How to Become a Graphic Designer in New Jersey?

Graphic design is an exciting career that is always changing. Companies need tech-savvy designers to communicate their brand identity, create marketing and advertising materials, to design user-friendly websites, and more. If you love technology and being creative, this could be a lucrative career for you.

Becoming a graphic designer in New Jersey isn’t difficult, but it does require post-secondary education. While there are no licensing or credential requirements, most working graphic designers have a four-year degree or at a minimum, a two-year degree with all the required technical skills.

What Do Graphic Designers Do?

Graphic designers use software and principles of art and design to communicate messages. They create logos, brand images, advertisements, publication layouts, and other visual concepts. Companies rely on graphic designers to make visual representations of their values, ideas, and identity.

As a graphic designer, you might work for a design firm or for directly for a company in their art or advertising and marketing departments. Designers also work for non-profits, government agencies, and publishers. Many are self-employed and work on a freelance basis.

Requirements for Graphic Designers

Graphic design is not a regulated industry in New Jersey or in any other state. If you’re interested in this career, you should earn a degree, but it isn’t strictly required. Most employers of graphic designers look for applicants with a four-year degree.

You can prepare for admission to a graphic design program by taking art and design classes in high school. Take any software design programs available at your school and keep your grades up for a competitive application.

Accredited Graphic Design Programs in New Jersey

The National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) is a widely-recognized agency for approving art and design schools and programs. If you are serious about education and a career in graphic design, it’s important to complete an accredited program. NASAD ensures that programs meet basic standards and provide students with what they have promised.

Rowan University, Glassboro

Rowan University’s Ric Edelman College of Communication and Creative Arts offers an excellent course of study for students hoping to become professional graphic designers. The College promotes experiential learning and relevant coursework to help students become artists, critical thinkers, storytellers, and engaged citizens.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio arts includes a graphic design specialization. As a studio arts program, the coursework includes much time spent in the studio, creating designs and solving problems. For graphic design students, this is essential for creating a professional portfolio that prepares them for employment after graduation.

In addition to general education and art courses, graphic design students take classes in color and design, graphic design, art history and history of graphic design, typography, color theory, packaging, visual communication, and publication. Students also participate in portfolio reviews to build their body of work.

The emphasis throughout the courses is using a wide range of knowledge to solve modern design problems. Students learn to be creative thinkers and problem solvers. They are encouraged to complete an internship and utilize independent study opportunities. Students interested in the BFA program must complete at least three studio courses and undergo a portfolio review for admission.

New Jersey City University, Jersey City

The William J. Maxwell College of Arts & Sciences houses NJCU’s art department, which offers students a range of art and design degrees. The art department staff helps develop students into working artists and designers with relevant coursework, practical experiences, traditional skills, and emerging technologies. Located in Jersey City, art and design students benefit from close proximity to New York City and its world-class art scene.

For a student interested in graphic design, the Bachelor of Fine Arts track prepares students to become professional designers. The program requires 83 credits in art courses. Another option is a Bachelor of Arts degree with a specialization in graphic arts and design. This course of study only requires 54 art credits, so it offers a broader liberal arts education.

The BFA is a good choice for anyone seriously interested in a graphic design career. It includes courses in 2D and 3D design, computer graphics, history of communication design, typography, desktop publishing, digital illustration, advertising design, package design, corporate publication design, user experience and user interface design, and more. There is an emphasis on human-centered design and solving societal problems with the design.

BFA students also complete studio research courses, a senior seminar, and portfolio preparation. They work toward the creation of a professional portfolio of their work, which is essential for the job search upon graduation.

Students apply to the BFA program after gaining admission to NJCU’s College of Arts & Sciences. You must have a 2.5 GPA overall and a 3.0 GPA in art courses. You must also complete the department’s foundational art courses before admission.

Montclair State University, Montclair

Montclair’s Department of Art and Design has been preparing future professional artists and designers for more than 50 years. Undergraduate students in the department begin with foundational art and design courses. They can then choose from several areas of concentration. Every program includes a focus on the creation of a portfolio of work for later employment. Students also have the chance to spend significant time working in studios and exhibiting their work on campus.

The Department of Art and Design offers students a Bachelor of Fine Arts concentration for those interested in graphic design: visual communication design. The students in this program begin with foundational courses in art history, design principles, color theory, and composition.

With a solid foundation in art and design basics, students take visual communication design required courses: critical design studies, visual culture, digital literacy, textiles, typography, creative coding, visual communication design studio, user interface design, motion design, marketing, communication and media, 3D printing, and more. All students work toward the creation of a senior portfolio. This collects their best work and is useful in seeking a job after graduation.

To be admitted to the BFA visual communication design program, students must first be admitted to the university. When you apply, you will indicate your interest in the Department of Art and Design. In your first year, you will take art and design courses and work on your portfolio. The faculty will review it to admit you to the degree program.

The College of New Jersey, Ewing

The College of New Jersey’s graphic design program is housed within the School of the Arts and Communication. The school prepares students with an art and design education grounded in the liberal arts. The focus is on creativity, technology, innovation, collaboration, and human connection.

Within the School of Arts and Communication, the Department of Art and Art History offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts major in graphic design. This program aims to train professional designers for a changing world. Students learn in an interdisciplinary environment, with fine art, studio art, technology, and graphic design classes taught by professional, nationally-recognized artists.

All students in the department begin with a year of foundational courses. These help provide the framework for specializing in a narrower area of study, like graphic design. Once admitted to the graphic design major, students focus on more intensive design courses: design fundamentals, typography, history of graphic design, graphic design theory and practice, motion graphics, and user interface and experience design.

Juniors and seniors in the program also take portfolio classes, learning to build and curate a professional portfolio of their work. They also take studio electives and are encouraged to complete internships for real-world experience.

Prospective students in the Department of Art and Art History must first apply to and gain admission to TCNJ as an undergraduate. You must then create and submit a portfolio of your work for review. Every year the department holds an Art Folio Day, an open house to encourage students to bring in their portfolios for review and advice from faculty.

How Much Do Graphic Designers Earn in New Jersey?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), graphic designers make a median annual salary of $50,710. In New Jersey, this rate is much higher, averaging $62,800. Top earners in the field in New Jersey make nearly $100,000 per year.

What is the Career Outlook for Graphic Designers?

The BLS reports that positions for graphic designers nationwide are growing at a rate of 3%. In New Jersey, growth is negative and dropping by about 1.5%. There will still be jobs available, though, as people retire or leave the state. Even with negative growth, the state should have nearly 800 open positions every year.

How to Find Your First Job in New Jersey

Finding work begins with your degree. Take courses seriously, earn good grades, and most importantly, build a professional portfolio. A portfolio of work is what employers really want to see. It shows that you can design for specific problems and to communicate messages. Look for jobs in the larger cities in New Jersey or in New York City. You might also want to try to start your own small business. Graphic design is an excellent career for virtual, freelance, and even part-time work.