How to become a graphics engineer in 7 steps (with skills)

Updated 9 July 2022

If you're passionate about art and have good technical skills, a career as a graphics engineer can be rewarding. Graphics engineers design and communicate messages through visual art, meaning they often work alongside art directors and content creators to understand what message a client wants to get across. As a graphics engineer, you can work in several industries, so it's important to research your options first. In this article, we discuss what a graphics engineer is, what they do and how to become a graphics engineer.

What is a graphics engineer?

A graphics engineer is someone who creates digital content for video games, computer operating systems, or other electronic applications. This requires them to use a combination of hardware and software to see digital projects through from initial blueprints to 2D and 3D computer-aided designs. The primary aim of a graphics engineer is to make animations and characters come to life using imaging software.

While some graphics engineers work alone, most work within a team to draw architectural blueprints and produce unique video game systems or applications. Graphics engineers create content for clients and customers in various industries. All digital content purports a particular message or idea that reflects the company or industry it's designed for. The client may want to inform, inspire or capture the attention of customers through advertisements, logos or print materials. Some common sectors that draw upon graphics engineering techniques include:

  • marketing

  • advertising

  • print publications

  • publishing

  • video game design

  • entertainment

  • software development

  • digital media

Related: 10 types of engineer jobs (with salaries and duties)

How to become a graphics engineer

There are certain education and experience requirements you need to obtain to become a successful graphics engineer. Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow if you want to enter this field:

1. Start developing skills in secondary school

Choose optional subjects in secondary school that allow you to build on your graphic engineering knowledge and skills. Some associate subjects that schools offer include:

  • graphic design

  • art

  • information communication technology (ICT)

  • art history

These subjects can teach you graphic engineering skills, such as artistic design and software application. Be sure to achieve a passing grade, equivalent to four and above, in these subjects. There are also opportunities to develop your skills through practical work whilst at school. If your school runs a newspaper or has an online forum, ask whether you can have a role in the production process.

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree is the minimum academic requirement to become a graphics engineer. Complete a degree in graphic engineering or another relevant subject, including computer science, computer engineering, drafting and design, or marketing. These degrees cover a variety of topics that graphics engineers need to be knowledgeable on, including commercialisation, advertising techniques, principles of design, marketing strategies, circuitry and digital systems design and coding. Be sure to complete coursework on topics that relate to areas of graphic engineering that you're interested in pursuing.

3. Consider a postgraduate study

Having a master's degree gives you a competitive edge over other candidates and allows you to develop your skills further. Additionally, some employers only accept individuals who have postgraduate qualifications, meaning that a master's degree opens you up to more opportunities. Postgraduate courses usually place more emphasis on the technical aspect of graphic engineering, like:

  • data structuring

  • computer architecture

  • computer and human interactions

  • software systems

  • mathematics

  • programming

  • coding

4. Find an internship

If you prefer to take the vocational route, consider an internship in graphic engineering or design. Internships are a great way to gain practical experience and earn money while learning. You can even complete an internship on a part-time basis while completing your undergraduate studies. Be sure to network with colleagues and other aspiring engineers throughout your internship to form professional relationships in the industry.

Only some colleges offer internships in graphic engineering, so consider appealing to graphic engineering or marketing companies of your own volition to ask for internship opportunities. Some companies may offer you work experience, which is the same other than the fact you're not paid for your services.

Related: 35 graphic design interview questions (with sample answers)

5. Create a portfolio

Create a portfolio that showcases your best work from university or practical experience. Some employers only ask for a creative portfolio and prefer it over academic qualifications. It can include print or advertisements, website graphics, animation demos, or commercial reels. This portfolio supports your CV and application when applying for graphic engineering jobs and allows employers to better understand your skill set and aesthetic. If you don't have any experience in designing projects, you can create your own and focus more on quality rather than quantity.

It's essential that you showcase a wide range of work to demonstrate your versatility, whilst also focusing your samples on what the employer is looking for. For example, if you're applying for a graphics engineering job in a marketing company, focus more on advertisement and logo projects rather than video game designs. You can also make a digital portfolio and post it on your professional social media accounts. Make sure you have a paper copy for attending interviews or applying for jobs in person.

6. Stay up to date on advancements

Digital production and design are constantly changing as a result of new artistic trends, technology advancements and an increase in consumer outlets. Stay knowledgeable on the latest software programs and industry trends so you can better meet client demands. The Chartered Society of Designers is an internationally recognised body for the design profession that gives members access to industry resources and keeps them up to date on the newest methodologies.

7. Choose a specialism

Although it's not necessary to specialise in a particular industry, doing so can allow you to focus on the skills you're good at and become a professional in your area. Clients are more likely to seek out graphics engineers who can offer them exactly what they need rather than those that cover several areas. Find a niche that you're passionate about and that allows you to showcase your best work. Some graphic engineering specialisms include:

  • logos

  • product packaging

  • desktop publishing

  • web design

  • video game production

  • book design

  • advertising

  • interface design

  • eNewsletters

  • branding

  • print production

  • typography

What does a graphics engineer do?

As a graphics engineer, your main responsibility is to create motion graphics and digital images using software and computer tools. Their daily responsibilities vary according to what company they work for, their position within the company and their experience. However, here are some general graphics engineer duties:

  • interacting with graphic designers, artists, software developers, content creators and art directors

  • analysing applications and games to identify problems and come up with viable solutions

  • calculating the coordinates of objects and images in applications

  • testing that all digital features work within a system

  • debugging product codes

  • creating and implementing asset pipelines – such as architectural frameworks

  • working with existing graphics engines

  • creating visual effects or environmental backdrops

  • using computer software programs and tools, such as CorelDraw, AutoCAD, Acrobat and Illustrator.

  • optimising graphic features

  • enhancing and developing new graphics technologies

  • expressing a specific message, emotion, or call-to-action to meet a client's goals

  • writing code for rendering purposes or to create end-user programs and visual user interfaces

  • documenting different system components, such as audio, animation, memory and streaming

Related: 11 top job skills: transferable skills for any industry

Graphics engineer skills

Graphics engineers need a combination of technical and soft skills to succeed in their roles. You can learn graphic engineering skills throughout your education and experience. However, it's important to be aware of what skills you need so that you can target them in your CV and applications. Some graphic engineer skills include:

  • Written and verbal communication skills: Graphics engineers need to collaborate with other team members and communicate with clients to understand their specific needs. They also present their ideas clearly and simplistically so clients understand their direction.

  • IT skills: As a graphics engineer, having various technical abilities is important to succeed in the field. Also, understanding 3D graphics, image and photo manipulation, and programming languages is beneficial.

  • Interpersonal skills: These skills allow graphics engineers to anticipate end-user needs by better understanding their behaviours. It also allows them to tailor their projects to a company's specific values or personal.

  • Mathematical skills: Graphic engineers process large amounts of data daily. Mathematical skills allow them to process this information and determine what it means for the design or application.

  • Organisational skills: As a graphics engineer, you typically oversee projects from initial conceptualisation to complete designs. Good time management and organisation ensure you remain on task and meet deadlines.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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