The Design Communication Arts (DCA) Certificate program prepares students for careers in graphic design by offering a solid foundation in design concepts, along with courses in web and interaction design, photography, user experience, and more. The DCA program will not only teach you the tools of graphic design, but also how to think strategically and position yourself for a competitive market. While knowing and understanding production is an integral part of design, your unique perspective and critical thinking skills offer even greater value to the process. That’s why we emphasize conceptualizing the idea, not just decorating the product.
If you pay attention and challenge yourself, you will leave the program with confidence in your creative and practical skills, and with a portfolio that reflects your unique lens on the world. The DCA core curriculum requires the completion of 64 units, usually 16 courses. It consists of seven Core Design Concept Courses; the four-course Print and Graphic Communication Toolkit; and five electives. The five electives are at your discretion, although we are happy to advise you on strategic choices. These courses change from quarter to quarter; you can find them listed in the catalog. At the end of the 16-course program, students participate in a mandatory Portfolio Review with design professionals before being awarded their certificate.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the DCA Certificate Program like?
DCA is a thinker’s program designed to educate and inspire you beyond the tools of design. We want you to see yourself in the larger design context, with the interdisciplinary insight to navigate the system and collaborate with clients, printers, designers, writers, programmers, and anyone else involved in the process.
How long does the DCA Certificate program take?
A student taking courses full-time (12 units per quarter) can expect to complete the DCA program in about 6 quarters, or a year and half. However, many of our students also work part or full-time in addition to their studies, and often take 1 or 2 courses per quarter. Students taking 8 units per quarter (2 courses) can expect to complete the program in 2 years.
Can I take individual courses without first enrolling in the DCA program?
Yes, most courses offered through UCLAx Visual Arts and Design Communication Arts are open enrollment. You may take individual courses in the DCA certificate now, and then later apply them towards the program should you decide to enroll. Please note that some application-based courses such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign have a shelf life of four years, and students must achieve a grade of ‘C’ or better in a course to count it towards the certificate.
Can I complete the DCA certificate program entirely online?
Yes, students can complete the entire DCA curriculum online. Please note that some required courses rotate availability between in-class and online formats, and select elective courses may be available only online or in-class. Please consult the UCLA Extension website or the Visual Arts department for the most up to date course schedules.
What are online courses like?
The main difference between online and in-classroom courses is the scheduling flexibility they allow. Our online courses utilize an asynchronous learning environment called Canvas, where students do not have to be online at a certain time or day. Each week of the course, you instructor will post new course materials (watching/reading lectures, contributing to the discussion board, web resources, etc.) for you to access. There will be deadlines for projects and assignments, but the weekly materials (which would normally be covered in each week’s class meeting) are available for you to engage on your own schedule, each week. Our online courses have the same instructor-to-student ratio as our in-classroom courses. For more information about Canvas, please click here.
How much homework is involved?
The amount of time spent working on assignments and projects outside of class will vary for individual students, but as a general guideline expect 2 – 3 hours per week for introductory level courses and 3 – 5 hours per week for advanced courses.
What is the candidacy fee?
The $250 candidacy fee officially establishes you as a DCA certificate student, and confers the following benefits:
- For any course that is full, preference on the waitlist
- Admittance to UCLAx AIGA student group events – including talks, studio tours, hands-on workshops, and more
- Access to DCA Program Advisor to help with course planning and career goals
- Eligible to apply for UCLA Bruincard for just $10 – good for campus discounts, reduced bus fares, campus library access, UCLA gym memberships, and more
- Locks in your DCA Certificate requirements for the duration of your candidacy
Does the DCA Certificate program accept International Applicants?
Yes, the DCA Certificate program is approved for I-20/F1 Visas. International students who wish to enroll in the program and live in Los Angeles to study can apply via the International Students Office at UCLA Extension. We encourage you to visit their webpage for the most up to date information on application deadlines, documents, and more. You can also reach them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 310.825.9351.
International students who wish to enroll and complete the DCA Certificate entirely online do not need to apply through the International Students Office, since an F1 Visa is not required to take our online courses abroad. To enroll, please visit the Design Communication Arts Certificate page.
What is the job market like?
There is overcrowding for the average graphic designer in Los Angeles, but you don’t have to be average. You can distinguish yourself from the crowd by offering more than a commodity. With work, you can offer a comprehensive understanding of the design process and the ability to contribute value at different stages.
Do you offer job placement?
Getting involved with our UCLAx AIGA Student Group is a great way to network and strategize while you are a student. That way, when you finish the DCA Certificate Program, you can land a position you’re excited about. We often post internship opportunities on our website and Facebook page, which you may want to consider while you’re a student. DCA Certificate candidates can receive credit for approved internships, and currently enrolled certificate students can access CareerSpot as well.
How much is DCA Program tuition and is Financial Aid available?