Visual concepts and messages influence us more than we maybe realize—whether it’s an advertisement on a city bus or a well-designed website or a infographic in a news story, graphic designers have the ability to inspire and inform, all with the simple tools of color, text, and image.
By harnessing just a few basic concepts and technical skills, graphic designers can communicate big ideas that effect hundreds, maybe thousands, of people every day. Their skill set can be utilized in just about any industry, too, from health care to entertainment to education.
What kind of Online Graphic Design degree should you earn?
By choosing to get earn your bachelor’s degree through an online program, you’re allowing yourself the time and flexibility to settle into the design area that best fits your needs and schedule. Each one of the programs on this list is unique, and the only thing you need to decide is which one best fits your personality and interests.
Looking for other online degree programs? To get a broader picture of just what online education entails, head on over to our ranking of the top online universities.
How much money can you earn with an Online Graphic Design degree?
Today’s job market reflects our society’s reliance on effective visual story tellers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers have a steady job outlook (with little to no change between 2014 and 2024) and a respectable median income of almost $48,000 per year (or $23/hour).
What can you do with an Online Graphic Design degree?
As you’ll see from the list below, earning your bachelor’s degree in graphic design opens you up to an eclectic range of job possibilities. You could end up as an artistic director at a magazine, or a web designer at a start-up company, or create your own business as a freelance artist.
The options truly are endless. One thing is for sure, though: by choosing one of the 25 online bachelor’s programs in graphic design from our list below, you’re guaranteed to be well on your way to landing a creatively fulfilling and financially sustainable career for yourself.
What are the Best Online Graphic Design Degrees?
Here at College Choice we’ve compared and contrasted the academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, and average annual salary of graduates from online graphic design programs across the country to create a definitive ranking of the top twenty-five programs.
We first chose programs with the most renowned academic reputation and from those pared the list down to those with high financial aid packages—a reflection of institutional stability—added those with the most economical accessibility, and finally we included the averages of early career salaries (care of PayScale) to arrive at a list marked by thorough research and extensive data aggregation. Our figures come from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
See our rankings methodology page.
College Choice Score: 100
Credit Hour Cost: $415
Midway University kicks off our list as the number one ranking in Online Graphic Design Bachelor’s programs based on its overall affordability, high retention rate, and high salaries for recent graduates. Midway University is a small liberal arts school located in Midway, Kentucky. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
This online Marketing Communications in Graphic Design degree is a 120-credit-hour program. It covers core general education classes, marketing classes, and graphic design classes. This wide variety of coursework will give you a diverse skill set to jump into the working world. More specific examples of coursework includes:
- Principles of Marketing
- Global Brand Management
- Digital Animation
This degree prepares students for creating stand-out marketing material in not only a business environment but also across multiple platforms. Graphic design graduates from Midway University have gone on to find lucrative careers in brand management, PR firms, corporate communication, creative design management, and more.
California Baptist University
College Choice Score: 99.75
Credit Hour Cost: $547
As a private university that is affiliated with the Christian church, you should be aware that the curriculum at California Baptist University includes some general education classes that involve biblical and theological teachings. Whether that works for you or not, California Baptist University has an impressive offering of online degrees, one of which is the online BA in Graphic Design and Digital Media degree.
In addition to the 43 general education credits—which covers classes in Humanities, Fine Arts, Biblical Theology, and Behavioral Science and others—this program includes 48 credits directly related to the major. All of the major-related classes revolve around four categories: design, typography, image, and web. But within those categories, students learn about core major concepts such as:
- Design History
The capstone project for this degree culminates in Graphic Design Senior Show, which consists of ten of the best pieces from your entire portfolio. California Baptist University is located in Riverside, California, and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission.
College Choice Score: 99.5
Credit Hour Cost: $410
The graphic design degree at Bellevue University takes a multidisciplinary approach by weaving together problem solving, critical thinking, and the fundamentals of design and creative visualization in its curriculum. This 48-credit-hour program takes you from the very building blocks of design—which includes topics such as grids, hierarchy, contrast, balance, and color—all the way to a final capstone project in which students prepare a portfolio for potential employment or graduate study.
The classes in between cover a range of topics, from fundamentals of print and web design to website development; from typography to branding. In addition to these classes, all students are required to complete the Kirkpatrick Signature Series, which is the “intellectual linchpin” of the Bellevue curriculum. This includes courses called American Vision and Values, Tradition and Change, and Freedom and Responsibility. Core graphic design classes include:
- Publication Design
- Interactivity Basics
You’ll leave Bellevue with not only a great understanding of graphic design principles, but also with the sense of how your work fits into larger society. Located in Bellevue, Nebraska, Bellevue University is a private university that focuses primarily on adult education, with nearly 80 percent of their undergraduates aged 25 and over. It is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Full Sail University
College Choice Score: 99.5
Credit Hour Cost: $475
The online BS in Graphic Design at Full Sail University is uniquely set up into 32 different month-long classes, making it possible for you to graduate in just over two years. The program is designed to address both focused knowledge of graphic arts and the big picture ideas of branding, advertising, and media integration.
In order to help you smoothly transition into the workforce post-graduation, this program includes seven 1-credit Career Modules, including Personal Branding, Resume Fundamentals, Career Strategy and Planning, Networking, Job Interviews, and more. Some of the classes that you’ll take include:
- Logos and Symbols
- Design and Art Theory
- Popular Culture in Media
- Digital Studio
If cost is a concern for you, take a look at the Momentum Scholarship, which offers qualified online students up to $20,000 in tuition. Full Sail University, based in Winter Park, Florida, focuses its degrees primarily on entertainment and media-related areas of study. Full Sail holds its accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
University of Massachusetts Lowell
College Choice Score: 99
Credit Hour Cost: $375
Paired as a companion degree to the online BS in Information Technology, the online Graphic Design and Digital Imaging program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell offers IT students a creative addition to their studies. If you’re looking for a high-quality classroom experience taught by full-time professors, UMass Lowell might be the spot for you.
In the 18 required credits, students are introduced to the basics of design. Students also have the chance to integrate three different elective courses (for another 9 credits) to help hone their interests. These include Website Design, Design for Advertising, Desktop Video Production, and more. The Portfolio Production Seminar is designed for students to organize their work into a professional portfolio. Some of the core classes include:
- Fundamentals of Typography
- Photographic Imaging
- Desktop Publishing: Print Production
The University of Massachusetts Lowell is an public research university with a strong reputation. Forbes recently named it as the 10th best value among all U.S. universities and colleges. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
University of Maryland University College
College Choice Score: 99
Credit Hour Cost: $499
The Graphic Communication Bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) guides students through a 120-credit-hour program entirely online. As a “portfolio-intensive program,” students at UMUC are constantly applying their learnings to how it might contribute to a final, marketable portfolio aimed toward your future clients.
The graphic communication curriculum trains students in skills beyond just graphic art and design; you’ll get a taste of computer graphics, business-oriented writing and communication, and print publication. By the end of your time at UMUC, you’ll have not only created an impressive portfolio of your work, but also a well-developed business plan for a communication arts business. You’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the working world. Students will use the following design tools:
- Adobe Suite
- After Effects
University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is a public university located in Adelphi, Maryland, though with all of its affiliate campuses, it is considered one of the largest distance learning institutions in the world. UMUC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
College Choice Score: 98.25
Credit Hour Cost: $390
Liberty University is the largest evangelical Christian university in the world, with over 100,000 online students. Its BFA in Graphic Design is a 120-credit-hour degree that is only offered online. About 45 of those credits are allocated to the general education requirements, which includes classes in communication, math, science, and biblical theology.
The program at Liberty University is determined to give you all the tools you need to make a smooth transition to a professional career. Unique to some other programs, this degree emphasizes art history as a foundational subject, with three classes covering the topic. Other courses follow the typical outline of topics, including:
- Publication Design
- Vector Illustration
In addition to the required credit hours, all students must complete both a 180-hour internship and a 30-hour practicum. Liberty University is private, Christian university located in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
College Choice Score: 98
Credit Hour Cost: $390
The Bachelor of Science in Digital Media & Design at Southeastern University takes a unique approach to graphic design by broadening the scope of the field. In addition to graphic design, students will draw from the study of marketing, writing, analytics, and digital software to complete a well-rounded degree.
This 120-credit-hour program gets broken down into three parts: 55 credit hours of general education classes, 40 credit hours of the required major classes, and 25 credit hours of electives. Since this program is 100 percent online, students can finish their degree in as short as 2 years. Within the Digital Media core classes, students can choose from the following:
- Digital Marketing and Analytics
- Writing for Digital Media
- 2-D Design
- Magazine Design and Production
Based in Lakeland, Florida, Southeastern University is a private, Christian school that was originally established as a Bible college and holds the distinction of being the largest Assemblies of God higher education institution in the country. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Southern New Hampshire University
College Choice Score: 98
Credit Hour Cost: $320
Students enrolled in the online BA in Graphic Design and Media Arts degree at Southern New Hampshire University have the option of specializing in one of two concentrations: 3D Modeling and Animation or Web Design. The school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.
Though the courses for each concentration differ in certain ways, both tracks require the standard general education classes as well as their major-specific courses, totaling 120 credits. If you choose the 3D Modeling and Animation track, you’ll get to try your hand at game models, conceptual drawing, and the 12 principles of animation. If you go down the route of Web Design, though, you can try out your graphic imaging across platforms, from video to mobile phones, tablets to desktop computers. Students will use tools such as:
- Adobe Creative Suit
- Maya 3D
Southern New Hampshire University is a small, private university located in Manchester, New Hampshire. Despite it’s small size, its online division enrolls over 60,000 students.
College Choice Score: 97.75
Credit Hour Cost: $460
The program at Lesley University takes a slightly different approach with their online BS in Design for User Experience. While it incorporates the foundational principles of graphic design, the degree at Lesley takes you a step further into the web design process to really understand how a client is interacting with your product.
Within this 120-credit-hour program, you’ll allocate 42 credits to general education, 30 credits to free electives, and the rest to the major-specific courses.This program encapsulates the entire scope of the design experience, from mock-up models to user testing. Along with a heavy emphasis on User Experience classes, some other classes include:
- Information Architecture
- Language of Design
- Media Analysis, Marketing
- Organization Behavior and Ethics
Lesley University is a private, coeducational institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts that focuses on artistic and collaborative learning. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Arizona State University
College Choice Score: 97.5
Credit Hour Cost: $627
The online Bachelors of Science in Graphic Information Technology at Arizona State University focuses primarily on content creation in platforms such as web development, print, and multimedia. While other programs on this list focus on the narrower image design aspect, this program broadens the focus to the “cross-media nature” of the graphic design industry. For example, graduates of the ASU program have landed jobs in government, non-profit, and cultural organizations like Blue Media, the Phoenix Zoo, Shutterfly, and Boeing.
This 120-credit-hour program is split into eight semesters and incorporates general education courses, electives, and major-specific courses. The culminating capstone project lets students bring together their research, critical analysis, and design skills into a final portfolio. Some classes that make ASU stand out among other programs include:
- Introduction to Video Game Art
- Advanced Web Markup and Scripting
- Commercial Photography
- Image Editing and Manipulation
Arizona State University, a public research university in Tempe, Arizona, was recently ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report as the Most Innovative Schools in America. ASU is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
College Choice Score: 97.5
Credit Hour Cost: $550
The close-knit community and strong financial aid options for students are two great reasons to choose Hodges University for earning your online Bachelor of Science in Digital Design and Graphics degree. Through Hodges’ online learning platform, called UPower, the five core faculty members of this department guide students through this 120-credit-hour program, which most students finish in as short as three and a half years.
Recent graduates of this program have gone on to work in advertising and marketing, doing newspaper or magazine design, signage, or digital pre-press; others have gone into the entertainment industry, working on video game design, animation, and video production; still others have landed jobs as corporate in-house designers, packaging designers, graphic designers, and more. Clearly, the curriculum at Hodges University can take you many different places. Core classes include:
- AutoCAD II
- Packaging Design
- 3D Modeling and Animation
- Designing with Type
Based in Naples, Florida, Hodges University is private university that caters primarily to working adult students. It is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.
College Choice Score: 97
Credit Hour Cost: $770
Unique to the program at Berkeley College—a private institution with campuses in New York and New Jersey—students on the path to the BFA in Graphic Design can choose to either attend classes at the Woodland Park campus or online; some students even choose to do a combination of the two!
Beyond the basic foundational principles of graphic design and art, students get the chance to learn the ins and outs of the field. Through a unique collaboration, you and your graphic design classmates would get the opportunity to work side-by-side on projects with the Design and Design Management students, which gives you a first-hand experience on real-world problem solving and creating. Core concepts in this program include:
- Motion graphics
- User Interface
- Interactive Design
- Game Design
Berkeley College enrolls close to 9,000 students across its nine locations (including Berkeley College Online). It is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Art Institute of Pittsburgh
College Choice Score: 96.75
Credit Hour Cost: $487
If you’re a highly creative type who needs a lot of time and space to do your best work, then the Art Institute of Pittsburgh might the best place for you. Ranking at the top of our list for financial aid, students who attend AIP tend to take longer to complete their online BS in Graphic Design, but are covered financially for that time (AIP supports over 97 percent of their student body in some way).
The program is designed to take 45 months to complete (a little less than two years), but some students spread out the 180 quarter credits to more like three or four years. This program especially highlights staying relevant with industry standards, and designing projects around the current trends to keep you ready for the professional world. The curriculum focuses on four areas:
- Technical Design
- Professional Presentation
Founded in 1921, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh is a private, for-profit institution that focuses primarily on design education. It is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
College Choice Score: 95.75
Credit Hour Cost: $93
Independence University is an higher learning institution that exclusively offers its classes online through its four schools: Healthcare, Business, Technology, and Graphic Arts. If you decide to attend Independence University, you can choose between two of their available graphic arts degrees: a BS in Graphic Arts, or a BS in Graphic Arts with an Information Design emphasis.
Both graphic design degrees require a total of 183 completed credits. The basic Graphic Arts degree covers foundational courses in logo design, vector illustration, typography, color theory, and more. The Information Design concentration offers additional classes in media marketing, technical communication, universal design and more. Here’s a look at some specific classes:
- Branding and Identity
- Advanced Image Editing
- Digital Animation
- Advertising Principles
One perk of this program is that Independence University provides its students a tablet and a Mac laptop with the Adobe software already preloaded. Hit the ground running! Independence University was established in 1891 and is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Savannah College of Art and Design
College Choice Score: 95.25
Credit Hour Cost: $782
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers its graphic design undergraduates two different programs through its e-learning platform: the BA in Visual Communication and the BFA in Graphic Design. Both programs require 180 credits to graduate, though the specific focus and class requirements differ slightly. Since SCAD is a traditional fine arts institution, the curriculum involves a number of foundational Western Art survey classes to provide you with a solid base of art history.
Not only do you receive a top notch education in the content of graphic design, but SCAD also prepares you for searching and landing a graphic design job once you graduate. Resume building, interview prep, networking opportunities, and employer meet-and-greets are all services that are folded into the curriculum at SCAD. Even more, each year they host SCADstyle, in which industry powerhouses present lectures, workshops, and other learning opportunities. Classes include:
- History of Graphic Design
- Typography: Anatomy, Form, and Space
- Color Theory and Application
A private university in Savannah, Georgia and other locations around the world, Savannah College of Art and Design enrolls over 11,000 students, with 14 percent of their student body from outside of the United States. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
College Choice Score: 94.5
Credit Hour Cost: $464
In the online BFA in Graphic Design program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, you’ll be working closely with six faculty members who are also working professionals in their field, which guarantees that your instruction will be fresh, relevant, and effective. This close-knit faculty team also ensures that you’ll get in-depth, one-on-one attention in your classes.
Unique to this program, Rocky Mountain College has its students create and present a portfolio at the end of each school year, which gives you the chance to hone and guide your work to its best potential by the time you graduate. Even more, this program incorporates real-world clients into your assignments, giving you a one-up in the field. Some of the classes you can look forward to in this program are:
- 3D Packaging
- Raster Image Processing
- Sign + Symbol
- Visual Sequencing
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, located in Denver, Colorado. The school was founded in 1963. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Upper Iowa University
College Choice Score: 94
Credit Hour Cost: $441
Students enrolled in Upper Iowa University’s portfolio-driven online Graphic Design degree are encouraged to respond creatively and uniquely to each assignment and class. The baseline goal of Upper Iowa’s program is to make sure students hone their own creative voice to bring to their professional roles.
This program does an especially good job of introducing you to a range of possibilities as a graphic artist, from digital photography to web publishing, from advertising design to typography. Some elective classes in this program include Consumer Behavior, Personal Selling, and Interpersonal Communication, which gives you a way to give your creative art a practical medium to sell to clients. Core classes include:
- Digital Imaging
- Publication Design
- Digital Photography
If you’re interested in learning more specifics about the current students in the program, Upper Iowa students maintain a blog that features their work as well as other interesting graphic-design-related images and articles. Upper Iowa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
California College San Diego
College Choice Score: 93.75
Credit Hour Cost: $147
The online BS in Graphic Arts at California College, San Diego is intended to prepare students for entry-to-mid-level graphic design jobs. In this program, students use the Adobe design software (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash) to apply their newly learned skills in a variety of different platforms and mediums.
In addition to the major-related classes, students must take 56 credits of general education courses that cover the range of foundational subjects—College Writing, Communication Arts, Critical Thinking, Sociology, and more. This interdisciplinary approach encourages students to use their full scope of knowledge in their graphic design work. Students have gone on to apply their skills in some of the following capacities:
- Information Design
- Web Design
- New Media Marketing
- Page Layout
California College, San Diego is a private college, and one of four institutions associated with the Center for Excellence in Higher Education, which is based in Salt Lake City. It is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
College Choice Score: 93.5
Credit Hour Cost: $177
If you’re looking for a graphic design program that gives you the flexibility of completing your degree at your own pace, then Stevens-Henager College might be a good place to start. Designed to be completed in as short as 36 months, the BS in Graphic Arts program allows you to choose day or evening classes, or even the option of attending a hybrid classroom (some classes online, some in person) or completely online.
Since Stevens-Henager College is a smaller school that some others on this list, you can also be assured that you’ll get more focused attention and help from your teachers. This 183-credit-hour program combines graphic design courses with professional development and business courses to ensure that you have the best toolkit possible to launch yourself into the working world. Some classes that you can choose from include:
- Psychology of Motivation
- Marketing Strategies
- Page Layout Tools
- Image Editing
Graduates from this program have gone on to work in many different settings—from corporate advertising agencies to freelance graphic design. Stevens-Henager College has campuses in Utah and Idaho and is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Academy of Art University
College Choice Score: 93
Credit Hour Cost: $873
Based in San Francisco, California, the Academy of Art University offers a wide range of degrees in Graphic Design, from Associates degrees to Masters and MFA degrees. The online BFA degree in Graphic Design includes a curriculum that emphasizes not just the creative aspects of design, but also the conceptual problem solving and critical thinking side of graphic design.
Unique to Academy of Art University is the program’s emphasis on “green strategies and issues of sustainability,” and how graphic design can be used to address social and cultural issues. The online platform allows you to create your own class schedule and includes top-notch LMS technology like instructional videos, audio-enhanced slideshows, and digital documentation. You also get the chance to directly interact with your classmates through discussion features in each class. This 132-unit degree covers four core areas:
- Design Technology
- Package Design
- Graphic Design
Established in 1929, the Academy of Art University is the largest privately owned art and design school in the United States. It enrolls close to 15,000 students each year and is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
College Choice Score: 92.25
Credit Hour Cost: $260
Rasmussen College splits its graphic design students into two camps: Animation and Motion Graphics and Web and Interactive Design, offering an online bachelor’s degree in both. While there is some curriculum overlap between the two tracks—which covers basic design concepts—the concentrations branch off into distinct fields.
Animation and Motion Graphics students learn animation history and the ins and outs of character modeling, 3D rigging, and digital effects. On the flip side, Web and Interactive Design students dive into more “nitty gritty” design instruction like web content management systems, PHP for e-commerce, optimization and analytics, and more. Both tracks require a digital short film project and an Advanced Portfolio Development project. A few classes you might take include:
- Interactive Publishing
- Advanced Color Theory
- Audio/Video Editing
- Motion Graphics
Rasmussen College is known for its extensive online education services. It offers more than 30 fully online programs, which include streamlined classes that can be accessed easily and flexibly, no matter your situation. Rasmussen College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Los Angeles Film School
College Choice Score: 90.25
Credit Hour Cost: $425
If you’re looking to jump into the design “hub” of popular culture and visual effects, then getting your BS in Graphic Design through Los Angeles Film School’s online program might just be your chance to get your foot in the door. Most students complete this 120-credit-hour program in three years, but with the online program, you’re given the flexibility to decide your own pace. If you’re a gearhead, you’ll be happy to hear that the school provides a professional-level DSLR camera and a MacBook laptop with the Adobe Creative Cloud software included in your tuition costs.
The online learning management system at LA Film School gives you access to content and classes 24 hours a day, and if you end up missing a live lecture, you have the option of viewing it later online. The entire curriculum aims to help students identify a messaging goal and find ways to deliver that message in new and innovative ways.Some interesting classes that stand out at Los Angeles Film School include:
- Psychology of Play
- Popular Culture in Media
- Rapid Visualization
- The Art of Oration
Los Angeles Film School is a for-profit college that offers degrees specifically related to the entertainment industry. It is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
College Choice Score: 79
Credit Hour Cost: $759
Using both the Adobe Creative Suite tools and others like Dreamweaver, Flash, and Fireworks, students in the Graphic Design program at Ashworth College learn how to manipulate color, image, typography, and design to create innovative products. The program at Ashworth College is the most broad approach in terms of its depth of instruction, but if you’re looking for a quick introduction to the industry, this might be your best bet.
The classes in this program provide general overviews of basic design concepts and software tools. Despite this somewhat limited scope of instruction, students at Ashworth still get the chance to create a final portfolio that is job-interview ready. The program at Ashworth is at the bottom of our list for these reasons, but nevertheless the flexibility and introductory nature of this degree might just be what you’re looking for! Key courses include:
- Creating Page Layouts with InDesign
- Web Page Design Using Dreamweaver
- Animation Basics with Flash
- Designing Web Graphics with Fireworks
Based in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, though operated completely through its online platform, Ashworth College is a for-profit college that specializes mostly in career training programs. It is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.