Ironically enough some of the most successful people on the planet never really chose their careers at all. In reality they just stumbled into them over time through a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events. Don't get me wrong now I am not suggesting that you don't choose a career at all because these people all had goals. Steve Jobs knew for example, that he wanted to work with computers and systems. If you have ever listened to one of his inspirational speeches you will see that he made choices based on his reality at that moment. He did not try to predict the future, because trying to pick a career isn't that different from trying to predict the future. It assumes that you know something of how you are likely to develop as a human being, how the market will continue over the years, and what the need will be for your specific skill-set.
Now looking back on my own choices and what lead me into a career in graphic design I can tell you that there was very little predicting of the future going on. I, like many other young folks out there at the time, didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with my life, in many respects I still don't. All I knew was that I was fairly intelligent (although my schooling hardly reflected this), I had a few obscure talents such as sports, music, and drawing and that I didn't ever, ever, want to live the life that so many of my parents and there friends lived.
What was this life I hear you ask? well it conssited of conversations that revolved around furniture choices and what was on the front page of the news paper and the behaviour of the neighbours, marital spats, living beyond ones means and generally having a life that was a carbon copy of every other person within a hundred mile radius. There was nothing wrong with it as such, but I found it all thoroughly uninspiring. I must have been just about to leave school when I realised all of this and so I set about going to college to do something that appeared to hold some promice of the future. It was a multimedia course at the time but to me it seemed like a gateway into cool, modern up to date liberalism and culture, and a far cry from what I already new and was so bored with. The reason I bring this up is because it is an example of my reality at the time and the choice that I made towards my current state of affairs. I had a goal in mind and the vehicle towards this goal was irrelevant.
I suspect that most people considering a career in graphic design are considering it for these kinds of underlying motives. Probably because you think it will allow you to avoid office politics and talk about cultural issues all day, and because it will somehow give you license to wear super sleek modern glasses that you would never have normally considered, and because like everyone else these days, you are addicted to coffee and the internet so you may as well make the leap and join the forces of people who rely on them to get there work done. You probably beleive that you will go to cool hip parties where other cool hip graphic designers party, and your music collection will be so up to date nobody will have heard of any of the bands. And you are right about these things, they are all true of the proffession to an extent. But there are a few realities of the trade that you should be made aware of if you are genuinely thinking of going down this route.
Being a graphic designer does not make you cool! It never has and it never will and all the best graphic designers are seriously uncool people that don't go outside. That is because they are so intertwined with what they do they have forgotten what the world looks like when its not printed up in helvetica.
Being a graphic designer does not pay well. Unless you happen to be some kind of guru that is snapping up the latest advertising campaigns left right and center you are likely to be working for an average wage doing run of the mill jobs like business cards for your local bricklayer.
You do not get to avoid office politics you just get a different kind of office politics and most people think that you quite literally draw for a living and will therfore stick there noses up at you wherever possible.
You can dress like a wanker if you really want to but it is only going to make people think that you are indeed as they always suspected....a wanker.
A degree in Graphic Design is step one of getting a job and it is the third most popular degree in the country. You have an awful lot of competition so you had better be good at what you do! You are going to have to prove it time and time again, also there are something like 135,000 graphic design graduates a year and only about 20,000 job roles to fill.
The hours are basically as long as it takes until the job is done.
The software and the technology that you use will become outdated the minute you master it so you had better like the idea of reskilling on a regular basis.
The internet has created a space for ametures to take over where proffessionals once were and so what you are left with is a minimum requirement of skill level. This is high! You are going to have to become all singing and all dancing to compete with the masses.
People will often try not to pay you for your work and you will have to get used to the idea that people don't like your stuff. It is highly subjective but something that you will have to get used to none the less.
The last thing that I would like to say is that it can be expensive breaking in. The software is pricey and a machine powerful enough to run it will set you back as well. Not to mention extras like a digital camera, a drawing tablet, a printer, paper, ink etc.
Where do you stand?
Now having said all of those things above it is still a rewarding career and there are many subdivisions within graphic design that will give you room to breathe. Some graphic designers double as artist and interior designers, others start up there own printing firms, and some freelance in digital and web design, the list goes on. It is really about figuring out exactly what you are good at and swinging your career around to that. The only way you are going to do that is by trial and error and don't be afraid to end up doing something completely different from where you first started because all the fun is in the journey! I think that if you are inclined towards the creative arts and you happen to have some talent then graphic design is as good an industry as any, and probably holds more chance of you getting a pay check for your efforts than being a painter of a sculptor. So get down to your local college, get stuck in and see where it takes you.