Computer graphics technology is used across a range of industries. Although this is not a rapidly growing field, it is continuously changing and requires technical training. Certificate and degree programs are available in computer graphics and graphics design to prepare computer graphics technology professionals for their career choice.
Computer graphics technology professionals use their knowledge and technical skills in graphic design and animation to design and create layouts, Web pages, and multimedia productions. These professionals typically acquire technical skills in postsecondary educational programs and then go on to work in the advertising, motion picture, and entertainment industries.
|Required Education||Certificate, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree|
|Career Options||Graphic designer, production artist, computer game designer/developer, computer animator|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||4% decline (for graphic designers) *|
|Annual Average Salary (2020)||$58,370 (for graphic designers) *|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Salary Info for Computer Graphics Technology Professionals
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), graphic designers earned an average annual wage of $58,370 as of May 2020. The middle 50% earned between $40,160 and $71,310. Those working for the federal government earned the highest salary, with wages averaging $88,090. Professionals in advertising earned an average of $60,330 a year, per the BLS in May 2020. The BLS predicted that employment for graphic designers from 2019-2029 would decrease by 4%.
The Bureau also published 2020 statistics related to the field of multimedia artists and animators, reporting that the average annual salary earned by such individuals was $88,080. Animators working in computer systems design and for related services earned an average of $71,700 a year, per the same source, while those working in the motion picture industry earned more, averaging $105,670 a year.
Career Info for Computer Graphics Technology Professionals
Certificate, associate's, and bachelor's degree programs in computer graphics, graphic design, and visualization technology offer training in the technical skills needed to become a computer graphics technology professional. Certificate programs typically last six months to one year and include foundational courses in Web design, digital photography, and design software like Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Illustrator. Associate's degree programs take one to two years to complete, include general education classes, and cover intermediary topics, such as digital imagery, electronic publishing, and multimedia development. Graduates from certificate and associate's degree programs typically qualify for entry-level positions as assistants to graphic designers or as production artists.
Computer game designers and computer animators may need a bachelor's degree or higher. Bachelor's degree programs generally last four years, include general education courses as well as advanced courses like human interface design, interactive multimedia, and software engineering. Students are trained in computer software and may be required to complete an internship for an advertising, publishing, or design firm. Additionally, some programs may help students create an individualized portfolio and provide business, management, and marketing classes to help entrepreneurs.
Graphic designers plan, develop, and create layouts and designs for print and electronic media. Designers begin a new project by ascertaining client needs, goals, and vision. Next, they analyze visual elements like color schemes, artwork, font styles, and graphics in order to create an initial layout. Designers may then use specialized computer software to modify, alter, and edit designs to fit the client's message. Once the process is complete, they may present it to the client in order to gain approval before sending it off for production. Other duties may include supervising the printing and publishing process.
Graphic production artists ensure the accuracy of design files in the latter stages of development. They typically are the last people to touch a file before publication and are responsible for reviewing and finalizing designs and layouts. In finishing a project, these artists might suggest modifications and alter formats to increase the quality of production and ensure the integrity of a design. Other technical duties might include scaling, cropping, retouching, repositioning, and eliminating defective and excessive imaging, also known as preflighting. Professionals also might be responsible for archiving and updating graphic files.
Computer Game Designer and Developer
Game designers and developers are a specialized group of computer applications software engineers. These professionals design, develop, and test applications for government agencies, military training departments, and private companies. Developers identify user needs, assess application demands, and then create or modify software using various programming languages, such as C, C++, Java, or Python. Developers may also be responsible for troubleshooting software or providing insight into areas for improvement. Minimum requirements are usually a bachelor's degree in software engineering, although some employers may accept applicant's with an associate's degree while others may prefer those with an M.S. (Master of Science) in Computer Science or related field.
Computer animators use their drawing, creative, and computer skills to design and develop animated images. These professionals manipulate color, light, and shadows to make objects appear lifelike. Animators may also use computer models to simulate animation behavior for multimedia sequences. Other duties include producing digital art, creating special effects, and fabricating models from wood, plaster, or clay.
Computer graphics technology professionals can have careers as graphic designers, production artists, game designers and developers, and computer animators in a variety of industries. Some careers require a master's degree, but certificates and undergraduate degrees are usually enough to get started and can help a student specialize in their field.