A Guide to Studying Graphic Design in Missouri

If you’re interested in a rewarding graphic design career in Missouri, now is the perfect opportunity to start looking into college options. A bachelor’s degree isn’t mandatory to become a graphic designer, but the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the industry in general acknowledge it as the typical entry-level education for this profession. It’s no different in Missouri, so an accredited degree is the minimum you should aim for as you join university. 

How to Choose the Best Graphic Design School?

Choosing the right graphic design degree program to build and perfect this art can greatly impact your career prospects. Everywhere you go, you see different forms of visual communication, from the color coding on your smartphone’s GPS map to the conspicuous curb markings for parking lots. You probably react to or engage with such visuals sometimes, and there’s a good reason for any response. Often, talented, well-educated artists with a strong foundation in visual communication design are behind the messages that are effectively delivered or emotions invoked when you experience these art forms.

This is why you should carefully evaluate any graphic design school in Missouri before applying. Here are a few points to keep in mind as you explore your academic options:

  • Accreditation: Graphic design is an art, and schools offering the course usually follow a specific recognized standard. For example, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) specifies a strict curriculum (course content and structure) to accredit any graphic design program. NASAD accreditation isn’t a regulatory requirement in Missouri. Still, it can boost the competitiveness of an art degree in the job market.
  • Studio courses: Goodgraphic design schools provide fully-equipped art and design labs with the necessary technology, including digital and print. During practical studio sessions, students apply graphic design concepts in various productions like branding, web design and interactive design.
  • Portfolio: A stellar portfolio is essential for showcasing some of your best work in the art studio and during your internship. With many accredited graphic design degrees, you build your first portfolio as a freshman and keep developing it until graduation. You might even need it to be accepted into a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program.
  • Internships/community engagements: Find out if your preferred graphic design school has strategic partnerships for internships and cultural exposure in Missouri. Stints at local museums, art exhibitions, publishers or advertising agencies can provide career-boosting experiential learning and opportunities to build connections with industry stakeholders, including future employers.

Graphic Design Degree Courses in Missouri

Options include:

University of Missouri, St. Louis

The NASAD-accredited BFA in Graphic Design at the University of Missouri, St. Louis (UMSL) takes four years and at least 120 credit hours to complete. It’s an excellent option for students looking to become animators, graphic designers, or even special effects artists.

Admission into UMSL

If you attended a Missouri high school, you must complete the college preparatory curriculum (CPC) to be admitted into any UMSL program. Requirements include a minimum of 17 CPC units, including one year of fine arts (check out the other prerequisite CPC courses here). There, admission requirements are a bit flexible and offer students multiple ways to qualify fresh from high school.

Students who finish in the top 10% of their high school graduating class only need to complete the CPC and submit an ACT/SAT score to be admitted. But the university will automatically admit you without considering your high school graduating rank if you satisfy the CPC criteria and have a minimum ACT score of 24 or old SAT score of 1090, or redesigned SAT of 1160. You can review UMSL admission requirements for international and credit transfer students here.

Curriculum

Completing your first-year foundation and core art coursework will allow you to progress to the BFA degree program. Graphic design is your major, so expect to spend many studio hours learning and perfecting your skill in this field and related areas like computer design and typography. Before getting started on your mandatory 69 hours of studio art, you must complete studio art majors with 12 hours in art history.

If you’d consider working with fibers and textiles one day, that’s an optional course in this program. Other electives include photography, printmaking and sculpture. You’ll eventually need to pass a faculty portfolio review to graduate with a BFA in Graphic Design. The projects you’ll undertake in art/ design studio sessions and during your experiential internship in St. Louis should be beneficial here.

Cost of Attendance

For all resident UMSL students, general tuition and other fees for an academic year (one semester is 14 hours) are $11,554. Room and meals for those living on campus cost approximately $10,606. Summing up these and other expenses brings the total annual cost to $28,854. Living off-campus may increase your cost of attendance to about $30,968 due to extra costs like transportation ($1,588).

University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg

Check out the Graphic Design BFA degree at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) to acquire and perfect professional skills in interactive design, advertising design and more. This program is NASAD-accredited, takes four years to complete and offers around-the-clock access to a state-of-the-art design studio. Students gain immense cultural and professional exposure when they participate in networking initiatives like the UCM student chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Design (AIGD)- and the Design-A-Thon project.

Admission

Completing 17 credits of high school coursework is a key UCM admission requirement for undergraduate studies. The mandatory courses include English, Maths, Fine Arts and Science. Your high school GPA and ACT or SAT scores matter, too. Here’s what you need to be accepted:  

  • A minimum GPA score of 2.0 and a minimum ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 1060-1080, or
  • A minimum GPA score of 2.5 and a minimum ACT score of 20 or SAT score of 1030-1050, or
  • A minimum GPA score of 2.75 (no ACT/SAT requirement)

Curriculum

The UCM BFA in Graphic Design focuses on visual communication-related disciplines, constituting 90 hours out of the minimum 124 necessary to complete the curriculum. This course introduces students to tools for creating/structuring web pages, formatting elements and managing user interactions on the web. Major requirements include web languages, including HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Other mandatory coursework for the graphic design concentration include:

  • Drawing
  • Web graphics
  • Typography
  • Interactive design
  • Art history
  • Art/design studio sessions

Cost of Attendance

If you’re living on the Warrensburg campus at UCM, your tuition is approximately $258 per credit hour. Extra fees per credit, including transport, technology and facilities, amount to $44. The university offers multiple accommodations and meal options at varying rates. For a double-occupancy room in a residence hall, you could pay $3,047.50 per semester.

University of Missouri, Columbia

University of Missouri or Mizzou (MU) offers both BFA and BA degrees in graphic design–programs that have produced Grammy- and Emmy-award winning professionals. The College of Visual Arts runs these programs, preparing students for an art/design career in specialties like computer-generated graphics, multimedia, directing and animation. Complementary user interface and user-experience design courses add to the strong visual communication foundation you build as you envision working as a graphic designer in industries such as media, advertising and entertainment.  

Admission

You must complete at least 17 units of high school coursework to be considered for admission into MU as a freshman. If you have an ACT score of 24 (or higher) or an SAT score of 1160 (or higher), and a minimum GPA score of 2.0, you qualify for acceptance regardless of your graduating class rank. Here are detailed requirements for all applicants, including home-schooled and credit transfer students. 

Curriculum

Whether you study BA or BFA in Graphic Design at MU, you must complete these five mandatory courses to progress through the program and eventually graduate:

  • Typography
  • Design methods and production
  • Interactive media
  • Design systems
  • Portfolio development

The BFA in Graphic Design degree comprises 120 credit hours and takes four years to complete. You also must also complete a design capstone (senior seminar) in your final year. The university has a well-established internship program with various on-campus opportunities, such as University Hospital and Mizzou Athletics. Students can sharpen their graphic design skills by interning at local companies like Hallmark and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cost of Attendance

The total cost of undergraduate studies at MU is the same for Missouri residents living off- and on-campus ($29,636 per academic year). This figure includes meals and accommodation ($10,890) and tuition/fees ($12,396).

Graphic Design Jobs in Missouri, Salaries and Outlook

Missouri offers plenty of employment opportunities for graphic designers, although the pay rate there is way below the national average. According to the BLS, there are about 3,710 graphic designers in the state, earning hourly and yearly mean wages of $22.80 and $47,430, respectively. Some great places to find jobs in the sector include St. Louis, where graphic designers make $23.85 per hour on average, based on data from Indeed.com. In the St. Louis suburb of Fenton, the mean hourly wage for these professionals is $21.73.

The industry has a subpar annual job growth rate nationally, at 3%. But it’s much worse in Missouri, where Projections Central predicts increments of less than 1% (480 job openings) each year until 2028. You may expect an annual salary rise of 2.1% on average working as a graphic designer there. Fortunately, with this profession, you don’t need board certification to seek out greener pastures beyond your home state or work as an online freelancer. The average hourly wage across the nation is $28.83, and there are many places outside of Missouri where you can earn much more than that.