How to become a graphic designer without a design degree

Can you become a graphic designer without a graphic design? ABSOLUTELY!

What is the #1 thing that will help you get a graphic design job? A great portfolio is all that potential employers care about.

The best way to become a designer without a degree is to do lots of design work and build up your portfolio over time with your best work. 

How to build up your graphic design portfolio from scratch:

  • Do freelance work. Find a non-profit or a small business to help with design projects. Maybe find a friend that needs branding help. You may start by doing projects for free, as you get better you can charge an hourly rate for your work. 
  • Get an internship. Work as a graphic design intern working under senior graphic designers or art directors at an agency. Do this in person, not remotely. You will get a ton of experience, lots of feedback on your work, and will have to get better and faster under deadlines. This is exactly what I did, resulting in getting hired right out of college.
  • Work on personal projects. You could start a brand for yourself or rebrand an existing business for fun.

Other tips for becoming a graphic designer with no college degree:

  • Use professional design software, such as Adobe Creative Cloud. Do not use Canva, it is for non-designers. You’ll want to get an Adobe CC license, you can get reduced cost if you are a student. Most jobs/internships include the use of the software as part of the position.
  • Make sure you have a nice portfolio website. A portfolio website will allow you to easily send your work when looking for jobs. You can create a free portfolio on
  • Have 2-3 strong branding projects in your portfolio. Focus on building your logo design skills, creating a brand around the logo, and how you carry that brand across lots of design pieces. 
  • Go job shadow different types of designers in your area to find out what area interests you most. For example, my job is not just graphic design, I work on a lot of website/UX/UI design. This is an area of design that is growing like crazy. 
  • Meet other graphic designers in the area where you live. Take a designer out for coffee, attend a design event, learn how other local designers got their start in graphic design, and what they are doing now. Connections can be extremely helpful when looking for a job!
  • Look at LOTS of good design work. Get inspired and become fully immersed in great design work. Check out websites like,, Dribbble, Pinterest for inspiration. Read design books.

It is totally possible to become a graphic designer without a college degree. Good luck!