Becoming a Graphic Designer in Mississippi

Having a successful career in graphic design can be lucrative and enjoyable if you put in the prerequisite hard work through college. When you complete your accredited degree program in Mississippi, you’ll have a highly technical skillset of immense value across various industries. Your job will involve conveying ideas using visual art with the help of technology, no matter where you work as a graphic designer.    

Crucial Skills for a Graphic Designer (Besides Drawing and Technical Areas)

  • Communication: Graphic design is a customer-facing role. Your employer will be counting on you to effectively engage clients across various touchpoints via live chat, phone calls or in-person. Bear in mind that you have to be an excellent communicator to succeed in this profession.
  • Research Skills: To deliver on the request of any project, you’ll need to research and understand the brief and investigate and brainstorm ideas. Researching visual communication (language) will allow you to define critical aspects of the solution, including the overall look and aesthetics.
  • Problem-solving: Graphic designers solve different kinds of problems for clients, from branding and lead conversion to storytelling. Using their strategic thinking and analytical skills, they can neatly weave deep messaging into stunning visuals, delivering creative solutions that are to the brief.   
  • Interpersonal Skills: Designing for corporate clients or employers involves day-to-day interactions with multidisciplinary teams, vendors and clients’ representatives. Often, you’ll be working closely with professionals like marketers, public relationship experts, and art directors. Being a team player makes life in the office easier for you and your colleagues. 

Schools With a Graphic Design Degree Program in Mississippi

To choose the right graphic design degree program, consider your specific interests in art and design subjects. While curricula can vary by college or art department, it’s helpful to study the fundamentals, including art history, color theory, and research. Although graphic design is your area of focus, complementary courses like computer animation, web design, and interactive media can reinforce your academic and professional credentials. Also, look for overall and program-specific accreditations relevant to your studies.   

Here’s a detailed look at some accredited graphic design degree programs in the state:

Jackson State University, Jackson

Jackson State University (JSU) has a robust Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Graphic Design program. Available at the JSU Department of Art, the four-year course is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). It offers a relatively balanced proportion of experiential learning, theory classes, and design/art studio time. Regardless of your preferred study area, you need to complete the College Preparatory Curriculum (CPC) to be fully admitted into the Jackson-based public university as a freshman. 

The high school CPC requirements for admission:

  • A minimum GPA of 3.2, or
  • A minimum GPA of 2.0 (or finishing at the top half of graduating class) and a minimum ACT score of 16 (or the SAT equivalent)
  • Minimum GPA of 2.0  and a minimum ACT score of 18 (or the SAT equivalent)

To be considered for admission into JSU, you should submit your application online and request that your high school send your official transcript to the university.

Curriculum

The JSU BA in Graphic Design is an excellent choice for those looking to become graphic designers with web design skills. Throughout the 120-credit-hour program, you’ll study fundamentals like art history, drawing, and visual thinking. The MAC Lab in Johnson Hall is the arena for immersive studio sessions in graphic, web sound design and more. Internships and experiential work with advertising agencies should help with your portfolio development ahead of graduation. 

Costs

For Mississippi residents, part-time tuition at JSU costs $345 per credit hour (for 11 credits or fewer). Full-time students (12-19 credit hours) pay a fixed amount of $4135 per semester. These fees don’t include miscellaneous expenses (charges) like transport and technology. Meal plan and accommodation costs vary, with some students paying up to $2,872 for single-occupancy packages and $1,979 for meals.  

The University of Mississippi, Oxford

For an opportunity to specialize in graphic design, consider the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (BFA) at the University of Mississippi or Ole Miss. Students at the Oxford-based institution leverage multiple experiential learning resources that boost their future career prospects. An example of this is the Office of Outreach, which helps art students secure internships within and outside of Mississippi. The university’s museum is another avenue for student graphic designers to build their professional competencies as interns or volunteers before attaining their BFA.

If you attended high school in Mississippi, you must complete the College Preparatory Curriculum (CPC) to be considered for admission into Ole Miss. The minimum GPA requirements for the CPC high school courses are:

  • A 3.2 high school GPA or higher
  • A minimum high school GPA of 2.5 and an ACT score of 16 or higher or the SAT equivalent
  • Complete the CPC top half of class and a minimum ACT score of 16 (or the SAT equivalent)
  • A minimum high school GPA of 2.0 and an ACT score of 18 or higher (or the SAT equivalent)

BFA in Graphic Design Requirements/Coursework

As with most NASAD-accredited BFA programs, you need more than your high school credentials to join the professional graphic design degree course at Ole Miss. You have to complete 18 hours of studio art to be admitted (a grade C or above in art and art history courses is required to graduate with a BFA). Also, prepare to submit an artwork portfolio and give a 10-minute presentation via Zoom in your BFA admission interview. There’ll be more of those reviews each semester before your thesis.

The four-year curriculum has the necessary ingredients to create a competent graphic and web designer out of you. Out of the minimum 120 credit hours you should complete to graduate, 40 are from 300-level courses (or above), such as drawing, graphic design and advanced studio. Some of the core art courses in which you must get at least a “C” are 2D and 3D design and color theory. 

Costs

As a full-time resident, attending undergraduate classes at the University of Mississippi may cost you about $8,934 in tuition fees per year. Each complete semester is at least 12 credit hours, and when you include meals, you’ll pay about $4,628. The campus offers several housing options with varying rates, including Crosby, Burns and Pittman halls. Living there for two semesters may cost you approximately $6,514. The total cost for residents (including meals and housing) is roughly $26,946.00 per academic year.

This amount includes other student expenses, such as:

  • Travel ( $2,570)
  • Personal ($3,000)
  • Books/supplies ($1,200)

Graphic Design Jobs in Mississippi (Salaries and Career Outlook)

Mississippi has approximately 1,101,720 people employed in various industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). About 710 of these workers are graphic designers earning hourly and yearly wages of $19.98 and $41,560, respectively. Based on Payscale.com estimates, here are average graphic designer salaries in select cities across the state:

  • Jackson ($39,668 per year)
  • Brandon ($35,000 per year)
  • Columbus ($12 per hour)
  • Biloxi ($17.69 per hour)

Once you get your graphic design degree in Mississippi, you can find work with a generous compensation package in fields such as:

  • Advertising agencies: There are many possible roles for graphic designers working in the advertising industry. When you’re hired as an advertising designer, your responsibilities may include researching products and target consumers/audiences. You’ll be developing appropriate strategies for visual ads based on your research. Under the mentorship and supervision of a creative or art director, you can grow your career much faster and ascend to senior roles.
  • Art museums/exhibitions: Mississippi boasts an extensive network of museums, from the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson to the Cleveland-based Grammy Museum. Graphic design is a crucial element of the visual stories that these artistic, cultural, or political institutions have told for years. Your everyday duties working at any of these museums can include creatively weaving labels or poster designs into the cultural or historical context of art exhibitions. A museum can also hire you to create its visual identity (branding) or design things for clients.
  • Architecture: As modern corporate buildings increasingly serve as brand icons, a prominent intersection of architecture and graphic design emerges. With this marketing approach, a business building owner requests an architectural firm to layer the specific brand messaging into the physical layout and its spatial context. The architects engage graphic designers to help incorporate visuals into a cohesive brand story overall.   

Other companies you can work for as a graphic designer include:

  • Book and magazine publishers
  • Software developers/publishers
  • Web designers
  • Animation/motion graphics companies

Despite these and many other graphic-design employment opportunities, the sector isn’t creating new jobs as fast as other industries nationwide. The BLS highlighted the slower-than-average growth rate of 3% in its 2020-30 career projections for graphic designers. A career in visual communication design is still worth the time, education, and financial investment. The job scene is gradually improving everywhere with post-pandemic recovery, including in Mississippi, where graphic designer salaries increase by 4.3% on average annually.