Computer Graphics Degree

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What is Computer Graphics?

Computer graphics a s a field is responsible for the use of computer generated imagery to  create images in whole or part. Such images may be constructed in sequence to create and animation that may be utilized as a special effect within a film, a composition to hide or add elements into a film, or to construct a completely computer generated animated film. Individuals in this field are also responsible for the design and implementation of characters, settings, and imagery with a video game context, as well as the use of computer generated imagery for the purposes of layout and design for advertising, title sequencing or other graphic design related functions.

Top Degrees in Computer Graphics

In this section of our portal, you will find a summary of the most popular online degrees in computer graphics.  The programs range from certificate programs through graduate-level degrees from the nation's top ranked colleges and universities.  Utilize this guide to help collect vital information about the degree pathways that may be best for you.

Online Certificate Programs in Computer Graphics

An in-class or online certificate program in computer graphics is designed to provide students with foundational knowledge in computer graphics.  Certificate programs are generally less than one year programs for undergraduate programs and one to two-years at the graduate level.  The undergraduate certificates in computer graphics help students understand basic concepts to begin a career in the computer graphics business.  Graduate certificate programs, on the other hand, are most often utilized by working professionals to upskill or prepare them for a career transition.

Online Associate Degrees in Computer Graphics

The online associate degree in computer graphics is a 2-year program providing students with a blend of liberal arts classes and core curriculum.  General education courses such as philosophy, English composition, and communication are coupled with core computer graphics classes to help students think differently and more holistically.  Core classes in computer graphics will typically include: 2D design, 3D design, drawing, media writing, graphic communication, project management, computer programming, and still imaging.  Associate degrees can be conferred as an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), or an Associates of Applied Science (AAS) depending on the curricular design of the program.

Online Bachelor Degrees in Computer Graphics

Traditional classroom-based programs or online bachelor degrees in computer graphics is a four-year program with degrees conferred as Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS).  The bachelor’s degree provides students with additional general education courses and core curriculum compared to the associate’s degree.  According to a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 80% of computer graphics professional have a bachelor’s degree or higher with the balance earning a certificate or associate’s degree.  Core courses at the bachelor’s degree level provide students with a deeper understanding of design theories, software applications, and computer programming concepts.

Online Master Degrees in Computer Graphics

The online master’s degree in computer graphics is a 1-2 year graduate-level program intended for computer graphics specialists to gain additional knowledge and skills.  The master’s degree program is conferred as either a Master’s of Science (MS) or Master’s of Arts (MA) relative to the program emphasis on the science or art components of the computer graphics degree.  Upper level courses are correlated to the area of specialization which can include concentration areas such as web design, print media, or animation.

Educational Requirements in Computer Graphics

A degree in computer graphics provides individuals with the skills necessary to work in the entertainment or design industries. Education in software, hardware, technique, mathematics, art, painting, design and more is necessary to compete in the realm of computer graphics. Degree programs will focus on imparting the necessary skills and education to find entry level work, though master's degrees are typically sought after by those who have been in the industry for several years.

An education in computer graphics will expose students to the various software and hardware used in design and combines it with an education in the arts to provide students a complete education in the field. Software and hardware used vary in popularity, with some being considered industry standard. As new versions are developed, programs in this area must update their curriculum accordingly, particularly if a new standard is chosen for the field due to technological advancement or increased toolkit capabilities. Understanding how one will manipulate objects in computer, be it two or three dimensional, requires an understanding of a variety of principles and techniques which are the focus of a computer graphics degree program.

Classes in computer graphics may include:

  • Computer Animation
  • Image Manipulation
  • Principles of Creative Design
  • Web Design
  • Computer Science
  • Game Development

Best Colleges Offering Computer Graphics Degrees

The best college in computer graphics will depend on your priorities and career objectives.  In other words, the criteria used to rank schools by a media outlet looking to increase magazine subscriptions or a website hawking timeshares in Bermuda are less relevant to your life than taking the time to find colleges that fit you best.  In order to determine which college is best for you, we suggest taking the time to read The Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process followed by How to Reduce the Cost of College and Getting Into Your Top College.  The combination of these resources will allow you to create a personal priority list to guide you in your college quest.  From there, you can simply request information from top colleges listed on this page or utilize our proprietary matching tools for college degrees or online colleges.

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Employment Outlook in Computer Graphics

Though a degree is not necessary to pursue a career in computer graphics, it is highly recommended that those who do not have a background or experience in the field pursue a degree as it will provide a structured environment for learning the skills necessary to obtain work. A career in computer graphics can be engaging and lucrative, but is dependent upon skill and experience. The type of work also dictates the salary earned. Those who prove to be quite skilled at what they do can dictate terms for services, especially in areas where specialization is necessary, such as computer generated films or motion graphics.

Demand for qualified individuals is expected to grow steadily over the next decade as the use of computers to manipulate images becomes integral to a variety of businesses, primarily through the expanding need for web presence and the desire for content by consumers. Individuals pursuing a career in this field would do well to regularly pursue courses to upgrade one's skills, particularly in the face of new technologies, and to remain current regarding trends and techniques used as part of an evolving industry standard. Such information may be gleaned through online resources, printed materials, and other relevant visual and analytical sources.

Some jobs available for those who pursue a degree in computer graphics include:

  • Video Game Artist
  • Web Designer
  • Technical Illustrator
  • Motion Graphics Animator
  • CGI Animator

Salary Outlook and Specialized Graphics Fields

Due to the varied nature of the professions that one may pursue, one's income will be tied to his or her position, area of work, expertise, education and experience. Additionally, supervisory positions are typically given based on success and experience rather than seniority or education, and often paying significantly higher salaries. Of the industries one may enter, CGI animators and video game designers/artists are paid among the highest due to the size of their respective markets.

How Much Can I Make with a Computer Graphics Degree

How much money you can make with a computer graphics degree will be dependent on the job you end up securing after graduating from an accredited college or university.  Your income will also be dependent upon your geographic location, work experience, market demand, skills, organization type, aptitude, and work ethic.  As a result of this span of industries and jobs available to a computer graphics major, we have aggregates an array of job types adjacent to the computer graphics degree program to help you understand average income across the sector.   Jobs you may be qualified for after earning a computer graphics degree include:

Web Developers: The mean income for a web developer is $72,150 a year based on the most recent data available.  The job growth for web developers is forecast to skyrocket by 27% adding approximately 39,500 jobs to the sector.

Technical Writers: Median annual income for technical writers is $69,850 with a 10% job growth expected over the next decade which adds 5,300 jobs to the sector.  Top employers of technical writers are computer design firms, technical consultants, engineering firms, and architects.

Animators: The mean annual income for an animator is $72,200 with an expected job growth rate of 8% over the coming decade adding some 3,900 jobs during that time.

Industrial Designers: Median income for an industrial designer is $76,790 a year with the top 10% earning $105,690 a year.  The top employers for an industrial designer include specialized design firms, architectural organizations, and engineering firms.

Desktop Publishers:  Mean annual income for a desktop publisher is currently $44,380 with the largest employers being publishers, printers, management companies, and advertising firms.

Drafters: Annual median wage for a drafter is $51,640 with a steady job growth predicted in the coming years.  Common drafting industries include architectural, civil, electronics, and mechanical.

Graphic Designer: The mean annual wage for a graphic designer is $52,290 with job growth forecast to be steady over the coming decade.  Largest employers specialized design firms, advertising companies, and public relations corporations.

Computer Systems Analysts:  The median annual income for a computer systems analyst is $87,220 with the upper ten percent averaging $137,690 a year.  The expected growth rate of 21% over the coming decade adding some 118,600 jobs during that time.

Those individuals interested in a degree in computer graphics may wish to consider degrees in graphic designweb and digital design, and cinematography and film.

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Career Summary: Computer graphics Major




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