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how to become a graphic designer without a degree

How To Become A Graphic Designer Without A Degree: College Dropouts Step-By-Step Guide

Wondering how to become a graphic designer without a degree?

It’s undeniable how important a college diploma is when finding a job. 

While there are many benefits of being a college graduate, such as more job opportunities, higher salary, and the satisfaction of achievement and success, life doesn’t end with being a college dropout. 

Despite these benefits, having a bachelor’s degree doesn’t equate to success the same way; not going to college means being a failure. 

It’s obvious how expensive going to college is, excluding the fact that some students are still undecided about what to pursue by the time they needed to start college. 

For some, their current job seems to satisfy their needs, and they decide to settle to take a different venture. 

And some are inspired by other people who didn’t finish college yet turned out to be successful. 

No matter the reason, there are many ways on how to become a graphic designer without a degree.

This article will give you an idea on how to become one without pursuing college.

The Complete Guide


Being a college dropout or deciding not to pursue a college degree doesn’t mean that the learning must stop. 

Considering the era we live in, there are tons of other ways to learn almost anything.

1. Read a book.

Books are a reliable source of information. 

Textbooks are the main reference in schools.

So if you think college is not for you, try to buy books or read in a public library and learn something yourself. 

Although it won’t be as easy as it seems to be, as long as you’re learning something useful, then it’s worth the effort and hard work.

Aside from books, you can also consult magazines and journals made by expert and known graphic designers. 

Considering it won’t be as complex and comprehensive compared to what books can provide, these references include tips and tricks from professional graphic designers that you can apply and use to your works.

However, if you don’t know what book/s to buy due to the wide range of availability and suggestions, the first thing you need to do is to limit your options. 

Be specific and think of an exact topic you want to read about.

To exemplify, there are books about branding, graphic design in a generalized view, or books about successful designers themselves. 

Then, read reviews and feedback about different books available. 

Finding the right book won’t be easy, but there’s a guarantee that you’ll learn something in any book that you choose.

2. Watch vlogs and tutorials.

YouTube is a very popular online video sharing website today.

Try browsing YouTube for tutorials and vlogs by professional graphic designers.

If you’re already packed with knowledge and some experience with art basics, you might want to consult video tutorials for digital applications. 

Despite not being completely efficient in contrast with proper schooling, it’s not a bad thing to do.

Some people find these methods useful and accessible. 

However, you need to find the tutorial that works for you because free video tutorials sometimes don’t directly give what you need.

In line with this, you need to keep browsing and watching more videos.

Some graphic designers turned vloggers and share their experiences through videos, which you might add to your dome of knowledge. 

If you’re that kind of person who struggles to learn by yourself, tutorials might come in handy. 

Videos in streaming applications have repeatability in case you’re finding some ideas and operations conflicting. 

Lastly, different videos provide different approaches to teaching. 

All you need to do is browse for different tutorials and find one that works for you.

If you’re lucky, you can subscribe to a specific channel that contains similar content that suits your needs.

3. Try graphic design courses.

Although the options mentioned are helpful, you might consider this the best option if you’re not planning to go to college. 

Online courses are usually short-term, so you won’t need years to learn a particular skill.

Moreover, you’ll have the freedom to choose what skill or software you want to learn. 

You don’t need to spend time and money to take up minor subjects and unrelated matters to get a certificate.

Instructors in online courses are professionals with good credentials. 

In case you’re worried about the standards of online courses, you can always check for the instructors’ credentials and qualifications. 

Additionally, online courses cost less in contrast to going to college.

If you think you can spend some money as an investment in your future career as a graphic designer, don’t hesitate to enroll. 

One of the leading online course platforms is Udemy.

As a suggestion, one of their bestselling courses for beginners is The Complete Graphic Design Theory for Beginner Course

The course will help you to learn about the basics of color theories, branding, layouts, and many more. 

It covers a wide range of scope as a graphic designer, which will help you determine what you want to specialize in and give you skills in almost all aspects of graphic design.


All the things you studied will be all for nothing if you’re not going to use them. 

You must take time to practice and apply the knowledge you learned to create an artwork. 

Don’t be frustrated if you think it isn’t as good as you think it would be. 

It will take time, and that’s completely normal. 

It’s important to make room for improvement and don’t get disheartened by critics and comments.

1. Build your style.

Every artist possesses their unique styles and format that distinguishes them from everyone else. 

It’s just like how Vincent Van Gogh dominantly exhibited impact as his art style. 

As observed from his artworks, you would distinguish his brush strokes and the thick paste of paint he used. 

Of course, you’ll be starting small since Van Gogh was quite a huge personality in artistry. 

You don’t need to build your style and preference right away. 

For some, you might want to explore many styles and mediums first before knowing what you truly love to do. 

For starters, you might want to consider enrolling in 365 Days of Creativity to experience new skills. 

With this, you’ll be exploring varied techniques, and it might help you build your image as a graphic artist. 

To add, it’s one of the bestselling courses in Udemy, and it quite has a good reputation and reviews.

Going back, don’t be afraid to try out different styles, techniques, and mediums. 

You’ll find your specialty once you invest time to explore the huge world of the art industry. 

It’s a process.

Besides, trying out something new every once in a while can improve your skills and understand how arts differ from each other.

2. Try writing as well.

While this sounds like a different field of expertise, writing is an important aspect of graphic design. 

Since you will not be working merely on visual aspects, there are times you might need to write something in the graphics. 

Not to mention in branding, in which remarkable words and phrases are used to catch the audience’s attention. 

Moreover, not only the client will benefit from good writing. 

With good writing, you can communicate well and describe your expertise and designs better. 

Good communication skills are an advantage and a factor for you to get hired and acquire more commissions. 

Besides, some clients prefer artists with good writing skills. 

It will be a convenient skill that can enhance your capabilities during job interviews since writing is extremely significant and useful in all aspects of life, not just in graphic design. 

Writing is a form of art. 

You can enhance your works by adding texts and phrases so the audience will understand the concept better.

Lastly, arts are viewed to be complex and not easily understood by many people. 

But it still differs depending on its kind. 

For instance, in branding, creative writing is a must since the audience must understand what a brand is all about.

3. Master the applications.

As a graphic designer, technical skills are needed. 

Although knowing the basics of your preference’s digital application can already get you somewhere, mastering the application is important. 

Not only will you maximize the use of the application, but it can also increase your productivity. 

Besides that, if you know everything in software, you can do more complicated graphics and widen your graphics and technical skills abilities.

You can rely on reading books and watching video tutorials, but the best way to be an expert in a specific application is through an online class. 

Udemy offers different courses, such as Master Graphic Design & Software with Practical Projects

This will help you master Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe InDesign through an expert’s guidance. 

It is also one of the most commendable courses offered in Udemy.

Moreover, if you have earned certifications and credentials being an expert user of digital applications, it will enhance your job hiring percentage. 

Clients and companies will not need to provide training, which will benefit both parties. 

You’ll be able to work sooner, and software adjustments will not be a big deal for you. 

But it’s important to be mindful of more than just one application considering the various amounts of software available in graphic design.

3. Invest in tools.

Of course, digital art applications often require high-end devices to work properly. 

You might consider buying a laptop, an iPad, or any cheaper alternatives that offer good performance. 

If you’re planning to be a full-time graphic designer, good and working devices must increase productivity and minimize technical errors and problems. 

Of course, you’ll want to produce commendable works for your clients without having difficulty creating them. 

Working smoothly can result in lesser time consumption, thus accommodating more projects at the same time. 

It can also lead to better performance as an artist since your talents, and the application’s potential is maximized. 

Besides, you’re going to use them for a long time! 

If you’re a start-up artist and struggles financially, the prices of applications and devices might overwhelm you. 

But if you’re planning to make a living through graphic design, you better start saving and invest in products with good quality and performance.

However, huge marketing and advertising companies provide their own devices, but you will be working in their offices. 

This applies to people who have no issues in working in an actual office and spending time to travel from the comfort of their homes.

Get An Experience

To get a job, you need experience. 

However, to have the experience, you need to get a job. 

It’s weird, isn’t it? Well, your first professional experience will be your initial challenge to be huge in the graphic design industry. 

Besides job purposes, experiences can improve your total personality, improve social capabilities, and give a wider perception of reality.

1. Artworks as gifts.

Every artist needs exposure and an audience.

One way to be known is to create artworks for free during your start-up phase. 

It can also be a stepping stone for you to have a reputation and recommendations.

You can create artworks for your family and friends and give them as gifts. 

Not only can you use these words in your portfolio, but it will also serve as your practice.

Some small-time artists raise fund-raising projects through selling their works where the proceeds will benefit the underprivileged people. 

In this way, you’ll be helping an organization and charity, and you’ll have a wider range of audiences for your artworks. 

You can increase your opportunities and get to know people who can help you in many ways. 

Examples of this are job referrals and discounts coupons on software and devices.

Aside from these, artworks make a heartwarming gift, especially if it’s personally made for the recipient. 

Arts, most of the time, are meaningful and contain an underlying significance for the artist. 

Artists express their emotions through their works, and it’s a reflection of their creativity. 

Additionally, the arts you do will be unique and different from the others’ so you won’t need to worry about identical presents.

2. Create a portfolio.

If you think your work is ready to take the next level, create a portfolio. 

If you’ve been trying various mediums and styles during your “practice” days, you might want to sort out and determine what kind of works you want to focus on. 

To exemplify, if you want to be in the branding industry, pick out your best branding design and put it in your portfolio. 

But make sure that your best works reflect who you are. 

Portfolios are extremely important. 

It could be one of the biggest factors on why you might be considered for a job. 

Considering that it’s the time to catch a potential client or an employer’s attention, you need to work for this. 

If possible, you can add up a professional’s comment or recommendations such as a former client’s feedback or your credentials if you took an online course.

Your portfolio will be the backbone of your skills and capabilities, so ensure that you’ll be showing that off. 

Make an effort and spend time creating it. 

It’s okay to spend time besides getting hired without prior experience might be a challenge. 

Ensure that with the little experience you have, you can create commendable results and exceed the client’s expectations.

3. Be a freelancer.

Be a freelancer!

That’s it.

If you want to make sure you’re ready to be a professional graphic artist, you can start by accepting commissioned works. 

While there are various online freelancing platforms available, you can also reach out to your friends, families, local stores, and small marketing firms. 

Although this is an irregular source of income, you will gain experience. 

Not to mention the practice in skills you’ll get, you’ll also be equipped with job interview experiences. 

Being a freelancer is a professional job. 

Although there’s going to be a difference between a regular job in terms of workloads, time management, and salary, it will make a significant improvement for you. 

You’ll feel how to work with a client, which is good for learning how to adjust to working with different people. 

Additionally, there are many benefits of being a freelance artist, such as time flexibility and the freedom to choose clients. 

And if opportunities are always available, you can earn more in freelancing than a regular paying job.

In case you like being a freelancer, you can do so. 

This might be your chance to consider building your graphic design firm or marketing business.

Final Thoughts

The steps mentioned some of the ways on how to become a graphic designer without a degree. 

Above all, you still hold power to decide and do whatever your heart desires. 

But always remember that learning doesn’t stop just because you decide not to attend school anymore.

To take a different path is risky but brave.

We never know, one day you can be one of the successful graphic designers and be an inspiration to other people.

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