Online Graphic Design Degree Programs

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What is an Online Graphic Design Degree?

Online students study the theories and skills needed in the graphic communication industry. From industry standards to the know how needed to create visuals for consumer materials. That may include everything from advertisements and brochures. To photoshop and computer graphic arts for web development.

As a graphic design student, you are likely to start with the principles of design. Such as color theory and typography. You also typically study the software and tools used to create designs. This may include some of the main concepts of marketing communications. Like how to reach a group through images. Some programs also cover digital media and areas of interest for aspiring multimedia animators. Finally, while going for online education, you may create a professional digital portfolio of design work. Are you creative? Do you want to help companies communicate in a visual way? Then, this field may interest you.



Graphic Design Associate’s (Web and Interactive Design Focus)

In this program, you may pursue foundational knowledge of graphic design. You may gain skills and learn about technology. You might also cover multimedia design, traditional art, and more. These areas tend to help people new to the field learn critical thinking skills as well as design basics.

Course Examples:

  • Design Foundations
  • 3D Animation
  • User Experience Design

B.A. in Graphic Design and Media Arts

Here, you may focus on turning concepts into design, from print to web. You may learn the theories and technologies behind creating designs. And, you may choose a concentration in Web Design or 3D Modeling and Animation.

Course Examples:

  • Basic Design and Color Theory
  • Advanced Digital Imaging
  • Digital Graphic Design for the Web

M.F.A. in Graphic Design and Visual Experience

In this M.F.A program, you may explore advanced topics. It is designed to broaden your perceptions. You will study everything from ideation models to multimedia artist skills. And, you will engage in graduate research and discovery.

Course Examples:

  • Visual Analysis of Static Content
  • Visual Design for Interactive Contexts

Online Graphic Design Degree Programs

There may be degrees in graphic design at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. What do these programs cover? Programs at all levels typically combine artistic and technical concepts. As a result, you may take online courses in many areas. From the skills needed to lay out pages in a magazine to editing digital images for the web. Also, areas that help plan out well designed visuals and packaging design. Along the way, you may flex your creative muscles as you work on your own design capstone projects. This may grow the problem solving skills needed for a range of graphic design careers.

Associate’s in Graphic Design Online Programs

At the Associate’s level, you may explore the basics of visual communications. This means you will cover topics such as typography (the art of type), image editing, and website design. You can expect to explore commonly used graphic design software, like Adobe Creative Cloud. And, you will gain a greater appreciation of art and design, whether you find it in museums, video games, social media or on billboards!

Associate’s programs may include:

  • An Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Graphic Design
  • Associate of Science (A.S.) in Graphic Design
  • Graphic Design Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)

All programs, you will find, share similarities. But, A.A. and A.S. programs are often best for you if you transfer to a four year school, later. And, while many programs involve your creativity and the arts, an A.A. program may require you to take more liberal arts electives. In an A.S. program, you may encounter more math or technology electives.

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Programs

In an online Bachelor’s degree program  you may expect a ground up approach. You might take foundational art courses, like drawing and color theory. Also, you may study the history of graphic design and how the discipline evolved.

You will also explore different applications for design. This could include a range of industries. Your graphic design skills can be used for branding, advertising, publishing, and more! You could try your hand at everything from print design to creating software user interfaces that are easy on the eyes.

Your technical skills will play a big role in most programs. After all, much of your design will be for digital, from websites to apps. So, you can expect to study software and related skill areas. These could include photo editing programs to HTML.

Bachelor’s programs may include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Graphic Design and Media Arts
  • Graphic Design Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Graphic Design

Earning a B.A. or B.S. in Graphic Design may offer you a broader exploration of the liberal arts and sciences. You could pursue diverse knowledge areas besides graphic design, for instance. And, you could prepare for potential graduate study. A B.F.A. is a professional degree. It may feature more career oriented coursework. For instance, you could study brand identity, environmental design, and even 3D animation. However, you may not take as many electives outside your major.

Finally, some programs offer you concentrations, as well. These could include:

  • Web Design
  • Interactive Design
  • Animation and Motion Graphics
  • 3D Design
  • And others

Online Master’s in Graphic Design Programs

In a master’s program, you may build on what you learned in an undergraduate program. And, you could potentially update your technology knowledge. As you can imagine, the graphic design field is highly technical. It changes fast.

If you complete a Master’s program, you may delve deeper into design theory. You could take a critical approach to movements and trends in the field. Also, you could take advanced course work in areas such as interactive design and typography. You could even study graphic design research.

Master’s in Graphic Design may include:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.) in Graphic Design
  • Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Graphic Design

You will find that these programs may have overlapping coursework. If you choose an M.A., you may be more focused on theory and research. But, an M.FA. may have you hone in more on the practice of design.

Graphic Design Degree Program Core Courses

What kind of graphic design courses could you take? Whether at the Associate’s, Bachelor’s, or Master’s level, you will take classes that explore the theory of art and design. You will also study technical subjects. These might include everything from digital image editing to package design and animation.

Here are a few common courses you may find in your prospective program:

History of Graphic Design: The earliest examples of graphic design were pictographs found in caves! In a course like this, you’ll learn the key figures, innovations, and tech tools that shaped the industry as we know it today.

Web Design: Design for web calls for knowledge of how to make websites user friendly and visually pleasing. That’s true whether they’re viewed on a computer screen or mobile device. This course covers the principles of website design, along with skill areas like CSS.

Typography: You’ll likely take one or more courses exploring the art of the font. Expect to learn how type is designed and how to use it to communicate with your audience. And, you could work on projects that use type in different ways.

Electronic Publishing: Sometimes, designers work on publications that are many pages long. This course teaches you how to design large documents, from ebooks to magazines. You may study everything from choosing colors to working with master pages in Adobe InDesign.

How Long Does It Take You to Earn a Degree in Graphic Design?

Earning an Associate’s degree in graphic design may take you around two years. Earning a Bachelor’s degree could take you around four years. Master’s programs vary in length, but could take you about two years. Remember that your degree length also depends on whether you study part time or full time.


Graphic Design Degrees Program Examples

SchoolDegree Level# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Rasmussen CollegeAssociate’s91Multiple18 months
Full Sail UniversityBachelor’s1205 per year29 months
Grand Canyon UniversityBachelor’s120Multiple29 months

Top Schools Offering Graphic Design Programs

NCES names 656 institutions where one may study graphic design. From those schools, you will find 8,931 degrees were awarded to students in 2022 (the most recent data). Most of these degrees, you will see, were at the B.A. or B.F.A. level.

School2022 Degrees awarded2023/24 Tuition (out of state unless *)
School of Visual Arts219$49,140*
Full Sail University201$26,417
Southern New Hampshire University521$16,450
California State Polytechnic University Pomona105$19,319
Maryland Institute College of Art95$55,150
Columbia College Chicago76$32,520*
Pratt Institute Main67$59,683
Ferris State University43$13,630*

Choosing an Accredited Graphic Design Program

When looking into graphic design schools, you might also request info about accreditation. Regionally accredited schools may take part in state and federal financial aid. These schools may also help you transfer credit hours from one to the next.

Some schools also go an extra step and seek accreditation for certain programs. The main accreditor is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD accredits over 360 institutions with arts and design programs. Programs must meet NASAD’s rigorous quality standards. These standards emphasize areas like:

  • Artistic and educational fundamentals
  • Faculty qualifications and specializations
  • Resources, such as studio space and technology
  • Connections to the design community
  • Connections to the local community

If you graduate from an accredited program, it could help you make sure that what you learned meets the expectations in your industry. But, it’s not necessarily a requirement for pursuing a design career path.

What Can You Do with a Graphic Design Degree?

According to the most recent data, there are over 2.28 million workers in graphic design.

As a designer, you may work for a variety of different companies. Though according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job outlook varies by industry.

For example, graphic designers in computer systems design and related services may see an increase in jobs by 3% between 2022 and 2032. Graphic design on the whole is projected to grow 4% in the same time frame.

Are you wondering if you fit into the field? Many degree holders (66%) were female. The average age of a degree holder is 41 years old.

Top Salaries by State for Graphic Designers

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage

Jobs You Can Get with a Graphic Design Degree

Graphic Designer

A graphic designer blends artistic prowess with technical expertise to craft visual concepts. Beyond creating, they engage in discussions with clients and report to a creative director, involving collaboration and communication skills. Utilizing tools like digital illustration and photo editing software, designers bring their creative visions to life. Whether self-employed or working across diverse industries, their adaptability allows for versatility in their role.

According to 2023 BLS Data:

Median Salary: $58,910 per year

Job Growth Through 2032: 3% (As fast as average)

Typical Entry Level Education: Bachelor’s degree

Art Director

As an Art Director, you assume a leadership role, guiding creative teams and bearing responsibility for the visual aesthetics within an organization. This can involve shaping the overall look of various entities such as periodicals, brands, film or theatre sets, and more. Directors also have oversight over other team members, emphasizing the importance of not just creative skills but also leadership acumen in this role.

According to 2023 BLS Data:

Median Salary: $106,500 per year

Job Growth Through 2032: 6% (Faster than average)

Typical Entry Level Education: Bachelor’s degree

Web Designer

Web Designers, often synonymous with Web Developers, specialize in designing and constructing websites. Their role encompasses both the visual aesthetics and the functionality of a site. Collaborating with various team members, including graphic designers, they contribute to determining the overall look and user experience of a website.

According to 2023 BLS Data:

Median Salary: $92,750 per year

Job Growth Through 2032: 16% (Much faster than average)

Typical Entry Level Education: Associate’s degree

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Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

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