Relevant qualifications are essential if you want to become a graphic designer. Courses are an excellent way to develop technical skills, build contacts and craft an impressive portfolio of work

It's well known that jobs in the creative industries are competitive and those in design are no different. To successfully secure a job as a graphic designer you'll need the right training and qualifications. Take a look at some examples of the graphic design courses on offer.

Graphic design degrees

While a lucky few may be able to secure work as a graphic designer purely through relevant work experience and an excellent portfolio, the design industry is generally made up of professionals educated to degree level. Therefore, you'll be expected to hold at least an undergraduate qualification.

You don't necessarily have to study graphic design, careers in the field are open to graduates of any design-related discipline, including:

  • 3D design
  • communication design
  • illustration or visual art
  • photography.

However, if you're set on becoming a graphic designer a variety of institutions offer specific graphic design courses, such as Leeds Arts University. During your first year of this three-year BA Graphic Design programme, you'll focus on the fundamentals of visual language and explore research methods and design practice. You'll work with typography, print, drawing processes, photography and screen-based media.

Moving into the second year you'll take part in workshops, critical assessments and seminars. You'll learn about audience, context, distribution and ethical issues. In your final year you're supported in building a portfolio, while discovering more about professional practice, business and marketing and project management. You'll exhibit your work at the end of year show.

To get onto this graphic design course you'll need 112 UCAS Tariff points, the equivalent of BBC grades at A-level - with one being in a relevant subject.

Alternatively, The University of Edinburgh offers a professional practice year as part of its four-year BA Graphic Design course. In your first year you'll be introduced to theoretical and practical concepts of graphic design through compulsory courses in graphic design and typography.

You will focus on exploring more theories in your second year, and in Applied Typography you'll study the terminology, rules, philosophy and history of typography from historical and contemporary viewpoints. Across both years you'll study key theories in the Design & Screen Cultures module.

After your third year is spent completing internships, at exhibitions and working on live projects, you'll use your final year to produce a written dissertation and exhibit your body of work.

To gain entry onto the course you'll need ABB at A-level or four Scottish Highers at ABBB.

Discover what you can do with a degree in graphic design.

Masters in graphic design

While a postgraduate qualification isn't a prerequisite, it can help you stand out from the competition.

The one-year Graphic Design MA at the University of Huddersfield encourages you to push the boundaries of graphic practice with the development of innovative and imaginative concepts and ideas. For entry onto this course, you'll need at least a 2:2 in a relevant subject. You'll be instructed by industry professionals in modules such as:

  • Research Method and Project Proposal
  • Graphic Design Concepts
  • Creative Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Creative Studio.

The study of these modules leads on to a major project before completing the course. Fees are set at £7,900 for UK students in the 2024/25 academic year.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) also offers a one-year, full-time Graphic Design MA, which to apply for you'll need at least a 2:2 in a relevant discipline, as well as a substantial creative portfolio. You'll study compulsory modules such as Research Methodologies, Specialist Practice and Graphic Design Advanced Practice, while being encouraged to break boundaries in the world of contemporary graphic design. UK students will pay tuition fees of £9,000 in 2024/25.

You can apply for a postgraduate loan and may be entitled to scholarships and bursaries to help fund your studies. Learn more about funding postgraduate study.

Search for postgraduate courses in graphic design and explore Masters degrees.

Online graphic design courses

Intensive in-person and online graphic design courses are available at all levels, including for those who are just starting out. These shorter training programmes are perfect for those trying to fit their learning around a full or part-time job.

At its London campus, Shillington offers a three-month (full time) or nine-month (part time) portfolio-based graphic design course for students with little to no design experience. There's also a part-time online option for those who would prefer to study via the distance learning route.

On this intensive course, you'll learn relevant industry skills from practising graphic designers and graduate with a polished portfolio of work. The programme takes you through the design process from beginning to end and covers design theory (design principles, typography, colour, design thinking) and industry-standard software such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Sketch. There are no specific entry requirements, and no previous experience is required.

If you choose to study the course online, the lectures  are delivered via Zoom with additional study materials also provided to its students.

Both full and part-time online courses cost £9,950.

Another intensive online graphic design course at foundation level is available from The Graphic Design School (TGDS). You can study at your own pace as you have up to 12 months to complete the 11 modules in areas such as Advanced Typography and Preparing Your Portfolio and achieve the certificate.

Other online entry-level graphic design courses are also available from universities and art schools. For instance, Central Saint Martins, a college of the University of the Arts London (UAL), runs an online graphic design short course for beginners over a four-week period.

The programme includes eight topics beginning with techniques to form and develop creative ideas, typography and logotypes and kerning, tracking and leading, before moving on to scale, spacing and positioning, poster design, magazine layout and using grids to enhance your work. The final unit on bookmaking and bookbinding requires you to make a small book and build your portfolio.

Aspiring graphic designers can also study short, ten-week evening courses at Nottingham Trent University. The short course for beginners combines theoretical and practical content and focuses on the development of ideas, the creative process and gaining an understanding of visual language, layout and typography.

How to get essential technical skills

Competence in Adobe software programmes such as InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat and Dreamweaver is essential for graphic designers. If you need to brush up on these technical skills, an assortment of short, standalone evening and weekend courses are available.

London training provider City Lit offers intensive one-day visual communication courses in InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop for design professionals.

Many universities, such as Nottingham Trent University, and art colleges also provide additional short courses in useful graphic design software.

There's also Certitec, an Adobe-authorised training centre operating in London that provides an array of one to five-day Adobe authorised training courses in a variety of Adobe programmes including Acrobat, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop.

No matter which graphic design course is right for you, they all aim to equip you with the qualifications, skills and confidence you need to succeed.

Graphic design apprenticeships

Apprenticeships enable you to earn while you learn and offer a viable alternative to university study. In competitive industries such as graphic design they let you train on the job and provide a foot in the door upon completion.

More commonly offered by large and medium-sized businesses, do your research to discover if there are any graphic design apprenticeship opportunities in your area.

If you opt for a degree apprenticeship, you'll obtain a Bachelors or Masters qualification while developing your skills and getting the chance to put them into practice. Degree apprenticeships can be studied over a period of one to six years, depending on the nature of your role and the method you choose to complete your studies.

Learn more about this route into the profession at what is an apprenticeship?

Visit how to apply for an apprenticeship for advice on securing a place.

Find out more

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