A career in graphic arts can give you the opportunity to work in journalism, advertising or entertainment, and the skills you learn in school can even help you start your own business or become a freelancer. The right degree for you depends upon your specific needs and educational goals, but a bachelor's degree generally provides a broader education.

Degree Scope

A bachelor's degree provides you with a well-rounded education in your major as well as in core classes such as science, math, English and history. You'll spend about half your time in school focusing on graphic design, but with an associate degree you'll devote your entire education to learning about design. An associate program might be ideal if you're in a rush to get to the heart of your major, but a bachelor's degree will provide you with the basic skills you'll need to do a variety of jobs, giving you a back-up option if you choose not to pursue graphic art.

Expenses and Pay

Bachelor's degree recipients generally earn more than people with associate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median weekly earnings for people with bachelor's degrees are $1,066, compared to $785 with an associate degree at the time of publication. However, you'll need to weigh your potential earnings against the costs of tuition and loans. The average tuition cost per year at a university for 2010 through 2011 was $13,297 so you could spend almost $30,000 more on a bachelor's degree.

Time to Completion

The amount of time it will take you to complete your degree depends on whether you enroll part-time or full-time. On average, full-time students in a bachelor's degree program can expect to finish in four years, while an associate degree takes between 18 months and two years. If you have to quit working to attend school or are paying for childcare, the shorter timetable of an associate degree might be a better option.

Continuing Education

A bachelor's degree can open up further educational options. You might choose to pursue a master's degree in fine arts or expand your business by getting a master's degree in a computer-related field. An associate degree won't open up any new educational options, but it can give you a taste of what a bachelor's degree might be like. If you think you might want to continue your education, choose a bachelor's degree. But if you're unsure whether you want to commit to a longer education, an associate degree can give you a good preview of the field.