Graphic Design degree: Bachelor’s or Associate : Another Perspective

In the Graphic Design Field, a Bachelor’s degree carries more weight than an Associate’s because the Bachelor’s degree is harder to obtain and takes longer to obtain.

Is it better to get a graphic design bachelors degree or an associates degree in graphic design

Graphic Design degree: Bachelor’s or Associate : Another Perspective

by Ben Baker

Graphic Design is one of those careers which to my thinking is not suited for a liberal arts college degree. The liberal arts education does not give a person the technical knowledge they need to go out and do the mechanics of the job. A technical college degree, and by that I mean the vocational-technical colleges where students are put to work instead of being lectured to, is where the graphic design degree students shine.

The first few years after graduation is where you will find the biggest difference between a graphic designer who has an associate’s degree and a bachelors degree is. Why? Because in those first few years after graduation, a student probably does not have a body of work to carry to job interviews and does not have the experience of someone who’s had a Graphic Arts (GA) or Graphic Design (GD) job for several years. When seeking a job, you must rely on your degree. A prospective employer is going to look at you in this light: What degree does this new graduate have? Where is the degree from? Does the school have a good reputation in the Graphic Arts field? What kind of classes did the graduate take? Does the graduate have any work examples from his or her classes? Did the graduate work outside school in Graphic Design?

What degree?

Both degrees require core subjects. Many times both degrees require the same kind and amount of core subjects - language, math, etc. With that in mind, the difference between an Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degree is how much attention, time, study and actual work is spent on Graphic Design work.

An Associate’s degree has around half the amount of schooling that a bachelor’s degree will have. Since both degrees typically require the same amount of core subjects, an Associate’s degree has less emphasis on the heart of the degree, Graphic Arts. An Associate’s Degree typically only introduces a student to the subject at hand. A few lower level courses bring the student in contact with some of the tools of the trade. Some attention may be given to graphic design, but that will not be the emphasis.

A Bachelor’s Degree is more advanced than an Associates. Core subjects are covered with the same attention given to an Associate’s. But far more attention is put on the actual Graphic Design work. There are more courses to take, more labs to take, more work to do, harder subject matter and more advanced instruction and tool use.

In short, if two students enter college with the exact same background and one gets an Associate’s degree and the other a Bachelor’s, the Bachelor’s Degree student will leave college with more of an education. If both students, who have the same backgrounds, but are accepting two different degrees, apply for the same job, the Bachelor’s will most likely get the job.

There’s also a pay scale difference. Employers are willing to pay more for a graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree than a graduate with an Associate’s. The Associate’s Degree graduate can work up to the same pay grade as a Bachelor’s, but by then the Bachelor’s degree has moved into an even higher pay grade. This pay grade difference gap does close over the course of a year, especially with talented artists. But when the lifetime earnings are considered, every study I have ever seen shows the total earnings for a Bachelor’s degree is well ahead of that of an Associate’s degree. Those first years right out of school are very telling.

Work experience is more valuable than a degree, according to employers. A degree simply means a person managed to go to school. Work experience means the person is capable of doing the job. But if the attention is turned to ability to do something, a Bachelor’s degree carries more weight than an Associate’s because the Bachelor’s degree is harder to obtain and takes longer to obtain.

Ben Baker is 10 hours shy of a second bachelor’s degree, He has employed a number of Graphic Artists during his newspaper career.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 26, 2007 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    I would have thought if you went to the effort of an associate degree you may as well finish it and get the bachelors.

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