What Careers Are Available With an Associate Degree in Art and Design?

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Plenty of people turn to the creative arts as a hobby. After all, art is an excellent outlet, and it’s a great way to give your life purpose and meaning. But have you considered pursuing art or design as a career? Some jobs in design and the arts require a bachelor’s degree, but an associate’s degree in art and design can give you valuable foundational knowledge and help you land your first job in the field.

Types of Jobs in Art and Design

With an associate’s degree in art and design, you’ll be well-equipped to take on entry-level jobs in much of the art and design field. You may find yourself working as part of a design firm, or maybe you’ll want to design theater sets for a living. Many of these jobs offer the potential for growth. In some ways, starting out with an associate’s degree is an advantage — you can start working in the field and determine whether you like it before spending additional time and money getting a bachelor’s degree.

It’s important to consider the fact that many people in the design world work on a freelance basis. Working as a freelancer has its advantages — you can set your own hours and choose the projects that you work on, and you can be your own boss. However, to be a successful freelancer, you’ll need to spend some time and effort establishing yourself in the field and with your clients. And when it comes to taxes, freelance work is a bit different from being a full-time employee. It’s a good idea to consult with a qualified tax professional to make sure you take advantage of any tax credits you can while minimizing what you’ll owe in taxes.

That said, there are plenty of art and design careers waiting for you. The possibilities are varied — you may find that you want to start your own business designing and selling T-shirts, or maybe you aim to find a company where you can work full-time as a graphic designer. Below are several jobs you may want to consider after getting your associate’s degree.

Graphic Designer

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Graphic design is a rewarding field that affords creative people seemingly endless possibilities. If you’ve ever taken note of an especially well-done, eye-catching logo, you can thank a graphic designer. Graphic designers help to inspire confidence in a given brand and shape the brand voice. You may think of a brand voice as being written, and the written word is certainly part of it. But by carefully selecting colors, layouts, and even fonts used in a company’s digital and printed materials, a graphic designer plays an essential role in the public’s perception of a particular company.

Successful graphic designers will need to be familiar with key tools in the field. One of those is the Adobe Creative Suite. And since many graphic designers are responsible for the visual elements of a website, it’s helpful to have a degree in (or at least a working knowledge of) web design as well.


Printmakers use a variety of tools and methods to create prints. Some work with lithographs and block prints, others perform silk-screening (which usually involves creating prints and transferring them to T-shirts and other cloth items), and some work with these media and more.

Just as with graphic design, printmaking can be a freelance job or a full-time gig with a company. Some book publishers create lithographs and broadsides, and you may find work designing and creating these prints. Alternatively, some printmakers enjoy creating T-shirt designs, producing them, and selling them.

In some cases, printmakers are also commissioned to create signs, posters, and brochures. To find success in this field, you’ll need to rely more on your own skills and your creative process than you will on your degree. However, getting an associate’s degree in art and design can be a great way to learn about and practice printmaking techniques. Printmakers make an average of $50,000, but this number can vary significantly based on experience, certifications, and other factors.


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The best photographers have an excellent understanding of the elements of design and how they come together to create a great photograph. Depending on your specialty, you may find that it’s relatively easy to make a living as a photographer once you’ve established a network of clients. On average, wedding photographers earn more than other photographers. Salary estimates vary widely, but wedding photographers earn about $60,000 per year. Of course, you’d need to take cost of equipment and travel costs into account. But if you enjoy being around people and like being able to capture the spirit of an event, you may be well suited to this career.

If you’d rather not do wedding photography, don’t let that stop you– there are plenty of unique jobs in the field. Forensic photographers take crime scene photographs, and insurance claim photographers are responsible for taking pictures of damages related to insurance claims. Pet photography can also be fairly lucrative– if you like being around animals, you may find that you want to photograph pets for a living.

Interior Designer

If you want to work as an interior designer, you may find that you need to take more specialized courses. However, with an associate’s degree in art and design, you can start in the interior design field. Interior designers work with their clients to create beautiful indoor spaces, and they may design both homes and workplaces. Like many design jobs, interior designers often work on a freelance basis. However, you may be able to work with a design firm. With a firm, you’ll likely be able to work with more experienced designers as you become more familiar with the field.

Interior designers earn about $50,000 per year on average, but this figure varies widely by location and experience. Still, a degree in art and design will equip you with the design fundamentals you’ll need to get started in the field.

Social Media Manager

A company’s digital presence is vital to its success, and many companies choose to hire a single person to oversee their social media accounts. This job can be a demanding one, but if you have a lot of experience with social media and some knowledge of marketing, social media management can be an ideal field.

When working as a social media manager, you’ll need to create content for (and be active on) a company’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. While you likely won’t need to design the visuals themselves, you’ll be able to use existing images to help shape and maintain brand voice. To succeed in this field, you’ll also need to be a great writer. Depending on the brand you’re working with, humor can go a long way, too.

In most cases, social media managers also need to have a decent knowledge of marketing. They’re responsible for planning and executing social media marketing campaigns and tracking the progress of those campaigns. You’ll also need to have a good intuition when it comes to interacting with people. One day you may be dealing with customer complaints on Facebook, and the next, you may need to think of an effective way to engage your brand’s Twitter followers. It’s a job that requires a lot of different skills, but if you’re up for it, it can turn into a rewarding career.

Advertising and Promotions Manager

If you’re creative and also have a great business acumen, you may find success in this field. As an advertising and promotions manager, you’ll be able to create and manage ad campaigns for clients. You’ll need to be good at working as part of a team, as these managers rarely work alone — they typically work with sales staff and designers to put together the campaign.

A knowledge of budgeting is also helpful — managers also need to set and work within campaign budgets. Because of the high degree of responsibility that comes with this job, you may sometimes need a bachelor’s degree to be hired. But with an associate’s degree, you may be able to start working with a firm to gain valuable on-the-job experience. Entry-level managers earn about $45,000 per year on average, but more experienced managers earn about $90,000 per year.

Art Museum Docent

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This job is a little bit of a departure from the field, and it doesn’t necessarily require you to apply your art and design skills. However, if you appreciate art and enjoy sharing it with others, you might like being a museum docent. A docent is essentially a tour guide — you’ll show guests around the museum, offer background on art pieces, and answer questions as needed. Docents often assist with special public programming, so you’ll be able to offer input and assist with connecting the general community to art. If you have great people skills and a passion for art, this can be a very rewarding field to get into.

On average, museum docents make around $28,000 a year. This is less than many jobs on the art and design field pay, but a docent job may be relatively easier to get. You also don’t have to worry about the time-consuming process of building up a client network or handling self-employment taxes.

Packaging Designer

Have you ever been drawn to (or even purchased) something largely because of the way it was packaged? If so, you already know the impact that packaging designers have on the general public. Packaging designers may work as consultants, or they may be employed full-time by a brand. This is a job that sounds fairly simple, but there’s a lot of nuance involved. To design the packaging itself, you’ll need to know about the product and how it is manufactured and displayed. You’ll also need an understanding of the target demographic and consider what type of branding would appeal to them. Packaging designers need to consider the typeface used on the package as well as the layout and illustration. In the case of new brands, the package designer may even collaborate with a business owner to develop a rand name.

On average, packaging designers make about $69,000 per year. This might not be the first field people think of when they picture art and design, but it offers plenty of opportunities for a creative individual.

Landscape Architect

Landscape architects, also known as landscape designers, are not the same as landscapers. Landscape architects are responsible for designing outdoor spaces, and landscapers are the workers who carry out the necessary labor.

As a landscape architect, you’ll be able to collaborate with institutions, city governments, and even homeowners to help them develop a plan for an aesthetically beautiful space. For instance, a city government may reach out to a landscape architect when planning out a new city park. This job requires a surprising amount of collaboration — you may also need to work with foresters, contractors, and laborers. On very large projects, you may need to collaborate with other landscape architects, too.

Landscape architects earn about $55,000 per year on average. This is a job that’s ideal for people who have an eye for design, love the outdoors, and are skilled at working on larger-scale projects.

Theater Set Designer

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Set designers play a significant role in the success of any theatrical performance. While the actors may be the most noticeable people to the audience, the creations of the set designer help set the play’s ambiance and add visual interest. To be a good set designer, you’ll need to be a good communicator — by working with the director, you can create a concept that’s in line with production goals.

You’ll also need a working knowledge of the right set materials to use, and you’ll probably need to be good at delegating tasks — most set designers work with a team. Set design is an interesting field, and you’ll be able to work with a wide variety of media in order to construct the perfect set. In the case of historical plays, you’ll also get to research the time period in order to construct an accurate set. On average, theater set designers make about $58,000 per year.

The art and design fields are exciting and offer plenty of creative possibilities. Whether you want to work in computer-based design, traditional visual art, or just want to work in an art-adjacent field, getting an associate’s degree in art and design is a great first step. From there, you can continue your design education, step into a great new job, or do both.

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