How to Become a Graphic Designer in Massachusetts?

As one of the foundation states leading the nation in education, Massachusetts sets itself apart when it comes to schools that house great art programs. The state, with Boston as its capital, has a wide array of community-based artists, support programs and businesses. Massachusetts boasts spot #2 when it comes to best states for a graphic designer to live and work in. 

What You Need to Become a Graphic Designer in Massachusetts

Not all employers looking for a graphic designer to add to their team require a degree, but having one will definitely put you ahead of the pack.

In general, those working in graphic design need the following:

  • An understanding of up-to-date design software and technology
  • The ability to work in a team setting
  • An understanding of design theory
  • A passion for design and innovation

Many employers will also ask to see a portfolio, which can be obtained via your graphic design program of choice. Graduates with a degree in graphic design will also impress prospective employers with their versatility and ability to handle project management, both key players in your academic career.

Career Outlook for Graphic Design

Graphic designers have a significant influence on the advertising industry and, in general, on the way people they. They’re able to harness visuals for communicating information and emotions. Look around you, and what you see has probably been tweaked by a graphic designer: branding, advertisements, websites.

In Massachusetts, graphic designers can make anywhere from $38-77K a year. Companies in the area that are currently hiring for graphic designers range from pharmaceutical corporations to architecture & design firms.

The Best Graphic Design Schools in Massachusetts

The colleges and universities of Massachusetts recognize the importance of graphic design in our day-to-day world, and their programs range from a simple certificate to a long-haul MFA program.

No matter where you lean when it comes to graphic design, whether you want to learn the newest high-tech tools or get more involved with the community, these programs are tailored to guarantee a successful life after graduation. Some have added new facilities, others have re-vamped their general education programs, but all recognize the importance of being rooted in the history of the state and the culture of the community.

Suffolk University: New England School of Art and Design

Located in Boston, Suffolk University was founded in 1906 and thrives off of Boston’s urban digs. This city, an amalgam of culture and individual aesthetics, is the perfect spawning ground for creativity. This is why the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University is regarded so highly.

The Art and Design School houses both a Graphic Design Major and Minor in their undergraduate courses. For students looking to take their education even further, they have the option of a Master of Arts in Graphic Design.

Suffolk University utilizes both classrooms, studios and internships in their Graphic Design Major program. The program touches on not only the modern use of graphic design across business sectors but on history as well. Being able to employ the latest software is essential, but so is knowing your roots.

Completing this degree requires a total of 124 credits, with the major itself comprising 28 courses ranging from 88-89 credits. As with many other colleges and universities, students will also need to complete a series of “general” courses and a portfolio review/work exhibit as well.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

The Massachusetts College of Art and Design, also known as MassArt, is a visually stimulating institution to behold. The school’s focus is on preparing artists, designers, and educators to not only succeed in their career of choice but to contribute to the community and economy for the common good.

Their Communication Design Program focuses on the importance of graphic design and how it conveys meaning to audiences. The program is available as a BFA or a certificate depending on each students’ needs.

The BFA part of the program leads students in hands-on, studio-based classes led by educators who also actively practice design, so you’re getting experience from those knee-deep in the field. Students are constantly challenged by design problem solving across various industries, stretching their creativity and creating flexibility, an important part of joining the workforce.

Collaboration is a large part of MassArt, and Communication Design majors will share studio space with the college’s Illustration Majors. Both parties will have the opportunity to collaborate and discuss approaches to projects together.

Another great part of MassArt’s mission is the focus on teamwork, so no student is left behind. Not only will students learn the “basics” of Communication Design (typography, branding, print and interactive media), they’ll also be tutored in presenting and leading projects for real-world experience.

Freshmen at MassArt intending on pursuing a Communication Design BFA will need to complete their Foundation year, which is carefully laid out by the academic department in an easy-to-follow calendar. Overall the BFA usually takes four years to complete.

Monserrat College of Art

Located in Beverly, MA, just north of Boston, Monserrat is an impressive independent art college centered around the community. The college highlights its beginnings in the late 60s, a time of creativity and solution-seeking. A group of artists decided to create a school that focused not only on the arts but on supporting each student individually. “A simple idea, but one that had seldom been attempted and rarely achieved,” their website points out.

Today, Monserrat continues to be a small and focused institution with just shy of 400 students enrolled per year. With a faculty of 65, they have a 6:1 student to teacher ratio, guaranteeing that individual attention and support they regard so highly.

The BFA Graphic Design program has roots in the fine arts section of the college, and the program itself is straightforward and accessible for students to navigate as they manage their academic careers.

Students just starting out in the program will learn the basics, focusing on technical skills and tools. As the program continues, they will dabble in more specific courses such as Natural Science Illustration and Journalistic Drawing in Japan. With such a wide range of courses, students are guaranteed the opportunity to grow their portfolio and skillset, making them stand out when they finally approach the workforce.

Boston University

Boston University is the place to go if you’re looking for diversity and a large student body. With over 33,000 students from 130 countries and counting, they even the odds with an additional 10,000 faculty and staff.

Located under the College of Fine Arts, Boston U’s Graphic Design Program is studio-centered. Each course puts a strong emphasis on process, not just the end result, so students will truly need to immerse themselves in their work and feel the weight of what they’ve accomplished.

Faculty members who are leading this program focus not only on technical skills but on strategy, gearing students toward a business-based future. Boston University offers a certificate, BFA or MFA in Graphic Design. The BFA program prepares individuals to thrive in a dynamic setting. The mantra for all three programs is “the process is the product.”

As an added bonus, Boston University’s College of Fine Arts has recently added new facilities, including graduate student studios, communal studios, printing facilities, a seminar room and more.

Students interested in joining this program should be prepared to complete the University’s basic curriculum requirements, which can be found in their Academic Bulletin.

Lesley University

Lesley University calls Cambridge, MA home, and it’s no wonder why. The city, just across the river from Boston, is home to Harvard as well, and it’s easy to stumble upon wonderfully creative bars, bookstores, and eateries.

Although likely one of the lesser-known colleges on this list, Lesley focuses on the human arts – including the visual arts. It’s far from the smallest college, with a student body of around 6,000.

Lesley University has an undergraduate BFA in Graphic Design available, with the option to move into an adjacent MFA program. The program calls students to “use design to transform the world,” and they truly mean that – staff focuses on innovation and interaction. Although they set students up for success when it comes to honing their skills, they also promise a fully realized portfolio of work to leave with.

What makes Lesley University stand out is their self-described “reimagined general education curriculum.” It’s not just about checking boxes but making sure the courses you set a foundation in truly prepare you for a successful academic career and beyond. The new curriculum aims to focus on justice, community and sustainability – all three passionate concerns for incoming students.

If you’re looking for a community- and future-minded program, the Graphic Design BFA at Lesley University truly splits from the herd to blaze a path forward in the graphic design industry.

Endicott

Endicott is a private college based in Beverly, MA, in close proximity to Boston. The college boasts 90% of their graduates end up employed in careers related to their major; an impressive statistic. Additionally, they retain 84% of their undergraduates, meaning you can call this college home.

Endicott College combines theory and practice, feeding both the mind and mechanics behind their Graphic Design BFA. The program gives students access to internships with companies such as IMB, MIT Media Lab, Hasbro and Marie Claire Magazine. Their internships often turn into permanent employment with some companies.

Over four years, students will hone their design skills and learn how to navigate competition in the industry. The curriculum spans advertising, photography, illustration, package design, website design and more. Recently, the program was rated #1 in Massachusetts by Zippia, a career resource company. Zippia measures not only career results but cost, graduation rate, and design emphasis.

If you’re considering pursuing a Graphic Design degree at Endicott, keep in mind that all students in the Graphic Design Program are required to use Apple laptops. While the college can provide direction in equipment specifics and purchases, it is an additional cost to consider.