Graphic Design Schools in West Virginia

Graphic designers are an important part of today’s business landscape. A career in this field can lead you into a variety of industries where you will be creating the visual representations that go into branding, brochures, advertisements, magazines, websites, displays and product packaging. If you are looking for a career in this field, you will find many available options for in-person or remote work.

According to 2021 wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary of someone working as a graphic designer in West Virginia is $38,730. This is considerably lower than the national average of $50,710. Entry-level graphic designers may start as low as $24,370 and top designers may earn as much as $62,510.

Competition in this field is tight but it is a field that will continue to be important to many industries. A quality education can help you stand out as the ideal candidate for many employers and clients in West Virginia and beyond.

So, how do you choose the college and program that is right for you? Make a list of what you feel is important for you to learn in order to pursue your desired career path. Then, use the list to review the options available from each school you consider to determine which program best suits your goals.

What Is Required?

While working in the field of graphic design does not require formal education or any certifications, a postsecondary degree can certainly put you ahead of the competition. Achieving a degree from an accredited institution can be just the edge you need to land the job you desire in West Virginia.

Certain companies will not consider someone who has not received formal instruction in graphic design. You’ll also usually be required to present a strong portfolio to demonstrate your skills. Your portfolio of sample work is usually created during your coursework in graphic design degree programs, setting you up for success as you complete your education and begin to explore career opportunities.

What to Look for in a School

With so many programs to choose from in West Virginia, you may have a difficult time deciding on one. Considering the following may help with your choice:

  • Hands On Education—One of the best ways to learn how to create graphic designs is by practice. The more hands-on training you receive, the better you’ll be prepared for a career.
  • Quality Teachers—Don’t hesitate to explore the reputation of the school and its instructors. You will learn best from those who are invested in your achievements and have the knowledge to foster success in their students.
  • Suitable Content—While the basic skills needed for graphic design should be covered, the curriculum should also allow you to explore more niche avenues that are in line with your goals.
  • Internships—An internship can be the key to really learning your trade and getting a foot in the door with a quality employer.

Best Schools in West Virginia

Now that you know what to look for, you will want to get to the business of choosing the school that best suits you. West Virginia has many quality programs at top schools that rank highly in both the state and the country. The list below includes some of the top-ranked schools in the state. Any of these will provide you with the education you need to become a successful graphic designer.

West Virginia University – Morgantown, WV

West Virginia University (WVU) sits on the edge of the Monongahela River in downtown Morgantown, West Virginia. The city’s population is around 30,000 people, but the broader metro area swells to more than 138,000.

WVU offers both a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design (BFA) and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduate degree designed to prepare students for top careers in the field.

Students attending courses in the BFA Program learn vital skills in typography, color, drawing, design and the creative process. The program provides hands-on learning in their model design studio. The studio serves about thirty customers each year, allowing students to immerse themselves in the role of a project director tasked with creating a suitable design. Seniors attend a portfolio class, creating sample work that they will present at an event set up to garner feedback from professionals in the industry.

The MFA graduate degree requires students to perform extensive research into how they can convey their ideas effectively. A thesis must be presented at a major conference for completion.

Concord University – Athens, WV

Concord University is located on a knoll overlooking the mountains of Mercer County in Athens, West Virginia. The population of the city hovers around 60,000.

This public university offers a BFA in Advertising/Graphic Design  that centers around providing students with adequate instruction in studio art, illustration, print design and web design. Their program includes hands-on artistic design development in a studio setting and computer learning in a modern lab utilizing top industry hardware and software. Visits to museums, art exhibits, printing companies and advertising firms are conducted regularly to submerge students in the creative arts.

During the sophomore year, faculty members assess partial portfolios and essays to provide input on student progress. The junior year review includes a faculty assessment of completed portfolios and resumes via a mock interview. These reviews will result in suitable internships with local, national and international employers.

West Virginia Wesleyan College – Buckhannon, WV

West Virginia Wesleyan College is a private United Methodist college located in Upshur County, West Virginia. Though a smaller campus compared to some of its counterparts, this college sports a top-notch program for those seeking the education required to become a graphic designer.

Students who pursue a BA in Art and Design will learn to effectively communicate through the graphic designs they create for print and digital media. The skills they need to engage a wide audience through efficient audience assessment and creative design are the core of this curriculum, which is taught through a combination of textbook knowledge, manual design and digital design skills that include video creation, animated art and 3D printing.

Graduates of this program are prepared to enter the world of graphic design with a wide range of skills developed from hands-on learning, creative concept development, problem resolution and achieving positive relational communications.

West Liberty University – West Liberty, WV

The rural campus of West Liberty University in the northern panhandle town of West Liberty spreads across 290 acres in Ohio County, West Virginia. The small-town vibe at what is one of the oldest learning institutions in the United States is an ideal setting to learn the skills needed to take you to the next level in achieving a career in graphic design.

West Liberty offers a BA in Visual Communications Design, a rebranding of their former degree in graphic design. Their program aims to teach students how to embrace design and visualize the user experience in order to develop effective designs that have meaning. Instructors work with students to hone skills in both traditional and digital artwork for packaging, print, apps, video, websites and motion graphics. Once a foundation in art and design theory is learned, students progress to a studio environment where their knowledge is put to the test.

The focus of this program is on developing a student’s skills in visual representation, verbal and written communications, presentation and digital technology. The education received in this degree program provides graduates with an exceptional foundation meant to secure a career in fields such as publishing, graphic design, multimedia arts, website creation or any one of a number of related specialist careers.

Marshall University – Huntington, West Virginia

Marshall University is located in the tri-state area of West Virginia which borders Kentucky and Ohio. The city of Huntington boasts a medium-sized population with more than 365,000 residents located in the metro area that surrounds the campus.

The Marshall University School of Art & Design offers a BA in Visual Arts and Design allows students to narrow down the niche they wish to pursue based on their goals. Choices include Print Graphic Design, New Media and Web Design or Illustration. A minor can be selected to broaden the scope of training received.

During the junior or senior year of the undergraduate program, students are given an opportunity to travel to New York, Washington, Chicago or Florence, Italy to experience where their education can take them and expose them to the rigors of the career they have chosen. The courses include hands-on experience in the university’s art studio, a physical portfolio and an established digital footprint that can be taken into the job market with new graduates as they seek employment in their chosen field.

Working as a Graphic Designer

With expected average job growth of only 3 percent, equaling a job gain of only 7,300 positions, competition in the field of graphic design is expected to be fierce for years to come. The appropriate education could well make the difference in whether you land the job instead of getting passed over for more formally educated competition.

A graphic design degree can prepare you for a wide range of employment in a location of your choice, including charting your own course as a freelance graphic design artist or an entrepreneur with a vision all your own. A solid education is just the starting block from which you will propel yourself out the gate toward a winning career in graphic design.