As of 2022, over 2 billion people worldwide shop online, and the trend of consumers shifting from physical to digital purchasing shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. This is both an opportunity and a threat to modern businesses, where shifting strategic focus towards e-commerce is (and will be) a necessary element of success. As a modern marketing and design professional, this means shifting our skill set towards enhancing an organization’s digital reach.
In addition to collecting the optimal competencies for a digital economy, modern designers are also tasked with finding out where the work is geographically. For professionals interested in living and working in the US, this means gravitating towards centers of industry, technology and commerce. The best three states as of 2022 are California, Texas, and New York. New York alone is home to over 10 percent of all Fortune 500 companies, making it one of the very best places for aspiring designers to seek out new professional opportunities.
There are currently over 17,000 designers employed in New York alone, with plenty of new openings popping up every single day. It’s also worth noting that almost every one of those new job openings is in New York City (NYC) specifically, as NYC is one of the central global hubs for tech companies worldwide. So the long and short of it would be that modern designers looking to find work could do very well in New York.
To get one of those great NYC jobs in design, there are a few simple boxes to check. Typically, designers are expected to have some undergraduate training in fields like marketing, communications, IT, or art & design. New York is absolutely packed full of great universities to consider, many of which will offer excellent job-seeking services to help convert your newfound skills into a well-paying job.
For higher-level professionals looking for creative leadership positions, a Master’s in Fine Arts (MFA) in some form of digital design is an excellent way to grow within an organization. Graduate degrees typically take around 2 years to complete, and are great for networking with other design pros. For the small minority of designers who fall in love with academia, there are also plenty of opportunities to research design further as a doctorate (PhD) candidate.
Let’s take a quick tour through graduate-level design programs to get aspiring NYC designers started on their professional path.
Design Master’s Programs in New York
For prospective designers looking to expand their graphic design potential, the first consideration is whether to take a shorter-term certified bootcamp or a longer-term graduate degree program. The former usually takes a few months, while the latter typically takes about one to two years. The primary benefit of a graduate degree is better earning potential, greater networking opportunities, and all the great career and internship services universities offer.
There are quite a few options for aspiring designers depending on their area of expertise, so let’s walk through each one while including a link to a New York university graduate program that checks all the boxes.
- Graphic Design: Graphic design is the broadest category of digital visual arts, and focuses on the creation of visual assets. These assets might be used for ads, website design, interactive programs, or even product development like printed packaging. As an artist or marketer looking to break into design, the key is going to come in learning all the tech skills necessary to use graphic design software (like the Adobe Suite). The Rochester Institute of Technology has an excellent graduate program for generalists called Visual Communication Design.
- Interaction Design (UX/UI): If you’re more of a web development expert with a little coding skill under your belt, you may want to consider how to design websites and digital products to be interactive experiences. This is about merging the user experience (UX) from a marketing perspective with the technical development of a user interface (UI). If this sounds right up your digital alley, check New York Institute of Technology’s graduate program in UX/UI.
- Game Design: Design is a fairly broad field, which also incorporates the ever-growing world of game design. The video game industry has grown so much in the past couple of decades that it currently produces more revenue (and employs more people) than Hollywood. This is a great opportunity for tech-savvy artists interested in designing full experiential worlds. As it’s quite closely related to film-making, a great program is going to be an MFA in Game Design from the New York Film Academy.
- Motion Design/Animation: Some designers excel on the software side of graphic design, particularly in producing assets that can move over a fixed time span. Motion design, or animation, was popularized all the way back when Pixar first started (the first project being the CGI in the original Star Wars trilogy). Since then, it’s matured into a profession with a relatively widespread demand. To get you started, Pratt has a top-rated MFA in Digital Animation and Motion Design.
Of course, New York City is packed full of excellent universities to consider as alternatives. The most important takeaway is whether or not the program can help translate skill development into real-life work experience. Make sure to take a little time to peruse the career services information, and even consider meeting up with the admissions team to get more insight regarding the university’s partnership programs. It’s also worth inquiring as to the online education options available, particularly if you’re already juggling family and work responsibilities.
Online Design Programs in New York
Speaking of online courses, let’s briefly outline a few online MFA options that offer their courses entirely online. E-learning is a great option for folks who just can’t fit full-time onsite classes into their busy schedules. Of course, the key to success is going to be the understanding that you’ll only get out what you put into the program!
To start off, New York University (NYU) is one of the few completely online options for aspiring designers with their MS in Integrated Design & Media. This program will require 30 credits hours, with a typical tuition and fees rate per credit hour of $2,500. As it’s a fairly short program compared to most graduate degrees, the higher price per credit hour can be offset by the lower number of credits for completion.
A second option at a school that focuses more specifically on technology and digital media design is The New School, specifically the MA program in Media Studies. This program requires the completion of 39 credit hours, with the overall cost per credit coming in around $2,000 per credit hour.
As online programs require a bit more motivation from students, it’s a great idea to reach out to professors, staff, and career services to set up prospective internships with partner organizations. Take some time to attend networking events, exchange contact details with other students (who are often working professionals themselves), and invest plenty of time into developing those valuable technical skills.
If developing these skills quickly and on a budget is your top priority, you may also want to consider picking up a certification from a bootcamp instead. Let’s take a look at some options.
Design Bootcamps in New York
Education has been growing through some growing pains in the 21st century, as the cost of education rises and the scope and variety of degree programs expand to meet the evolving demands of the industry. This has opened up some room in the market for short-term programs that augment undergraduate degrees with certified training and qualifications in specific skills. One of the skills that has seen great success in the bootcamp market is design.
A design bootcamp will specialize in a few different aspects of design, and focus explicitly on the software, technical skills, and core competencies required to succeed in digital design. This is a particularly great option for long-time marketing or art professionals who need an extra boost on the technical and/or coding side of a design role. Here are five reputable certification programs to get the (digital) ball rolling:
|Boot camp Provider||Name of Program||Focus Area||Time||Cost|
|Parsons||User-Centered (UX/UI) Design Certificate||UX/UI||3 months||$3,670|
|New York University||UX Design for AR/VR||Game Design||6 months||$7,000|
|Pratt||Graphic Design Certificate||Graphic Design||4 months||$8,000|
|NextGen Bootcamp||Graphic Design Summer Program||Graphic Design||1 month||$2,495|
|Colombia Engineering||UX/UI Bootcamp||UX/UI||6 months||$12,995|
For folks looking for more general bootcamps that aren’t necessarily available in New York, you can check out massive open online courses from edX, Udemy, and Coursera. However, these local and onsite programs are great networking opportunities at reputable universities. Keep the goal of a great new job in mind when making your decision! Networking and internships offer that all-important first gig, which will help build a professional portfolio. Let’s consider some of the more common and in-demand jobs for designers in New York..
Five In-Demand Design Jobs in New York
As a pro designer moves from certification or graduate programs into the professional world, it’s useful to know exactly what roles are most in demand in the New York area. The outlines below should give you a good idea of what type of job you might prefer, and what qualifications will be expected of you prior to getting hired:
- Graphic Designer: With a median salary around $60k/year (and often even higher in places like NYC), graphic designers are great gigs for remote workers, gig workers, and functional specialists who prefer to make great (digital) art for a living. While graphic designers benefit from having graduate degrees and certifications, typical job requirements will simply request access to your portfolio and proof of an undergraduate degree in marketing, communications, or design.
- Game Artist/Designer: There are plenty of roles for artists in game design, ranging from character artists to animators to UX/UI professionals. Getting a foot in the door of this industry is hard work, but it definitely pays off. Game development professionals are in high demand, particularly talented visual artists, and New York City is home to a huge variety of studios. A game artist can expect nearly $60k/year as a media salary, with lots of room for growth.
- Motion Designer (animator): Animators typically make around $60k/year, although New York salaries do trend towards higher than the national average. New York City is a hotspot for marketing agencies, game studios, and film agencies. This means there’s always plenty of work to be found for the ambitious animator. Animators are going to need to demonstrate mastery with the key animation software, typically through sharing a high-quality portfolio. Worry less about the resume, and more about the work samples!
- Creative Director: New York is home to well over 10% of America’s creative director job openings as of the writing of this article, which speaks to New York being a great place for designers to grow their career. A creative director manages larger creative teams, and is typically a functional specialist (like a designer) who shows leadership acumen. Salaries come in around $91k/year, with tons of opportunity for making more than that depending on how successful the director is. This is a great long-term goal!
No matter where you fit into the employment roles above, the key is assessing what skills you have now (marketing, art, or web development) and what skills might set you up for success as a future digital designer (UX/UI, graphics software, motion design, game design). One of the (many) challenges of the 21st century is keeping pace with the changing professional landscape, so hopefully this guide was a useful point in the right direction!