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Comp Sci, or Graphic Design Major?

blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
edited August 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
In January I decided to go back to school, a decision I'm very happy I made, but now I've come across a bit of a cross roads, and I'm hoping y'all can help me make an informed choice.

I'm currently set up as a pre-major for Computer Science, but I'm not sure that that's what I want to do with myself. It's always kind of been my fall back, since I know I could do it, and I don't hate it. I see people who have code in their blood, and listen to them talk, only to find myself without nearly the passion they have.

But I honestly take more enjoyment from artsy stuff, design, drawing, stuff like that. My plan has always been to keep that a hobby, and move forward with computers, but I'm thinking it may be a better idea, to change over to a Graphic Design major.

So my question is, are there Graphic Design jobs, or is that a crapshoot degree? I have no doubt that I'd probably be more versatile with a Computer Science degree, but I don't know that I'd be happy that way. A plus of course would be that I have some credits that would count more towards and art degree than it would an engineering degree, so I could actually probably graduate a semester earlier (or at least closer to on time than my current path).

tl;dr I'm currently a Comp Sci major, but I think I'd be happier pursuing Graphic Design, is this a mistake?

blakfeld on
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Posts

  • DeebaserDeebaser Alpha Teemo Fake Board GamerRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    There are a LOT more "computer science" jobs, than there are graphics design jobs.

  • mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    It's not a mistake but I'll have to be a bit of a downer here; Comp Sci will pay bills for doing graphic design on the side. Graphic design is glutted with green horned babies willing to work for peanuts. If there's anything this recession has done to me, it's cured the idea of pursuing novelty over practicality.

  • Namel3ssNamel3ss Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I was faced with the same decision.

    I would find graphic design work more entertaining I'm sure; but, I'm making good money (with some advancement opportunities on the horizon) and have been employed since I graduated 3 years ago. Contrast that with my good friend who took the graphic design route, loves his current job but had a long hard road of unemployment and layoffs to get where he is now.

    Do you have a safty net? He has parents to fall back on, but I do not.

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  • amateurhouramateurhour Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    My advice,

    Take the comp sci road, and study graphic design on the side. If you're good at design, you don't really need the degree. Take learning classes at art schools for pennies on the dollar of what they charge for the actual enrollment classes, and build a portfolio.

    Get a nice computer science job as a coder or sys admin and maintain your portfolio. Put it up online on your own domain, with examples of good logo design, web design, photo manipulation, industrial design, art, etc. Then hit up craigslist for design contracts in your area, and outside your area if they're willing to hire you on a work from home basis.

    I've got friends who were in the same boat as you. They work in industrial design currently, and computer science, but they do graphic design on the side. They work their asses off, but they pull in really good money on the side, without worrying about job security.

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  • Mostlyjoe13Mostlyjoe13 Thanks Gort! The Dream RealmRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    The sad truth is both job fields are chock full of newbies trying to make due. Comp Sci is a little better off. If you DO get a Comp Sci degree make sure you get an internship or some direct work experience in the field. I have too many Comp Sci major friends who hit the job market and just sat there because of how many people are flooding the field. Also, pick a speciality and master it.

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  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    If you can do computer science and design (you don't have to get a major in it, just do projects and build your portfolio) you'll be very well set for web development and design work.

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Spending too much money eating out. That's about it. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    The world needs another graphic designer like it needs a hole in the head. Unless you're some sort of wunderkind at it, don't even think about it.

    EDIT: You could always double major. It's what I'm doing. Well, in Linguistics and French, but same idea.

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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Maybe you can combine both somehow. Who do you think makes all those snazzy Flash apps you see everywhere? In my experience, people with talent for both art and code. Being able to do more than one thing is very useful.

  • Mostlyjoe13Mostlyjoe13 Thanks Gort! The Dream RealmRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    admanb wrote: »
    If you can do computer science and design (you don't have to get a major in it, just do projects and build your portfolio) you'll be very well set for web development and design work.

    This is true. Look for a minor or suplimental course material.

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  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited June 2010
    admanb wrote: »
    If you can do computer science and design (you don't have to get a major in it, just do projects and build your portfolio) you'll be very well set for web development and design work.

    Yeah, thats kind of what I was expecting, my thinking was always along the lines of Comp Sci would provide a much more definite paycheck, and design was something I could get into with a portfolio more than a degree. Perhaps near the end of college or right after try supporting myself with some freelance or web design/development

    Thanks guys, That was my plan, but I had gotten discouraged and was looking for a way out (Standard early twenties soul searching I think), but you've all cemented that I made the right choice the first time

  • HlubockyHlubocky Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Also, no matter which route you take, apply to the best schools you think you have a chance to get accepted at, and even some that you don't think you have a chance. Assuming you will get the same gpa no matter where you go (which may or may not be true as the course material varies a lot with the quality of the program), you will have a better chance of getting a job with a degree from a top 10 CS school, and the quality of the job will likely be better and pay more. I can only assume the same to be true for graphic design.

    edit: nevermind... I spaced on the fact that you were already enrolled.

  • SmurphSmurph Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    There are plenty of opportunities to design stuff if you get into UI development. Lots of those pure-bred coders want nothing to do with GUIs so it's a good opportunity for someone who has an artistic streak but still knows how to code.

  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Smurph wrote: »
    There are plenty of opportunities to design stuff if you get into UI development. Lots of those pure-bred coders want nothing to do with GUIs so it's a good opportunity for someone who has an artistic streak but still knows how to code.

    Thats certainly true. I remember being in a Flash Dev community way back when, and the plagues of games with 'programmer art'

    I just turned 22, so I think the big problem is fending off the feeling that I should feel more certain about the next 4 years of school.

  • Dropping LoadsDropping Loads Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Esh wrote: »
    The world needs another graphic designer like it needs a hole in the head. Unless you're some sort of wunderkind at it, don't even think about it.

    Another way to think about it: Do you have a portfolio RIGHT NOW? What's in it? What kind of art do you enjoy making? Being a professional artist of any bent pretty much requires an absolute devotion to the point that if it isn't a major hobby of yours already you will likely get burned out on it. It's not a reflection of you, rather that, as others have pointed out, that's your competition.

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  • humblehumble Registered User
    edited June 2010
    The thing with design is that it can be applied to many different avenues. I have friends who are designers and they all are doing completely different things ranging from organic composting bins, designing toys, building monuments and helping third world communities getting money.

    Like any field if your passionate at it and really want to succeed you will have to work hard to get someplace. Just because the field is polluted with graduates doesn't mean you can't be successful.

  • KrubicksCubeKrubicksCube Registered User
    edited June 2010
    One of my roommates is a graphic design major and has about 3 paid work experience things lined up and looks very secure in the job market. If you have passion for it and an artistic flare then go for it, the economy will always be in a state of bobbing up and down, don't let it affect what you go for as long as you're passionate.

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  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Seen all those articles about how college grads can't get jobs and are just ending up back in their parents basements, jockeying counters at Starbucks?

    MANY of them are graphic design majors.

    Get a real job, then learn to art.

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Jasconius wrote: »
    Get a real job, then learn to art.

    It's easier to get a real job with an art degree than a Comp Sci degree failed due to burn-out.

  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Yeah, just ask the tens of thousands of design grads that are unemployed. And the countless who resign to take jobs as art teachers, entry level designers in small business ID sweatshops, that can't pay their loans back.

    You do Graphic Design if you are 100% confident you can actually live on it, and odds are if you were that good, you would have been doing it already.

  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Jasconius wrote: »
    Yeah, just ask the tens of thousands of design grads that are unemployed. And the countless who resign to take jobs as art teachers, entry level designers in small business ID sweatshops, that can't pay their loans back.

    You do Graphic Design if you are 100% confident you can actually live on it, and odds are if you were that good, you would have been doing it already.

    This is kind of my fear, I'm not bad, but I've only really begun to scratch the surface, it seems like I would be better playing the safe route as far as school goes, and spend my free time arting it up.

  • mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Jasconius wrote: »
    Get a real job, then learn to art.

    It's easier to get a real job with an art degree than a Comp Sci degree failed due to burn-out.

    Burn-out isn't a predetermined outcome because someone likes one thing more than another.

  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I went to an artistic career education school. I work with a former professor of two of them. Several of my friends and many of my acquaintances have graduated from them. And then I know people who are wildly successful in the field who didn't even graduate high school.

    Everything I have seen leads me to believe that Graphic Design and related fields are 90% talent and drive, and 10% education.

    Plan accordingly.

  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Jasconius wrote: »
    I went to an artistic career education school. I work with a former professor of two of them. Several of my friends and many of my acquaintances have graduated from them. And then I know people who are wildly successful in the field who didn't even graduate high school.

    Everything I have seen leads me to believe that Graphic Design and related fields are 90% talent and drive, and 10% education.

    Plan accordingly.

    Name me a field that isn't. :P

    Oh, and don't forget luck.

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  • ScorchedScorched Registered User
    edited June 2010
    A good graphic design student will not be unemployed, because they will do graphic design for more than 40 hours a week during their study. They'll be great at what they do at the end of it, unlike the people that only spent an hour or two a week to satisfy their shitty assessment presentation at the end of the semester.

    Saying that if you were good at graphic design, you'd be doing it already professionally is a joke. You won't hear that from of the people established in the business. Or any one that's associated with arts. Because it doesn't take account when you started loving it, and then when you started doing it.

    If you only do a creative thing for one hour a week, you will fail. If you dedicate yourself, you will succeed. If you do it ten hours a week next to your 40 hour study and later on, your 40+x hour job, you will still be behind the student that only does 11 hours a week. That's all there is to it.

    Honestly, it's up to you and how much you love it. I'd rather shoot myself than not study animation and pre-production. Most likely I will have a job at the end of it, and if not, I can top up with a low-key, low responsibility job - not really afraid of the incoming 9-5 wage slave year or two. Because I know if I'd do something that was easier to me, I'd get addicted to the money and safety rather than what I love doing. This is not to say that you need to do Graphic Design, it just means that if you choose to do it, you need to be aware of the reality of it.

    Also, don't listen to people telling you to get a 'real' job. There's a massive amount of money going on in most of the commercial arts. Apparently they're not worthy or something, but then again, the only person you need respect from is yourself.

  • mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Jasconius wrote: »
    I went to an artistic career education school. I work with a former professor of two of them. Several of my friends and many of my acquaintances have graduated from them. And then I know people who are wildly successful in the field who didn't even graduate high school.

    Everything I have seen leads me to believe that Graphic Design and related fields are 90% talent and drive, and 10% education.

    Plan accordingly.

    I'd go a step further and say that connecting with people is a huge thing. At least when I was working towards being involved in the music industry.

  • RyeRye Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Hey, Graphic design is my full-time job, even though I want to do something else. You have to be kinda hungry for it, though. I worked freelance for much too long and had trouble scraping by. I picked up a decent fulltime job, but only because of the portfolio I built up doing freelance.

    As it so happens, I transferred OUT of my comp sci degree into art college.

    My advice is unless you're confident in it, don't commit to it. Comp Sci can lead you into very design oriented jobs: User interface programming, Web development, Flash Development etc.

    Even if you're not buried in photoshop, you'll at least make minor design decisions (fonts, colors, layout.)

    PS: In this economy, being employed has less to do with your qualifications, and more to do with your overall employ-ability. People with "graphic design degrees" (which I never took classes for) are stereotypically lazy people.

  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Scorched wrote: »
    A good graphic design student will not be unemployed, because they will do graphic design for more than 40 hours a week during their study. They'll be great at what they do at the end of it, unlike the people that only spent an hour or two a week to satisfy their shitty assessment presentation at the end of the semester.

    Saying that if you were good at graphic design, you'd be doing it already professionally is a joke. You won't hear that from of the people established in the business. Or any one that's associated with arts. Because it doesn't take account when you started loving it, and then when you started doing it.

    If you only do a creative thing for one hour a week, you will fail. If you dedicate yourself, you will succeed. If you do it ten hours a week next to your 40 hour study and later on, your 40+x hour job, you will still be behind the student that only does 11 hours a week. That's all there is to it.

    Honestly, it's up to you and how much you love it. I'd rather shoot myself than not study animation and pre-production. Most likely I will have a job at the end of it, and if not, I can top up with a low-key, low responsibility job - not really afraid of the incoming 9-5 wage slave year or two. Because I know if I'd do something that was easier to me, I'd get addicted to the money and safety rather than what I love doing. This is not to say that you need to do Graphic Design, it just means that if you choose to do it, you need to be aware of the reality of it.

    Also, don't listen to people telling you to get a 'real' job. There's a massive amount of money going on in most of the commercial arts. Apparently they're not worthy or something, but then again, the only person you need respect from is yourself.

    See thats how I feel, you've made the leap I'm afraid to. i'd love to do something like that, but I'm scared because i've spent my whole life watching the job market for programmers, and never for artists, so I'm unsure of what would happen after, or even if a good plan would be to do a Graphic Design BA, and a Comp Sci Associates, or vice versa.

    My passion is art, and I want to learn so much more, but I have to be able to pay back the massive debt I'm going to be in with loans

  • ScorchedScorched Registered User
    edited June 2010
    I really don't know much about American universities and degree paths. What schools are you looking at, and how much will the privilege of owning of a piece of paper cost you?

    At the end of the day, the piece of paper, and how you got it, doesn't mean anything at all in the art fields. The people saying you can get an art job from home are absolutely right. You can do it, and there are many who do. But people often forget that said people spend as much time doing art as the dedicated ones at art university, and as I said, the dedicated ones will put anywhere from 40 to 80 hours into it, a week.

    Unfortunately, I can't give advice on what option is the best for doing art and even with the numbers it'd be an icky proposition. There will be a lot of frustration starting out, so purely for that reason, I'd be tempted to start out on lower end of the scale - foundation courses at CC, and the like. But whatever you do, go look at the greats of graphic design and internalize the standard you need to reach, because there will be very few people that will critique you to a good standard if you go the CC / Home school approach.

  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Scorched wrote: »
    I really don't know much about American universities and degree paths. What schools are you looking at, and how much will the privilege of owning of a piece of paper cost you?

    At the end of the day, the piece of paper, and how you got it, doesn't mean anything at all in the art fields. The people saying you can get an art job from home are absolutely right. You can do it, and there are many who do. But people often forget that said people spend as much time doing art as the dedicated ones at art university, and as I said, the dedicated ones will put anywhere from 40 to 80 hours into it, a week.

    Unfortunately, I can't give advice on what option is the best for doing art and even with the numbers it'd be an icky proposition. There will be a lot of frustration starting out, so purely for that reason, I'd be tempted to start out on lower end of the scale - foundation courses at CC, and the like. But whatever you do, go look at the greats of graphic design and internalize the standard you need to reach, because there will be very few people that will critique you to a good standard if you go the CC / Home school approach.

    Thats very true, and I suppose thats largely what you get with a University Arts education, someone to bluntly tell you that something sucks, and exactly how it sucks.

    I suppose between the two, Arts/Design would be easier to learn on my own than Computer Science beyond what I already know

  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Is a minor in Graphic Design out of the question?

    I have a friend who does freelance graphic design for a living. He says it's really tough right now. His major was in computer science, which I think has been useful to a degree because he is able to design and build widgets for clients.

  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Here's the thing.

    If you get a degree in computer science and study design independently, you'll learn a fair to large amount about web development, work on projects that you'll be able augment for a portfolio, and get a degree that will get you through a lot of web design/front-end developer/UI designer resume filters.

    If you get a degree in graphic design and study programming independently, you'll learn very little about web design, work on projects that will usually have nothing to do with the web, and get a degree that will be completely ignored.

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  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited June 2010
    admanb wrote: »
    Here's the thing.

    If you get a degree in computer science and study design independently, you'll learn a fair to large amount about web development, work on projects that you'll be able augment for a portfolio, and get a degree that will get you through a lot of web design/front-end developer/UI designer resume filters.

    If you get a degree in graphic design and study programming independently, you'll learn very little about web design, work on projects that will usually have nothing to do with the web, and get a degree that will be completely ignored.

    That is a good point, and ultimately that's the goal, with more and more things becoming "cloud" based, and Web Development is really what I'd like to break into.

    Despite my fears, and desire for something different, I'm thinking the best option is still probably for me to stay in for Comp Sci

    EDIT:
    As for minoring, It's not completely out of the question, but would be more than I could probably take on at the moment. I started school and fubared it when I was 18, and now I'm going back at 21 (22 now), and having to retake a lot of my classes, so I'm already graduating at 26 at the earliest, and I end up being 2 classes short of a Math minor, so I just don't know that it's something I'd be able to toss on my plate in addition

  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    As for the passion aspect of it, give CS a chance. There's a lot of facets to the major (it's a pretty confused area, academically speaking) and there may be something out there that kicks you into gear. A lot of the tech stuff that people who are supposedly in my field talk about doesn't do anything for me, but I love web development and software design.

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  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal Flo-ridaRegistered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I will say this. The demand for competent computer programmers that can use Photoshop and have even moderate taste is extremely high. And I do mean extremely. It puts you in an entirely different class (provided you are actually good at the programming part).

    There is more money to be made as a programmer who can do graphics, than a graphics person who can do programming. Yes, there is a difference.

  • TejsTejs Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Anecdotally, you also have a mismatch in terms of skills required. A single UI developer / designer can service an entire team of programmers doing work. Unless said application is highly art driven (videogames, some multimedia applications), the need for programming is much greater.

  • WassermeloneWassermelone Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    I'm glad when I was making the decision between art school and comp sci I didn't post here.

    Sure, art school is not without its pitfalls and I don't think I'll ever make beaucoup bucks but I think I would have been a lot less happy if I didn't have a job where I paint all day.

  • ScorchedScorched Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Tejs wrote: »
    Anecdotally, you also have a mismatch in terms of skills required. A single UI developer / designer can service an entire team of programmers doing work. Unless said application is highly art driven (videogames, some multimedia applications), the need for programming is much greater.

    In what world though? In general? In an IT field? In advertising?

    Blakfeld hasn't been scouting out exactly what he wants to do with his graphic design degree yet. Perhaps he needs to look at the job he eventually wants to do as a graphic design major, and then weigh the passion / common sense side on that.

  • GrennGrenn Registered User
    edited June 2010
    Just to throw another opinion into the melting pot:

    I dropped out of school and have no qualifications, yet I still beat a bunch of graduates to a graphic design job because *shock horror* I actually used the time I would have spent at University doing freelance work and building up my experience with real life commerical clients.

    If you have the drive (and a shred of business sense) you can achieve whatever you set out to do. School should be a means to facilitate that, and is no replacement for simply working hard.

    Good luck!

  • mspencermspencer Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Don't knock Computer Science. Speaking as a CS grad student, it isn't what it seems like on the surface.

    This is the second time today I've quoted this, but: calling what we do "computer science" is like calling what a surgeon does "knife science." CS is really about solving problems that involve information. You are studying to be a problem solver, and your primary problem solving tool happens to be this number crunching thingy.

    You can do a lot more with a computer science degree than just sit in a cubicle and write code for ten hours a day. In fact, the most in-demand computer scientists are experts in CS *and* experts in another field, and are uniquely equipped to use computers to solve previously-unsolved problems in that field.

    Obviously I'm biased though. :-)

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  • HypatiaHypatia Registered User regular
    edited June 2010
    Speaking as someone who made the decision to switch out of CS and into Industrial Design, this is just my opinion:

    If you can seriously stand to stay in CS for your future job security, more power to you.

    HOWEVER

    If staying in CS is going to be a grueling, miserable, and harrowing experience that will lead you to dragging through your classes, getting not very good grades because you spend the entire time wishing you were doing something else, and hating your life, change to graphic design!

    Neither degree is going to help you if you don't finish, finish with a D for "Done" or end up hating everything by the end.

    Yes, you can practice design and build a portfolio in your spare time. You can also learn and do programming in your spare time. Either degree will offer classes where you will learn some valuable things (depending on the program) but the greatest value of your degree is showing that you slogged through it. Once you have the degree people will be judging you based on what you can do/what you've done, so make sure that you have a portfolio/code samples regardless of which way you go.

    Professionally speaking you will end up with occasions where people initially base their expectations solely on your degree, but with a targeted resume and solid body of work you will be able to overcome that and people are definitely willing to pay a premium for someone who is able to cover both design and programming in-house.

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