Graphic design involves so many disciplines; it may be difficult for today’s would-be graphic designer to be successful in all disciplines. Graphic design involves illustration, animation, computer-generated graphics, photography, font design, layout, etc. Anyone with inherent graphic design skills, even if un-schooled, may find success somewhere in the industry.
However, the field is becoming so diverse with so many disciplines particularly with regard to digitally-created or manipulated graphics, an educational background is becoming essential. An Associate degree may suffice. In some cases, a Bachelor’s degree may not yet suffice. A large corporation is likely to avoid hiring an uneducated designer regardless of his or her portfolio.
There is no certification required to obtain post-graduation, so a general graphic design-related degree may be sufficient. Or, the interested student may have a specific target career in mind, such as feature film animation, for which specific courses are going to be expected to have been mastered in order to be hired at Disney, Pixar, etc.
A well-rounded graphic design education can be obtained at most of the typical private and public institutions. Some will specialize in this field and may carry some advantage with hiring companies, but, unless it is a very elitist company, a degree from X State University will likely have as much weight as a more expensive degree from Harvard.
However, there are also highly recognized and admired degree programs from institutions that specialize in graphic design degree programs, like the Art Center in Pasadena, CA, or the Art Institute at various locations around the country. These are prestigious institutions that carry the prominence in graphic design that a professional from Harvard may have in elite legal firms.
These latter, focused institutions will have facilities specifically geared to the profession in abundance, and those facilities are likely to be kept up to date more readily than ordinary colleges and universities. As a result, they are usually more expensive than a degree from X State University.
A final option is to obtain the necessary education from an online university. Particularly because much of graphic design is now performed employing a computer, the desktop becomes the former art studio. A desk or laptop with appropriate software and Internet access can be the sum total of the educational facilities, regardless of location.
A graphic designer with a college education and a portfolio from that institution may have a leg-up over the uneducated designer even with an impressive portfolio.