How to Become a Graphic Designer in Minnesota?

Graphic design is a rewarding career that combines art and design with technology. Graphic designers use computer programs to create logos, advertisements and marketing materials, book and magazine layouts, websites, brand images, and more.

If you have a passion for creating things and love to work on computers, consider becoming a graphic designer in Minnesota. Many graphic designers freelance and contract their services. Others work for graphic design companies, publishers, and art and advertising departments in large companies.

What Do I Need to Be a Graphic Designer in Minnesota?

Graphic designers are not regulated by any government agency, which means you can begin working in the field without a license or other credentials. Most employers, however, require that their designers hold a minimum of a four-year degree in graphic design or a related subject.

It’s important to learn both the design and art sides of this career and the technical elements. Graphic designers have a solid foundation in art and design and know how to use all the software programs necessary to create designs for employers and clients.

If you’re still in high school, start taking art, design, and computers classes for a solid foundation. After graduation, look for a college with a graphic design degree program or something similar. You might also want to add an internship to your education and training to give you real-world work experience.

The Best Graphic Design Schools and Programs in Minnesota

When looking for a college program to start your training, make sure it is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD). NASAD accredits colleges and programs in several areas of art and design. Its seal of approval ensures you are getting the education the school promises. Minnesota has several options for NASAD accredited programs:

University of Minnesota, Duluth

The UMD Department of Art & Design offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Students can choose an emphasis for their degree: The studio emphasis focuses more on fine arts, while the marketing emphasis includes business courses and a focus on consumer needs.

The school merges art and design for the perfect blend of fine arts and practical skills. Students in graphic design benefit from nine dedicated faculty members who are working artists and designers. As working professionals, they provide invaluable mentoring and career guidance to students and graduates.

To be admitted to the Department of Art & Design, you must apply to the University of Minnesota, Duluth. You do not need to submit a portfolio for consideration. You will need to undergo a portfolio review after completing your freshman year and before gaining full admission to the graphic design program. Scholarships are available through the department and as awards at regular art shows.

St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud

The Department of Art at St. Cloud offers students a wide range of art and design classes as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. The department is a close-knit community of creative thinkers led by working artists and experts in their fields.

Students in the graphic design program learn about the history of design, design theory, current methods in design, and how to apply it to print, web, and new media. All students create a professional portfolio of their work that ends in a senior experience and an internship in the fourth year of the program.

You can apply to the art department and graphic design program without a portfolio. The program requires a portfolio review after completing your first year of coursework. Current tuition at St. Cloud is $308.24 per credit hour for in-state students, plus $35.94 per hour for art students.

Minnesota State University, Mankato

The Art & Design department in the College of Arts & Humanities at MSU Mankato offers students a few options for studying graphic design:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. This is the most comprehensive program with a focus on graphic design. It includes a mix of courses in art, design, art history, and graphic design. The latter include typography, digital media, interactive design, web design, motion graphics, and electives like painting, drawing, and photography. Students can also complete an internship for credit.
  • Certificate in Graphic Design. This is a shorter program for students looking for an introduction to graphic design without committing to a four-year course of study. It takes just two semesters to earn the certificate. Courses include graphic design, typography, digital media, and motion graphics.
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, Graphic Design Minor. Students mostly interested in fine arts can minor in graphic design. This is a good option for students who want to be working artists but also want the security of more marketable skills to earn a living.

Admission to Minnesota State is guaranteed for students with a minimum GPA of 3.0, who have graduated in the top 50% of their class, or who received an ACT score of at least 21 with a GPA of 2.7 or higher. Tuition for Minnesota residents is currently $315.65 per credit, but there are additional fees for art programs.

Minnesota State University, Moorhead

The MSUM Graphic and Interactive Design program offer a four-year degree in:

  • Digital design and production emphasis
  • Graphic design emphasis
  • Interactive media emphasis

Students can also minor in Graphic and Interactive Design. Any of the degrees would be appropriate for a career in graphic design. Coursework includes foundational art and design followed by more focused courses based on the emphasis chosen.

For the graphic design emphasis, students learn about symbols, typography, experience design, information design, visual concepts, and more. Elective choices include video production, digital prepress and production, advanced interactive media, immersive media, animation and motion graphics, and other art and design subjects.

The Graphic and Interactive Design program provides students with instruction in the latest technologies used by design professionals. Students use personal studio space to work on projects, which include website designs, games, immersive reality, and motion graphics. The focus of the program is on preparing students for actual careers in art and design, including internships and mentorship opportunities.

Normandale Community College, Bloomington

Normandale does not have a graphic design degree program, but it offers several continuing education courses for aspiring design professionals. This is a good place to start if you can’t afford tuition at a larger school. There are two certificate programs to choose from:

  • Graphic design software certificate. This program includes seven courses, each costing $175. They include introduction to design, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, and a capstone project.
  • Web design software certificate. The web design program has the same number of courses and costs. You’ll learn design concepts, the basics of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, user experience and accessibility, HTML/CSS, and WordPress and CMS. The program culminates in a capstone project.

Outlook and Salaries for Minnesota Graphic Designers

Growth in graphic design careers is slow but positive across the U.S. according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Positions are expected to grow by 3% over the coming years. This has stalled in Minnesota, with a growth rate of 0%. There will still be positions available for new designers, though. People leave their jobs and the industry and retire, leaving openings for those who qualify.

The BLS reports a median annual salary of $53,380 for graphic designers in all states. The median hourly rate is $25.66 per hour. Top earners in the field make more than $93,000 per year. The rates are a little lower in Minnesota. Here, the median salary is $51,010, with top earners making more than $81,000.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan area is an exception within the state. According to the BLS, graphic designers in the twin city area make an average of $57,030 per year.

Finding Work as a Graphic Designer in Minnesota

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, this is a great career for you. Many graphic designers freelance. They work for themselves and contract with companies to create designs. If this appeals to you, work on building a strong portfolio, a website, a social media presence, and a network to find clients.

You can also find work as an employee if you prefer. Graphic designers work for design companies, advertising and marketing companies and departments, publishers, and magazines and newspapers. Here are some examples of current job listings for graphic designers in Minnesota:

  • Graphic designer, Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities, Saint Paul, $26 per hour
  • Graphic designer, Fish & Richardson, P.C., Minneapolis, $53,900 to $68,300 per year
  • Graphic designer, KLN Family Brands, Perham, $40,000 to $48,000 per year
  • Graphic designer, college communications, Carleton College, Northfield, $52,500 to $55,400 per year
  • Junior graphic designer, Sagitec, Saint Paul, $45,000 per year

Graphic design is a skill that companies will always need. Start your education at an accredited school, and you’ll be ready to offer design and technology services anywhere in Minnesota.