Tennessee is home to more than 6.3 million residents, making it the seventeenth largest state in the U.S. Like other large states, several major cities coexist here, and each has its own art and culture scene. Locals will tell you that Memphis—the state’s largest city, is all about blues and rock n’ roll, while Nashville is considered the original home of country music. Knoxville’s scene is a hodgepodge of music, drama, and dance, while Chattanooga is considered one of the best places in the state for working artists.
More than 25,000 salaried artists live in the State of Tennessee. While many prefer the state’s largest cities, some have discovered alternatives to the big city, all with growing art scenes. Johnson City is home to East Tennessee State University, which houses the popular Slocumb Galleries, and in Jackson, the Ned R. McWherter West Tennessee Cultural Arts Center (known by locals as “The Ned”) is a major attraction for artists and art lovers across the state, if not the region.
In addition to a notable number of cities with thriving art and culture scenes, The Volunteer State is home to a variety of colleges that offer top-tier art and design programs—including graphic design. Just a few of the best art and design schools here include O’More College of Design (Franklin), Watkins College of Art, Design & Film (Nashville), University of Memphis-College of Communication and Fine Art, and Austin Peay State University-Department of Art (Clarksville). Continue reading to find out which Tennessee schools offer top-tier graphic design programs and where to find them.
Tennessee Graphic Design Schools
Tennessee is one of only 16 states with 100+ colleges. Most of the schools here have art programs, and nearly a dozen of the best offer graphic design programs. Scroll through the list below to review Tennessee’s best schools for graphic designers and what they have to offer.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Studio Art with Graphic Design and Photography and Media Art Concentrations
Tusculum College - Degrees Offered: B. A. Art and Design with Graphic Design Concentration, Digital Arts
Union University - Degrees Offered: B. A., B. S. Digital Media studies, B. A. Graphic Design
Carson-Newman College - Degrees Offered: B. A. Art with Emphasis in Graphic Design
East Tennessee State University - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Art with Specialization in Graphic Design, M. A. New Media Studio, M. F. A. with Specialization in Graphic Design, M. S. Technology with Digital Media Concentration
University of Tennessee at Knoxville - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Graphic Design; M. F. A. Studio Art with Concentration in Graphic Design
University of Tennessee at Martin - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Studio Art Option with Graphic Design Emphasis
University of Memphis - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Art with Concentration in Graphic Design; M. F. A. Graphic Design
Middle Tennessee State University - Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Graphic Design, B. S. Electronic Media Communication with Specialization in Digital Animation
Tennessee State University - Degrees Offered: B. S. Studio Art with Concentration in Graphic Design
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film – Degrees Offered: B. F. A. Graphic Design with Concentration in Illustration or Web Design, B. A. Art, B. F. A. Film, B. F. A. (Fine Arts)
More Tennessee Graphic Design related programs to consider:
- San Francisco & Online
- Winter Park, FL & Online
Employment and Salary Trends for Tennessee Graphic Designers
Tennessee is home to 25,390 salaried artists and designers, up from 24,870 in 2002. They average $45,380 per year, up from $36,200 in 2002. Of the state’s more than 25,000 artists, 2,720 are graphic designers. They average $40,230, up from $34,650 in 2002, when the state was home to 2,430 graphic designers.
It is important to note that mean and median wages vary, but not by that much. For example, in 2002, median wages for graphic designers nationwide were $36,680. The mean was $41,380. In 2006, the mean was $43,830 and the median was $39,990. Today, the median wages for graphic designers nationwide are $44,010. The mean is $48,690. The U.S. is home to 191,550 salaried graphic designers, up from 141,830 in 2002. The lowest paid graphic designers earn less than $26,210 and the highest 10 percent earn $77,370 (mean) or $74,660 (median).
Salaries increase significantly for freelancers, senior level designers, and business owners. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “senior designers, who may supervise junior staff or have some decision-making authority that reflects their knowledge of graphic design,” earned a median salary of $60,000. “Solo designers who freelanced or worked under contract reported median earnings of $57,000. Design directors, the creative heads of design firms or in-house corporate design departments,” earn $95,000. “Graphic designers with ownership or partnership interests in a firm or who are principals of the firm in some other capacity” average $95,000 per year.