Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree: Tips & Video Tutorial (2023)

Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree: Tips & Video Tutorial (1)

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Talent, Skills, and a Good Portfolio Are More Important Than a Degree

Graphic design is a great career path for those who have an artistic eye and enjoy creative projects. Contrary to popular beliefs, a traditional four-year college degree is not required to become a professional graphic designer. Just because someone has a degree doesn’t make them automatically a great designer. A good portfolio that shows strong design skills is really important in this industry and is more important than a degree.

Can I Get Hired as a Graphic Designer Without a CollegeDegree?

Yes, the graphic design field has lucrative opportunities for those who enter the field, regardless of a college education. It’s estimated that designers earn an average salary of $58,000 in the United States, though this increases in areas like New York, New Jersey, and California.

If you are looking to jump-start your design career but are hesitant without a degree, there are steps you can take to help strengthen your design skills and secure a position. Alternative education routes are available for those who want to learn the field in a shorter amount of time or prefer to learn independently.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Graphic Designer?

Here’s an overview of the steps, which we discuss in more detail below (click any to jump down to that specific topic).

  1. Get Familiar with the Graphic Design Industry
  2. Learn Graphic Design Concepts
  3. Learn the Software
  4. Complete Personal Projects
  5. Build a Portfolio
  6. Gain Experience: Start Freelancing and/or Find Internships
  7. Do You Have a Niche?
  8. Stay Up To Date
  9. Learn From Someone Who Did It

1. Get Familiar with the Graphic Design Industry

A great way to learn more about the graphic design field and see if you want to pursue more training before committing to a longer course is to watch free YouTube videos.

Below is a video we made on how to get started in graphic design, to help you make sure graphic design is right for you, what apps designers use, and more. In the video you’ll learn:

  • What graphic designers do
  • The apps graphic designers use (Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, etc.)
  • See examples of design work
  • Strategies for developing a graphic design portfolio
  • How to get started learning graphic design

The slides shown in the above webinar can be viewed at

2. Learn Graphic Design Concepts

Once you know that graphic design is something you want to pursue, you need to form a plan for learning. If a four-year degree seems too time-consuming or expensive to pursue, there are different options for professional training that are faster and easier to obtain.

This graphic design certificate program is available in a live online format so that you can take them from any location. Certificate courses not only train you on industry software but provide projects as an opportunity to build your portfolio. They are more focused, and therefore can be completed in much less time than a multi-year degree program.

3. Learn the Software

If you want to start a graphic design career without a degree, it is crucial you master the software used by professionals in the industry. The most common software used by designers is the Adobe Creative Cloud and features popular apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Adobe XD, After Effects, and more.

Adobe Creative Cloud contains over 20 apps used for graphic design, along with fonts, a portfolio website, and more. A paid membership is required to gain access to download and use the software and other features.

4. Complete Personal Projects

Another way to gain valuable design experience is to work on your personal projects that spark your creativity. This is a no-pressure way to strengthen your skills within the various software and work towards developing your own style in the field. Always working for a client or company can shadow your own creative goals, which is why it’s important to keep a balance by working on your own projects throughout your career.

5. Build a Portfolio

Building and maintaining a portfolio is vital for any design professional, as it is often a client’s (or hiring mananger’s) first impression of your work and personal style. Different websites and platforms are available to help you create your own portfolio website, though there will be limitations with free options. One choice for design professionals is Adobe Portfolio because it’s included at no extra charge with the Creative Cloud, which most designers already have. Adobe Portfolio was built for designers, photographers, artists, and different types of creatives to showcase their work. Building a solid portfolio can help you stand out among other applicants with employers or other designers when trying to land a client.

6. Gain Experience: Start Freelancing and/or Find Internships

Start Freelancing

One of the best ways to gain design experience without a college degree is to start freelancing and promoting your services to clients. Once you understand the software used in the field, and develop a strong enough sense of design, you can use sites like Upwork and Fiverr to begin building a portfolio of work. It is important to verify any state or federal requirements for self-employment before starting your journey as a freelance designer.

Find Internships

Even if you are not a student or do not hold a college degree, there are internships available for those who have some experience in the field and want to gain experience for their career. It’s common to see entry-level internship positions posted on job board websites like Indeed, as well as through professional clubs or organizations. Search on LinkedIn for things like summer internship programs to try to find internships or job openings.

7. Do You Have a Niche?

The term graphic design actually covers a vast area of the design industry, including digital design, web design, motion graphics, and other focuses. Some of the biggest areas of digital design are user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design. Mastering UX and/or UI design can provide additional job opportunities in web design and app design, which tend to offer a more lucrative salary than other design positions.

Some designers focus on certain areas of design: web design, motion graphics, logo design, print design, etc. Finding your personal niche or specialty in the industry may help you identify your target audience and create a portfolio that truly showcases the type of work you’re best at or more passionate about.

While building a portfolio and interviewing for jobs, it can be helpful to have examples of your personal niche in the graphic design industry. That said, many designers do a variety of different types of design, so don’t feel like you have to focus on just one specific niche.

8. Stay Up To Date

Regardless of whether you hold a formal degree in design, staying updated on current trends in the industry and software processes is crucial for anyone looking to secure a new career role. Technology is always evolving, which means software can change each year with each new release. Taking refresher courses in software or best graphic design practices can help you stay up to date in the field and stand out from other applicants.

9. Learn From Someone Who Did It

Alex Pappas took our Graphic Design Certificate and has this to say about his experience and transition to becoming a graphic designer:

“My experience with Noble Desktop was exactly what I was looking for! I went from knowing nothing about graphic design to getting expert training all via Zoom. All of the professors I had were welcoming, engaging, and made me feel comfortable asking questions and seeking advice on how to use the Adobe apps.

I have since been able to pick up some freelance graphic design work as well as gain a new role in advertising/marketing with my current company that had been previously outsourced to a graphic design firm. I have become very skillful in corporate marketing and advertising. I also learned a lot about picture enhancing along the way, which really allows me to get the best out of photos I take on vacations or travels. I would recommend Noble Desktop to anyone who is looking to get into graphic design and learn a skill set that is invaluable in today’s world.”

Have Fun Learning & Designing!

Design is a fun and creative industry. While a four-year degree can help, it is not always required to secure a graphic design position or landing your first client. There are alternative options that can get you started much faster, so you can start freelancing or applying to jobs. Taking Noble Desktop’s Graphic Design Certificate program provides immersive training without the long commitment or high costs of a college degree.

As you’re learning, enjoy the process! We wish you all the best and success in your journey.

Noble Desktop

Noble Desktop is today’s primary center for learning and career development. Since 1990, our project-based classes and certificate programs have given professionals the tools to pursue creative careers in design, coding, and beyond.

More articles by Noble Desktop


Become a Graphic Designer Without a Degree: Tips & Video Tutorial? ›

While you don't need a formal education to become a graphic designer, you do need to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals. This means getting yourself primed on the principles of design, learning how to effectively use elements like color, contrast, hierarchy, balance, and proportion in your work.

Can you teach yourself to be a graphic designer? ›

While you don't need a formal education to become a graphic designer, you do need to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals. This means getting yourself primed on the principles of design, learning how to effectively use elements like color, contrast, hierarchy, balance, and proportion in your work.

How can I learn graphic design with no experience? ›

How to Become a Graphic Designer with No Experience 2023
  1. Website development. ...
  2. Print media. ...
  3. Gaming. ...
  4. Social media. ...
  5. Study basic graphic design principles. ...
  6. Take an online graphic design course or earn a certificate. ...
  7. Learn essential graphic design tools. ...
  8. Hone your graphic design skills through personal projects.
Oct 4, 2022

Does graphic designer need to learn video editing? ›

Graphic design doesn't necessarily include video editing. Graphic designers generally deal with static photos, either in a digital or physical format, such as: Posters. Business cards.

Is 30 too old to learn graphic design? ›

Is it ever too late to become a graphic designer? No, it is never too late to start a career as a graphic designer. There are several ways to develop the skills and knowledge for this role, and these are open to people of all ages.

Is 30 too old to become a graphic designer? ›


The mature person also has the ability to learn new skills but also add previous skills which are a fantastic mix for creative and unique ideas. Obviously, you need to have a passion for design in the first place to allow you to take new things on board.

How long does it take to learn how to design graphics? ›

The time it takes to become a Graphic Designer can vary depending on the person's education and experience. A typical university program can take four years, while a graphic design course or UX design bootcamp can range between a few weeks to a few months.

How can I practice graphic design at home? ›

How To Practise Graphic Design Skills
  1. Assess your current skills. Begin by making a list of your skills. ...
  2. Understand the industry requirements. ...
  3. List the skills you wish to improve. ...
  4. Get feedback on your design. ...
  5. Look at online tutorials and courses. ...
  6. Stay accountable. ...
  7. Join a group of designers. ...
  8. Read books on design.
Mar 20, 2023

What are the very basics of graphic design? ›

What Are the Basic Elements of Graphic Design? Line, shape, form, texture, space, imagery, typography and color. Understanding each of these basic elements of graphic design in isolation will help you see how to bring them together and open a whole world of creative possibilities.

What app can I use to learn graphic design? ›

For professionals, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, as well as PhotoDirector for beginners, is the most widely used graphic design programs.

What do I need to know before becoming a graphic designer? ›

There are a few key steps to starting a career in graphic design: learn the principles of design, enroll in a graphic design course, practice graphic design tools, work on projects, and build your graphic design portfolio. The first and most obvious step is to learn about graphic design theory and elements.

Can you learn graphic design without going to college? ›

Do You Need a Degree to Be a Graphic Designer? While some graphic designers certainly use a college degree to enter the creative field, it's not a requirement. Many companies hire entry level designers based solely on their portfolio and experience, rather than if they have a degree.

Can I learn graphic design without coding? ›

Learning to code for designers is not necessary. But if they know a bit about code, they can understand a developer's perspective. It doesn't mean that they have to be an expert coder. But it would greatly benefit them if they knew a little about how to code HTML and CSS, maybe a little bit of JavaScript.

Can I learn graphic design in 3 months? ›

It is possible to become an amateur Graphic Designer who is well on the road to becoming a professional Graphic Designer in about three months. In short, three months is what it will take to receive the professional training required to start building a set of competitive professional job materials.

Can I be graphic designer at 50? ›

For a career change at 50 into graphic design or a related creative industry, you'll need a portfolio of your work that you'll use to apply for jobs. A graphic design portfolio is a document of what you can do and the projects you've worked on.

Can I learn graphic design in 6 months? ›

Yes, you can grasp the basics of graphic design in 2 months, but it takes several years to master it. In fact, you'll learn that even decades later you can keep improving your skills.

Can you live off of being a graphic designer? ›

Yes, many graphic designers are able to make a living from their careers. However, income can vary based on factors such as experience, location, and industry.

Is it stressful to be a graphic designer? ›

Graphic design is no more stressful than any other field,” says graphic designer Ryan Mungia. “A lot of the stress depends on what kind of job you have and who you are doing it for.” That said, there are a few common sources of stress for graphic designers: Keeping up with deadlines.

Who is the youngest graphic designer? ›

Sareer Shaukat, a student of class IX has had a keen interest in computer science and information technology since he was just ten years old. Along with his studies, he spends most of his time on the computer and is busy learning web designing and graphics.

How do I know if graphic design is for me? ›

If you dream of spending your days doing something active at work, graphic design might not be the right career for you. Design is inherently a desk-based job. If you enjoy spending your days in front of a computer being creative and collaborating with others, then design is a great fit.

Can I learn graphic design in 2 weeks? ›

Students looking to become comfortable experimenting with the tools can learn graphic design in only a few weeks. Students looking to master the tools for professional use may take months or even years to become comfortable with them.

Can I learn graphic design in 4 months? ›

If you want to start building your portfolio and learning the basics of design, you can do so in just a few months. However, it can take years to fully immerse into a design career and become a truly successful Graphic Designer.

What are the 7 rule of graphic design? ›

The fundamental principles of design are: Emphasis, Balance and Alignment, Contrast, Repetition, Proportion, Movement and White Space.

What are the golden rules of graphic design? ›

One of the golden rules of graphic design is using alignment. Organization and order are of high importance, especially when, but not limited to, placing texts. Randomly doing so will result in disorder and clutter, which can make your viewers turn their attention elsewhere.

What are the 4 rules of graphic design? ›

The four graphic design principles are contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity (C.R.A.P.).

How much should I charge as a beginner graphic designer? ›

Hourly rates: $25 - 150 per hour

Hourly graphic design rates vary based on experience and design specialty. Typically, more experienced graphic designers will charge between $65 to $150 per hour. In contrast, more entry-level freelance design rates range from $25 to $50 per hour.

How can I make money as a graphic designer without a degree? ›

  1. Get Familiar with the Graphic Design Industry. ...
  2. Learn Graphic Design Concepts. ...
  3. Learn the Software. ...
  4. Complete Personal Projects. ...
  5. Build a Portfolio. ...
  6. Gain Experience: Start Freelancing and/or Find Internships. ...
  7. Do You Have a Niche? ...
  8. Stay Up To Date.
Jul 15, 2022

Can I learn graphic design on my own online? ›

There are lots of online graphic design courses that can help you hone your design talents, offered by universities, graphic design experts, and online course hubs like Udemy.

Can graphic design be done by hand? ›

A graphic designer can work with print or digital media, and designs can be accomplished by hand or using computer software.

What are the 5 C's of graphic designing? ›

Enhance the way your work impacts others by using the 5 C's: Content, Consistency, Color, Connection, and Clean.

What are the 12 rules of graphic design? ›

There are twelve basic principles of design: contrast, balance, emphasis, proportion, hierarchy, repetition, rhythm, pattern, white space, movement, variety, and unity. These visual and graphic design principles work together to create appealing and functional designs that make sense to users.

What does a beginner graphic designer do? ›

Entry-level graphic designers train to become skilled in the manipulation of colors, shapes, fonts, images, photography, print design, logos, and animation, and may use computer software or draw by hand.

What is the easiest graphic design software to learn? ›

13 Best Graphic Design Software for Beginners [2022 Updated]
  • Canva - Best for Stock Content. ...
  • DesignWizard - Best for Templates. ...
  • CorelDRAW Standard - Best for Illustrators. ...
  • Adobe Express - Best for Social Media. ...
  • Visme - Best for Businesses. ...
  • Affinity Designer - Best for Precision Edits. ...
  • PicMonkey - Best for Frames.
Feb 17, 2023

Which software to learn first for graphic design? ›

Adobe Photoshop is easily the most recognizable of the graphic design software.

Is there a free design app? ›

Canva is a powerful, but still simple-to-use, template-based free design app. There are over a million templates, graphics, and photos you can use as part of the free plan (that goes up to multiple millions of assets with a Canva Pro subscription).

Which type of graphic design is most in demand? ›

Digital Designer

A digital designer creates solutions for websites, product graphics, email templates, social media graphics, brand campaigns, and photography. They usually work on a team or as a freelancer.

How can I learn design skills? ›

11 Ways to Improve Your Graphic Design Skills
  1. Subscribe to graphic design blogs. ...
  2. Get a graphic design mentor. ...
  3. Refine your skills with a graphic design course. ...
  4. Brush up on design theory. ...
  5. Follow graphic designers on social media. ...
  6. Read graphic design books. ...
  7. Master your design tools. ...
  8. Practice graphic design briefs.
Dec 19, 2022

Can I be a graphic designer if I can't draw? ›

Graphic Designers do not need to draw but instead need to create appealing designs using assets such as images, typography, illustrations. In contrast, an Illustrator will focus on drawing to communicate a message.

Can a non artist learn graphic design? ›

Unlike drawing, many of the skills you will need to thrive in a graphic design career can be taught, according to Kandra Churchwell, a designer at Phases Design Studio. “While you don't have to be a Picasso or Monet, you do need to understand the basics of design, all of which can be learned,” Churchwell explains.

How can I learn to design a logo? ›

Using a logo design process. Research before you start. Sketching ideas.
There's always more to learn about logo design, so here's a few free ways you can keep learning:
  1. Keep practicing. ...
  2. Study the best designers and agencies. ...
  3. Network with other designers. ...
  4. Listen to the Logo Geek Podcast to learn from other designers.
Nov 30, 2018

Can I work in as a graphic designer without experience? ›

Entry-level jobs in graphic design: What you should know in 2023. An entry-level job in graphic design requires little or no prior experience and taps your graphic design skills to communicate visually with an audience.

How to do graphic design for beginners? ›

25 graphic design tips for non-designers and beginners
  1. Limit your typefaces. Remix this design. ...
  2. Don't be scared of scale. ...
  3. Respect the space of other elements. ...
  4. Use a small color scheme. ...
  5. Create Clean, crisp and clear imagery. ...
  6. Use fonts to help inform the mood of your design. ...
  7. Create order with alignment. ...
  8. Keep your designs simple.

How long does it take to teach yourself graphic design? ›

Students looking to become comfortable experimenting with the tools can learn graphic design in only a few weeks. Students looking to master the tools for professional use may take months or even years to become comfortable with them.

Is graphic design an easy career to get into? ›

With all its diversity, graphic design is a very competitive field. Sure, it's fairly easy to land great projects if you have years of experience. However, the market looks quite a bit different through the eyes of an entry-level designer.

Do you have to be good at math to be a graphic designer? ›

Pursuing a degree in graphic design requires significant artistic training, but understanding key math components is also necessary. Being aware of the math course requirements at both the undergraduate and graduate levels can help you assess if a degree in graphic design is right for you.

What should I first learn for graphic design? ›

There are a few key steps to starting a career in graphic design: learn the principles of design, enroll in a graphic design course, practice graphic design tools, work on projects, and build your graphic design portfolio. The first and most obvious step is to learn about graphic design theory and elements.

Can I become a graphic designer at 50? ›

Some people are born with a creative streak. Others are developed as they get older. Some don't even find theirs until they've been a career for years! Though, it doesn't matter when you found your creativity, if you've got it then you can be a graphic designer.

What age do most graphic designers start? ›

Graphic Designer Age
Graphic Designer YearsPercentages
40+ years42%
30-40 years35%
20-30 years24%
Sep 9, 2022

What is an entry-level graphic designer called? ›

Junior graphic designers are entry-level graphic designers with little to no work experience. Junior graphic designers are also called junior designers, associate designers and production artists. They work with senior graphic designers on projects.

What do entry-level designers do? ›

An entry-level graphic designer is responsible for producing still images, videos and other visual elements for websites, magazines, presentations, television, movies, billboards and other media. These professionals are crucial for an organization to build and maintain a brand as well while driving sales.

How do I get my first graphic design job? ›

How to get a graphic design job
  1. Develop your skills. Start familiarizing yourself with essential graphic design tools and software packages. ...
  2. Consider formal education. ...
  3. Get an internship. ...
  4. Begin freelancing. ...
  5. Develop your portfolio. ...
  6. Find and join an industry community. ...
  7. Prepare your materials.
  8. Study the organization.
Jul 21, 2022

Is a graphic design degree worth it or worthless? ›

The data revealed that 88 percent of employers prefer candidates to have a graphic design associate's degree or higher. So whether you earn an associate or bachelor's degree in design, having this formal education under your belt qualifies you to apply for nearly 10 times as many jobs as an individual with no degree.

What are the requirements for a graphic designer? ›

Is it smart to go to school for graphic design? ›

Absolutely. In fact, the opportunity to work with, be inspired by and just be around a whole bunch of fellow creatives for a considerable amount of time is one of the biggest benefits of a graphic design degree.

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