Designs On A Career

Business Week: Is there a glut of students graduating from graphic design programs in the United States today? A 2004 National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) survey indicates that out of 18,000 graphic design majors in 152 four-year programs conferring B.A. and B.F.A. degrees 3,500 are graduated annually. This figure is strongly disputed, however, by North Carolina State’s Meredith Davis, who claims the comparatively low number does not account for approximately 1,300 two-year associate degree programs (according to the GDEA), other schools that confer fine art degrees with limited design study, and schools that are not NASAD accredited. If there are overall 450 four-year programs, 1,300 two-year programs, and each graduates, on average, 25 students a year, then Davis estimates these schools could be releasing as many as 40,000 students (with and without degrees) into a field supporting around 200,000 (1) practitioners (not including interactive designers).
A few educators interviewed for this article further estimate that as many as 50 percent of their own B.A. and B.F.A. graduates or certificate holders actually quit design within a year after graduation. The reasons for this vary: Certain programs provide inadequate tutelage and job counseling; or just as critical, many students are simply ill-suited to be graphic designers. Yet once accepted into a school or program, administrators are reluctant to “thin the herd.” Instead they allow natural selection to take its course, and while survival of the fittest is widely accepted in the professional jungle, for an educational institution to release unprepared grads is irresponsible to the student and the profession.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I was one who got “let” out of a two year program. I already have a four year business degree and went back in for the graphic experience. Not because of my graphic work. There was a big disagreement between me and one of the teaching staff and then I let him have an earful. Not the right move when you are up against very powerful people.
    I decided instead to wing it on my own by visiting various websites. I got involved with reading blogs and thought what better way to learn than from the professionals.
    Now I have learned so much more than I would have ever learned in school, communicated with some really great people, and found out that the advertising field may not be for me.
    I just don’t do starbucks.

  2. Starbux? Ad peeps are into Peets!

  3. See, I’m really further off base than I thought.
    Well, at least I have the guts to drink tap water.