Technology
Make sure to look over the course curriculum in order to confirm that they cover both the fundamentals of design and then go further to include a wide variety of specialized skills and technologies.
Best Schools in Alabama
The following schools have been consistently ranked as some of the top schools in the state and even nationally for aspiring graphic designers and are sure to give you the tools you need to obtain a successful career.
Auburn University – Auburn, AL
Auburn university is located in Lee County Alabama. Auburn is the largest City in eastern Alabama with a population of just over 75 thousand people.
Auburn’s nationally regarded BFA program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and prepares students to be competitive in a global market. Students develop a strong portfolio of work during hands on instruction in a professional studio setting.
The program emphasizes study in branding, typography, publication, motion, UI/UX, illustration, app, wayfinding design and packaging. Students have the opportunity to participate in design symposiums, exhibitions and guest lectures by industry leaders. Internships are also a large part of the program and gives students excellent exposure to the working environment of a professional graphic designer.
Students begin their journey as a pre graphic design major (PGDE) for their first year and then transition into the B.F.A in Graphic Design (GDES) dependent on their GPA during their first year of study. Students must obtain a C grade in all classes to be considered for acceptance, but only the top ranked students will be selected.
Samford University – Birmingham, AL
Samford University is located in the city of Birmingham which is considered to be the seat of Jefferson County in North Central Alabama.
Samford’s BFA in Graphic Design boasts an impressive 80 hours out 130 concentrating on art and graphic design. Students create a portfolio of work through rigorous practical instruction that prepares them to apply for internships and employment once they have graduated.
The program focuses on topics such as typography, history of graphic design, web design, interactive computer multimedia, letterpress printmaking, motion graphics, publication design, and advertising.
All students must pass a portfolio review at the end of their third semester in order to continue on in the program. All students are expected to complete an internship as part of their program and many students gain employment after graduating through these placements.
Spring Hill College – Mobile, AL
Spring Hill College is located in the large port city of Mobile which is located in the South Western corner of Alabama.
Spring Hill’s BA in Graphic Design combines both theoretical and technical skills to give students a well-rounded understanding of graphic design concepts needed for a successful career in the industry. Students begin their journey as an undergraduate of the Division of Communication, Visual and Performing Arts.
During the course of the program students engage in subjects such as drawing, digital design, color theory, graphic design, typography, visual communication, graphic design history and website development.
Students gain real world experience and an appreciation for their community by creating promotional materials for many community organizations. The program also requires an internship to be completed which combined with community work ensures that everyone graduating from the program are well prepared to work in the design industry.
The University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, AL
The University of Alabama is located in the city of Tuscaloosa which is the 5th largest city in Alabama. The city is located in the west central region of the state.
The UA’s BFA in Graphic design is a new four year program offering immerses students in design concepts right from year one along with core math, English and science courses as part of the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art and Art History.
Over the course of the four year program, students explore concepts in drawing, graphic design, typography, digital layout & production, publication design, branding, writing, Illustration, package and web design.
An internship is not a required part of the program, but it is available as an elective. Students who choose to complete an internship must complete at least 135 working hours in order to receive their three credits. Students graduate with a portfolio of works in a variety of mediums and the skills necessary to stand out in such a competitive industry.
The University of South Alabama – Mobile, AL
The University of South Alabama is located in the city of Mobile which sits on the gulf coast and boasts a population of just under 200 000 people.
The University of South Alabama’s BFA in Graphic Design presents a program that explores current, historical and contemporary design concepts. The program equips students with the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to work as a professional graphic designer.
During their course of study students learn skills in drawing, business practices in graphic design, graphic design, typography, color theory, publication design, illustration and web design.
During spring of their first year, students who wish to pursue their MFA must apply to the program and are required to have completed several graphic design courses with a at least a C grade, plus have completed or be enrolled in a typography course. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 to remain in the program. An internship is not required, but is available as one of the required electives and is a great opportunity for students to work in their chosen field prior to graduating.
Career Outlook and Working as a Graphic Designer
The outlook for job growth in the field of graphic design in Alabama is less than optimal with a lower than average growth of three percent from 2020 to 2030. With this in mind, what is already a competitive industry will become even more restrictive for those just entering. Having a good education and finding a way to stand out will be more important than ever.
Graphic designers do have the advantage of being able to work in many industries and the BLS shows that specialized design services, advertising and public relations, printing, newspapers and publishing and technical consulting services are some of the industries that hire graphic designers the most.
A graphic designer could find work in both rural and urban environments, but a new graduate will have the most success starting out in urban areas.
The top paying industries for graphic designers are Federal Executive Branches, Software Publishers, Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing, Legal Services and Cable and other Subscription Programming Services.