Today’s college student has to think very carefully about a future career path, to insure he can find work that is both personally fulfilling and financially lucrative. Gone are the days when you could float through school, taking classes simply because you are interested in them, graduating with a humanities degree and expecting to find gainful employment. The job market in 2013 is insanely competitive. There are more jobs today than there were a year ago, as most industries that were contracting are beginning to grow again. The strictness of the recession is loosening, but quality jobs are hotly contested. Talented, experienced professionals have spent the past several years either underemployed or completely unemployed, meaning they are willing to take entry-level jobs that used to be available to students. One career that offers a nice mix of growth opportunity, creativity and financial support is graphic design. But are you ready for a career in graphic design?
The first thing you must consider is whether you possess the qualities that make for a strong graphic designer. Creativity is hugely important in this career path. You don’t necessarily have to be a master artist, but you should definitely be comfortable sketching, and should be able to use visual forms to convey ideas. Some graphic designers do that with photography, others with fonts, yet others with 3D animation. But regardless of your format of choice, you must be savvy at conveying ideas and solving problems for brands in a visual way.
The educational path you take will also play a role in the sort of graphic design positions you could land. There are specific schools for graphic design all across the world, and many offer a quality education. Keep in mind that the reputation of the program is as important if not more important than the classes themselves. So you might actually be better off taking on a graphic design major at a four-year university with a great reputation, even if the classes aren’t quite as strong. Another smart move is to choose a program with a multimedia focus. Many of the best graphic design jobs involve the internet, and you’ll want to have experience working in a wide variety of formats. Check out the professors involved in any program, as they should be experienced in the field and respected amongst their peers.
You should also consider taking on a graphic design internship during your senior year of college. This is the sort of creative field that is built off of experience, and if you don’t have examples to show a potential hiring manager you will be passed over. There are just too many talented graphic designers out there. An internship will give you the opportunity to expand your portfolio beyond what you do in school, and hopefully work on the team that launches some actual products into the marketplace. Your best bet would either be a small firm that offers you huge opportunity to do the actual work, or a mid-sized company where your role is smaller but the projects are regional, national or international in size. The highest paid bouncing orange creative web designer doesn’t get that sort of position as a green college graduate. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get as much work under your belt as possible. And you shouldn’t wait until after graduation to start this process.