The common trait shared by all those who call themselves designers is their creativity. Beyond that, the skills required to work in the field vary as widely as the jobs do. Falling under the umbrella of design are careers such as graphic design, interior design, floral design, web design, game design, textile design, and fashion design. And while the expertise needed to create evening wear is clearly different from that required to create a brochure, it's the creating part that ties the field together, and many of these basic design skills can be learned online.
Quite a few schools now offer online design programs. One of the biggest is the Art Institutes. With campuses in metropolitan areas around the country, the school has also added online programming to cater to the needs of even more students.
"Many of our students are working professionals and podcasting provides a number of benefits, such as the ability to download audio lectures to an iPod or MP3 player, to enhance the classroom experience and allow students to study on their own time from virtually any location," said Erin Waltman, the Art Institute Online's Business Analyst for Classroom Technology.
In addition, Westwood College offers a variety of degree programs, including an associate's program in graphic design and multimedia and bachelor's degrees in areas of study such as game art and design, game software development, interior design, visual communications, and web design and multimedia.
Also offering degrees online in various design specialties are American Intercontinental University, Ashford University (concerntration in visual communications or marketing in their organizational management programs), Baker College, and Capella University.
The curriculum at any of these schools largely depends on the student's chosen area of concentration. Most designers-in-training will have to take art classes, as well as computer training courses to learn to use programs such as CADD (Computer Assisted Design and Drafting) or Adobe Illustrator.
"Knowing how to use the software is crucial," said Pittsburgh-based graphic designer Scott Dziura.
However, technical know-how will only get you so far. Creativity, he adds – yes, there's that word again – is also a must. And so is a worthy portfolio.
"That's essentially it for us," Dziura said of a designer's portfolio.
It's also a good idea to find a program that encourages regular interaction with instructors and other students, as the ability to brainstorm and handle criticism is important in any field of design.
Some schools offer online students payment plans. Tuition fees depend largely on the institution and the type of program in which the student is enrolled.