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Graphic Design Certificate: Is It Worth It & Necessary for my Career?

A graphic designer is a multitude of things—they’re a visual communicator, a problem solver, a creative thinker; they work in editorial, typography, information design and many, many other things. Graphic design is a career full of endless possibilities—and it all starts with a certificate in graphic design from a graphic design course or school. In fact, getting a graphic design certificate can make a massive impact on your career. Read this post to learn why.

What is a Graphic Design Certificate?

You may find yourself asking “well what exactly is a graphic design certificate?” Simply, it’s a certificate showing that you have successfully completed a graphic design course and can now call yourself a graphic designer.

Whether you’ve undertaken a graphic design short course like we offer at Shillington or a traditional university degree (read more about the different courses on offer later), you’ll receive a graphic design certificate at the end of the course.

Certificates are awarded to graduates to show that they have learnt all aspects of the course, including all the software and tools necessary and design thinking and theory; that they have got what it takes to become a graphic designer and, importantly, created their own portfolio of their design work.

Ultimately, certification in graphic design, paired with your portfolio of design work, shows that you’re able to think and act like a graphic designer.

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Is Getting a Graphic Design Certificate Worth It?

Gaining a certificate in graphic design can be really beneficial to your career as it is the only way to show that you are a fully fledged designer—and provides official documentation that you have the skills to start your career in the design world, usually as a junior designer in a design studio or agency. In this day and age, there are many self-taught designers working in the design world but a qualification can help you stand out amongst other designers, especially if there is a huge stack of applications on an employers’ desk.

Alternatively, you could work as a freelance designer, finding work and clients for yourself with that all important certificate to show that you’ve got the skills to keep your clients happy. Though, there are many other routes your career can take—including loads of unexpected careers that can come from earning a graphic design certificate, from letterpress printer to surface pattern designer!

On top of this, graphic designers are in high demand. Take a look at some of these jobs’ boards and you’ll see how many studios, agencies and companies all over the world are looking for designers.

After all, everyone from blossoming start-ups to the world’s biggest companies need things designed for them every day! It’s also a consistently growing industry all over the world.

In the USA, there is over a quarter of a million specifically graphic designer jobs and the industry is set to continue growing until at least 2026, with digital design in particular growing up to 26%. Similarly in Australia, when it was last recorded in 2021, there were over 46,000 people working as graphic or web designers with a projected change of 21.7% or almost 14,000 jobs by 2026—making it the largest cultural occupation in the country.

Back in 2015, the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport reported that there has been a 17.7% rise in graphic design jobs which now in 2023 stands at around 102,000 people working as graphic designers in the UK—the second largest design sector in the world and the largest in Europe.

With this continued rise in the amount of jobs in the industry, gaining yourself a certificate in graphic design could be extremely beneficial for boosting your career.

Do Companies Value a Graphic Design Certificate when Hiring?

Although as we’ve seen graphic design is a fruitful career, even if you’re not planning on becoming a designer then the skills, concepts and mindset that you will develop whilst earning a graphic design certificate will benefit and be useful in any career. Some skills, such as being able to work to tight deadlines, are transferable to practically any line of work.

Moreover, the creative skills you learn will make you a more well-rounded person and could even make you stand out to a potential employer. Whether you’re planning for a design job or not, these skills a graphic design certificate will show you have may also increase your level of income—the more skills you have, the more you are likely to get paid.

Companies that you’re applying to will seriously value you having a graphic design certificate as it will show you have a diverse range of skills that will make you a disciplined, interesting employee, whether or not you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer or not.

Despite this, it’s highly unlikely that a potential employer will ask to see your physical graphic design certificate during an interview, but seeing that you have one as a qualification on your CV, in the ‘Education’ section of your LinkedIn or on the ‘about me’ section of your portfolio website will make a huge difference! It not only means that they can see you’ve got those skills, and also shows that you have invested in and know the importance of your education.

How Difficult is to get a Graphic Design Certificate?

So, you now understand how a graphic design certificate can benefit both you and your career, but how difficult is to get certification in graphic design? Well, how long is a piece of string?

The time it takes to gain one depends on the course you choose and the amount of work you put in to it.

Like studying for anything, the more you put in to it the more you will get out of it.

A graphic design certificate will require you to give it your all, put a lot of work in, and make a financial investment, but once you do it will all be worth it.

Graphic Design Certificate Courses in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia

Whilst we are thinking about gaining a graphic design certificate, it’s worth thinking about the different options for studying in the USA, Australia and the UK. We broke down the most common types of courses for earning a certificate in all three countries.

In the United Kingdom, there are 847 different design courses so there’s no shortage of ways to gain your graphic design certificate to choose from!

There’s also huge variety in terms of content and the time they take to complete. There’s different short courses all over the UK, some of which are as short as four days long and cover a specific part of the industry, such as brand strategy, and other more in depth short courses, such as Shillington’s, can be three months full-time or nine months part-time.

There is also the more traditional degree option, which usually requires five GCSEs and 2 A-Levels including one in a related subject, and occasionally art and design foundation degree. Degrees usually take three years, sometimes with an optional fourth year, and the contact hours differ depending on which course you choose—and the amount of work you choose to put in.

There’s also the option of completing a Level 3 BTEC, a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a Higher National Certificate (HNC) which take 2 years full-time, 2 years full-time or 3 years part-time or 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time respectively.

Meanwhile in the United States, there are similarly many options to choose from when thinking of where to gain a graphic design certification.

In the US, there are over 300 institutions, including universities, smaller private colleges and esteemed art academies, offering graphic design degree programmes—all of which are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

These offer associate degrees, which last approximately two years, and bachelor’s degrees, which last four years with roughly 120-180 credit hours. There is also a growing number of online courses from the same institutions, which differ in both content and duration. As with in the UK, there’s also a number of different short courses across the country—with a majority in New York City, including Shillington’s American campus.

In Australia, you can earn a Certificate IV in Design which shows that you have a range of specialised technical and conceptual knowledge and skills, and that you have “integrated technical and theoretical knowledge and the ability to develop concepts and solutions in response to a brief.”

This can take up to a year to gain, but the Shillington graphic design bootcamp enables you to gain the Certificate IV in just three months full-time or nine months part-time. There are also other formal qualifications to gain certification in graphic design in Australia, a Diploma of Graphic Design which takes on average one year to gain, and a Bachelor of Design, which takes three or four years.

In other words, the time it takes to gain a graphic design certificate is up to you! It entirely depends on the course you choose to take and how much time you want to invest in earning yourself graphic design certification.

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How Much Will it Cost to get a Graphic Design Certificate?

As well as time, it’s also worth considering how much it will cost you to get a graphic design certificate. Again, this can differ greatly depending on where you study and what course you choose.

To give a slight insight into the difference, we have broken down how much a graphic design degree and a graphic design short course, taking Shillington’s as an example, to give some examples of how much a course can cost. Tuition costs below as of July 2019.

In the UK, an average undergraduate degree for a domestic student costs £9,250 so a four year degree will cost £37,000, excluding maintenance and cost of living. In contrast, the Shillington course at their London campus costs £11,400 for three months full-time and £9,540 for nine months part-time and, in Manchester, £7,800 full-time and £7,140 part-time.

Further in the US, though it differs on whether you choose to study in-state or out-of-state, the average annual fee to study for a graphic design degree is $33,215—making a four year cost an average of $132,860. Shillington’s short course, which is based in New York, costs $13,950 for the full-time option and $12,950.

Finally in Australia, a popular graphic design degree course will cost you around $22,000 a year, which makes the complete degree cost around $66,000 on average. The short course at Shillington in Australia differs in price depending on where you study. In Sydney and Melbourne, the full-time course is $13,950 and the part-time course is $13,450. It’s slightly cheaper in Brisbane, costing $10,950 for the full-time course and $9,450 for the part-time.

Each outcome, no matter the cost or time taken, will end with you earning a graphic design certificate so it’s up to you to research which course you think will be the best fit for you, which one suits the way you work and, ultimately, which will make you the happiest.

Once you’ve mulled over all of these things in your mind you will also need to remember that earning a graphic design certificate will require you to be open-minded, hard-working, punctual and reliable, creative, engaging, friendly, fearless, disciplined and so many more things.

It’s no walk in the park but will be so worth it once that graphic design certificate is in your hands, and you’re trained, prepared and confident for your creative career!

Follow this guide on how to learn graphic design, even if you’re a total beginner.

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Laura Carrick
February 11, 2023

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