Online Graphic Design Degrees

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A growing number of graphic design opportunities in new media (such as smartphone apps and computer systems design) are reinvigorating the industry and creating new jobs for talented artists. Artists who understand computer graphics and design software will be well prepared for a variety of positions in the field.

The best graphic designers should be seasoned visual thinkers with an eye for design, color, and typography. They are capable of conveying a clear visual message while constantly imagining new, innovative ways to succinctly broadcast a brand with a few simple shapes and colors. Graphic designers also need to be excellent and sensitive collaborators, able to intuit a customer's needs and work with a team to turn a vision into reality.

Students interested in pursuing a graphic design career may be intrigued to learn how they can obtain certification online. Whether pursuing a bachelor's, certificate program, or any other kind of degree, distance learners can pursue a variety of online opportunities. Once in school, they can sharpen their technique and prepare for a fun and engaging career without ever setting foot in a traditional classroom.

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Laura Stinson Graphic Design

“I decided on an online program because it allowed me to be flexible in my studying.”


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Degrees

Online Graphic Design Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $19,376 17.54% 2 years $32,100 $48,700 9.9%
Bachelor's $22,934 13.72% 4 years $37,500 $60,700 6.8%
Master's $27,506 12.98% 1+ years $48,700 $73,500 6.4%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

While a graphic design degree is not strictly necessary, most employers prefer to hire candidates with an academic background in the field. According to Burning-Glass.com, of approximately 32,000 graphic design job listings, a full 91% of employers preferred job candidates who had a graphic design degree. An associate degree can help you find work as an assistant to a designer, but you'll find more, and better paying job options with a bachelor's or master's degree.

Online Graphic Design Degrees

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Online Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design

Students in an associate program learn the basic technical and creative skills necessary to pursue a graphic design career. Upon graduation, they should know how to use graphic design software, and be able to integrate the fundamental principles of typography and color theory into their designs. An associate degree typically takes 18 months to two years of full-time studying to complete, at an estimated cost of nearly $20,000. Often, graphic designers with associate degrees become graphic design assistants.
  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Color Theory, Photo Image-Editing, Typography, and Web Graphics Art Design

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Graphic Design, Web Graphic Design, Interactive Design, and Motion Graphics

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Freelance Graphic Designer, Web Designer, and Desktop Publisher

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $32,100

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    1% growth for freelance graphic designers, 27% growth for web designers

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design

Graphic designers generate visual imagery to communicate ideas that attract, inspire, and inform consumers. Often using cutting-edge software, they create the overall layout and design for applications, advertisements, and other visual media.

While some graphic designs retain self-employment, many work in a variety of industries that encompass both the public and the private sectors. Especially suitable for creative personalities and visually oriented individuals, graphic design continues to remain a strong industry, projected to grow by at least 4% over the next decade, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

A recent CNBC report suggests many college graduates display a newfound interest in careers in the arts, including graphic design. As an aspiring graphic designer, you will want to set yourself apart as an attractive job candidate in this competitive environment with training specific to the industry. Earning an accredited online graphic design degree offers distinct advantages in this regard. Many employers and potential clients prefer a bachelor's degree in the discipline.

A bachelor's degree in graphic design demonstrates your proficiency with the basic tools of graphic design and validates your skills as an effective, creative professional. It may also increase your overall earning power in the marketplace and open up a wider range of job opportunities.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Concept Development, Graphic Symbolism, Corporate Identity, Drawing and Color Theory, and Animation

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Print Media, Web Design, and Design and Media Arts

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Art Director, Freelance Graphic Designer, and Multimedia Artist/Animator

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $48,700

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    6% growth for multimedia artist/animators, 2% growth for art directors, 1% growth for freelance graphic designers

Graphic Design
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For the 2016 rankings, OnlineColleges.net has greatly refined its approach to evaluating schools and their respective programs. Our innovative method of assessing schools is what makes our rankings so distinctly authoritative. On the surface, every ranking we produce employs a basic formula: Academic Quality + Online Offerings + Cost and Student Aid = Final Score. This final score determines where a school ends up in our rankings. Of course, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Visit our methodology page to discover the data points that shape our formula and to learn more about our process.

Graphic Design Bachelor’s Degree Rankings

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Rank School Name School Logo City Cost Address & Contact Info School Links Acclaim for Online Programs School Description
1Liberty UniversityLynchburg$$$$$1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515
(800) 434-9595

A private, evangelical institution located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University emphasizes excellence in teaching and learning with a distinct focus on spiritual development within a Christian worldview. For learners seeking careers as multimedia artists and visual designers, Liberty offers a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design.

Liberty's fully online program features 120 credits delivered synchronously through 8-week sessions. Most degree seekers complete their studies in 3.5 years or less and enter the workforce fully prepared for creative work in graphic design. Enrolled learners hone their expertise in the discipline by taking courses that cover art history and digital imaging, color theory, typography, and image manipulation.

Liberty's online graphic design degree boasts a generous transfer policy. Degree seekers can transfer up to 75% of the required credits, easily accelerating their path to graduation. Eligible applicants must demonstrate evidence of completed secondary education with a 2.0 minimum cumulative GPA.

2Southern New Hampshire UniversityManchester$$$$$2500 North River Road
Manchester, NH 03106-1045
(603) 668-2211

Initially founded in 1932 as a business school, SNHU provides quality, affordable, and innovative higher education programming. Located in Hooksett, New Hampshire, the school administers a bachelor of arts in graphic design and media arts, ideal for aspiring visual artists.

A 120-credit program with two concentrations — web design or 3D modeling and animation — SNHU's online graphic design degree equips learners for creative fulfillment and professional success. The program offers all course content online through convenient asynchronous learning technologies. Topics include desktop publishing, the history of design and photography, visual literacy, and graphics layout.

Graduates of SNHU's program stand fully qualified to work as graphic designers in a variety of corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations. Learners interested in applying to this accredited online graphic design degreemust verify completion of high school or a GED. Transfer applicants holding 12 or more credits must provide official academic transcripts indicating a 2.0 minimum cumulative GPA.

3California Baptist UniversityRiverside$$$$$8432 Magnolia Ave
Riverside, CA 92504-3297
(951) 689-5771

CBU integrates academics with spiritual and social development opportunities. Established in 1950 by the California Southern Baptist Convention, the private school extends a bachelor of arts in graphic design and digital media to degree seekers looking to advance their career prospects in the industry.

Most learners complete CBU's course of study — split between general education and major requirements — in roughly 16 months. A fully online program, CBU provides instruction and all course content through flexible distance learning formats designed to accommodate busy lives and schedules. Enrolled degree seekers explore the history of graphic design, advanced typography, and fundamental web design.

Prerequisites for this online graphic design degreeinclude basic drawing, composition, and intermediate composition. Learners eligible for the program must demonstrate evidence of a 2.0 minimum cumulative GPA and supply official academic transcript to an assigned admissions counselor.

4Savannah College of Art and DesignSavannah$$$$$342 Bull St
Savannah, GA 31402-3146
(912) 525-5000

SCAD has provided academic education and training in art, design, and other creative professions since its inception in 1978. Headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, the private school offers two programs in graphic design: a bachelor of arts in communication with a concentration in graphic design (BA) and a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design (BFA).

Both programs require 180 credits, which students generally earn in four years or less. The BA provides training in graphic design within a liberal arts focus, while the BFA emphasizes intensive art education and graphic design study. SCAD provides instruction for both programs entirely online through flexible, asynchronous learning modules. Each program also offers field-specific minors that complement the larger course of study like advertising, motion media design, and interactive design.

Applicants interested in pursuing this graphic design bachelor's degree online must provide evidence of secondary education and English language proficiency. They must also submit recent SAT or ACT test scores, a statement of purpose, a resume and portfolio, and letters of recommendation.

5Midway UniversityMidway$$$$$512 E. Stephens St
Midway, KY 40347-1120
(859) 846-4421

A private, Christian liberal arts school, Midway University offers career-focused educational experiences to learners across the globe. Located in Midway, Kentucky, and initially established in 1849 as a female orphan school, Midway grants a bachelor of science in marketing communications with a specialization in graphic design.

Students generally complete the 120 credits for this online graphic design degreein four years of full-time enrollment. Midway's course of study combines training in the visual arts and graphic design with marketing and communications acumen in order to position graduates as ideal job candidates in either industry. Enrolled learners receive high-level instruction in these areas completely online through accelerated, 8-week course modules.

Degree seekers interested in admission must submit official high school or GED transcripts along with recent ACT or SAT exam results. Transfer students must demonstrate a 2.0 minimum cumulative GPA for all applicable credits, and international applicants must provide evidence of English language proficiency.

Online Master’s Degree in Graphic Design

Master's programs explore advanced theoretical issues of design, ranging from typography to branding to sustainability in design. A master's program usually requires students to complete 10-15 courses, which normally takes two or three years. The process culminates in a thesis design project, which merges lessons from design theory with practical application, and may require significant studiowork. Completing a master's program prepares students to begin working on a design staff or to launch their own enterprise.
  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Introduction to Interaction Design, Branding Principles, Packaging Design, History of Graphic Design, and Typography 3: Complex Hierarchy

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Graphic Design, Visual Communication Design, Motion Graphics, and 3D Design

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Digital Graphic Designer, Art Director, and Creative Director

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $48,700

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    1% growth for creative directors, 2% growth for art directors, 7% growth for digital graphic designers

Online Graphic Design Choose Your Career

Average Graphic Design Salaries

$72,134
$40,994
$83,429

User Experience/Interaction Designer

Salary: $72,134
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
1% 261,600 Associates None

A user experience/interaction designer's job is to create the overall sensory and informational experience that users will feel when interacting with a product or service. Interaction designers help develop the visual and practical design of a product. They account for how a product will function and provide information to the user, and ensure that it does so in a positive, enjoyable manner. Designers should master user interface design, as they will often be responsible for creating the wireframe, or basic overview of a website or online app. Designers need to be creative, analytical thinkers with an appreciation for aesthetics and a knack for anticipating user needs. They must also be comfortable collaborating across sectors, from design to IT.

Freelance Graphic Designer

Salary: $40,994
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
1% 261,600 Associates None

Freelance graphic designers help brands or businesses communicate visual messages through typography, symbols, color, and images. They often help develop visual brand identity by designing booklets, flyers, brochures, or web graphics. Freelance graphic designers need a strong eye for color and balance and should be able to employ a variety of visual approaches into their work. Freelancers must be self-starters. They should understand their strengths and weaknesses and feel comfortable marketing themselves. They need effective time management skills, and the creative flexibility to meet diverse customer needs. Successful designers build relationships with clients and enjoy networking with potential customers.

Creative Director

Salary: $83,429
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
1% 261,600 High School Diploma or Equivalent None

Creative directors need to be imaginative, big-picture thinkers who can help business owners express their brand in everything from visual advertisements to product design. They are responsible for conceiving broad overall concepts and projects for graphic design, advertising, web design, and product design. Creative directors are responsible for managing teams of designers, copywriters, and multimedia producers, making effective leadership skills critical. They also need to be business savvy, as they are charged with overseeing budgets and timelines, while offering creative feedback on projects across all departments.

Online Graphic Design Degree in Action

Laura Stinson Graphic Design

Laura Stinson is the web and graphic designer behind Designed by Laura. She specializes in WordPress websites and identity design packages for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofits.

Laura earned her BA in English in 2003, through a traditional on-campus program. In 2009, she returned to school for a web design & development degree. After completing her AS, she realized that design was her true passion, so she earned a BFA in Graphic Design in 2013 from the International Academy of Design & Technology Online.

Why did you pursue your graphic design degree online?

I chose to pursue an online degree for several reasons. One, I had already done the on-campus experience, and being a little older, I knew it just wouldn't be comparable. Secondly, the only school in my area that offered what I wanted was a pretty far drive (45 minutes both ways) and I didn't want to make that drive regularly for however long I was in school. Eventually, I decided on an online program because it allowed me to be flexible in my studying, and gave me the freedom to pursue other interests by not being in a classroom for several hours a week.

What were the biggest advantages for you as you studied online?

The biggest advantages to online studying are, as I mentioned, flexibility and freedom. I got to study exactly what I wanted from the kind of institute I wanted to study at, and didn't have to compromise on an on-campus program. I also got to go to school in my pajamas, which is always a plus in my book!

What were the challenges or obstacles you faced as an online graphic design student?

You have to be very self-motivated in order to complete an online program. Even though you have professors and classmates, it is very much like an independent study. It is also fast-paced. In my particular program, classes lasted only five weeks, instead of an entire semester. So I had to be able to manage my time well in order to complete assignments on time, and to learn the material. In many ways it was a self-guided education.

How did the online format help prepare you for your graphic design career?

Studying graphic design online was great preparation for me! About 90% of what I do is all done online, via email, chats, document sharing, etc., so I developed the skill set for conducting business mainly online, which carries a different set of expectations than conducting business in person. It doesn't mean you can just set your face-to-face interpersonal skills aside. But, it does mean you have to develop a different set of skills for doing business via the internet.

Online Graphic Design Professional Requirements

Technically, no official certification is required for most graphic design jobs. While most employers feel more comfortable hiring certified designers, your best asset isn't a diploma; it's a powerful, thoughtfully designed online portfolio. When building your portfolio, think carefully about which of your past projects best highlight your skills. Be discerning. Your portfolio is better served by a thorough visual and thoughtful explanation of a handful of your most impressive projects, rather than a superficial skim through everything you've ever created.

It's important to demonstrate the breadth of your skills. If you have videos of user interactions with your products, include those in your portfolio. Also try to show the various stages of your designs to help give employers insight into your creative process. Your profile should show your range as a designer, ability to turn an initial sketch into a final product, capability of meeting a variety of customer needs, and most of all, your unique vision and perspective as a designer.