Graphic designers use text and imagery to convey ideas and information to audiences. Taking inspiration from fine art, graphic design can factor into any form of visual media, including websites, magazines, infographics, software interfaces, and corporate logos.
Today, most graphic design work occurs on computers, making the field ideal for online study. Online graphic design programs enable students to work remotely, mimicking the online environment in which many freelance graphic designers find employment. The flexibility of online learning also makes it easier for students to maintain a job while pursuing their degree.
This page ranks the best online graphic design programs. It also covers important information for prospective students, including common courses, career and salary information, and scholarships for graphic design students.
FAQ on Online Graphic Designs Degrees
Q. What is graphic design?
Graphic design visually communicates information, conveying ideas through text and images. Graphic designers may work with a variety of media, such as websites, magazines, and software interfaces.
Q. How long does it take to earn a graphic design degree?
Most graphic design bachelor’s degree programs take four years of full-time study to complete. Master’s in graphic design programs typically take 1-2 years to complete.
Q. What kind of graphic design degree can I get?
Many schools offer graphic design degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Many schools also offer graphic design associate degrees and certificates.
Q. What is the difference between graphic design and fine art?
Graphic design focuses on visual communication, typically for commercial purposes. Fine art focuses on various artistic mediums, such as painting and sculpture.
Career and Salary Outlook for Graphic Design
Graphic designers may work with any type of media that involves a visual element. In print media, designers may create layouts and designs for book covers, magazines, catalogs, posters, and brochures. In digital media, they may create websites, user interfaces, and various other forms of digital imagery. Graphic designers may also create logos and other images for organizations.
Graphic designers often work as freelancers, but they can also find salaried work. After building significant professional experience, graphic designers may progress to roles such as art director, overseeing the visual direction of websites, print publications, or other media.
Salary levels vary widely in the field. For instance, graphic designers earn an annual median wage of $52,110, while art directors earn an annual median wage of $94,220. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job openings for graphic designers to decrease from 2019-2029, but graphic designers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree can distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive field.
Career and Salary Outlook
||Median Annual Salary
||Less than $30,810
||More than $89,210
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for Graphic Design
When researching online graphic design programs, students should always make sure a school holds accreditation. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to factors like faculty qualifications, student learning outcomes, and academic rigor. Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Learn more about accreditation through our accreditation guide.
Programs within a school may also hold accreditation. Art and design schools may hold accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Schools with NASAD accreditation typically maintain strong reputations for art education.
Courses in a Graphic Design Program
Graphic design programs cover a variety of theoretical and technical topics related to the concepts, history, and practice of art and visual communication. Graphic design students typically complete both art and design courses, exploring diverse topics such as the history of painting, typography, and modern desktop publishing. Many courses also focus on software such as Photoshop and Illustrator.
Courses vary by program, but this list highlights five courses commonly found in graphic design programs.
Digital ImagingDigital imaging and the use of digital software play a major role in graphic design. This course introduces key digital imaging concepts, theories, and processes. Learners study topics including image construction, printing, scanning, color correction, and image manipulation.
TypographyThe use of text figures heavily into graphic design and visual communication. This course examines the role of typographic information and its relationship with images. Students may explore topics including letterform, spacing, composition, and mechanical processes. Many courses also highlight the history of typography in visual communication.
Color TheoryThis course examines the role of color in design and visual communication. Learners study topics like color interactions, pictorial composition, light, and expressive uses of color in various media. Different color theory courses may focus on different mediums, such as painting, printmaking, or digital composition.
Intro. to Art HistoryMost graphic design programs offer a curriculum rooted in the humanities. This course offers an overview of the history of art. Learners study the various impacts of art and artists throughout history, particularly within social, cultural, and economic contests.
Desktop PublishingThis course focuses on desktop publishing applications such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. Students learn how to use these applications in the creation of visual works such as magazine covers, flyers, and brochures.
Scholarships for Graphic Design
Graphic design students can take advantage of scholarship opportunities to finance their education. Some scholarships serve candidates pursuing any type of art degree, while others award students specifically enrolled in graphic design programs. This list outlines three popular scholarships for graphic design students.
Who Can Apply: The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation offers this scholarship to any Black student pursuing a degree in the visual arts, including graphic design. Applicants must include a personal statement and a sample of their visual work.
Who Can Apply: Framing company Churchill Classics offers this scholarship to visual arts majors, including graphic design majors. Applicants must sustrongmit an original work demonstrating how they frame their future.
Who Can Apply: GraphicDesignDegreeHustrong.com offers this scholarship to any college student majoring in graphic design, animation, multimedia design, or visual art. Applicants must sustrongmit a sample of their visual work.
Best Online Graphic Designs Degrees 2021
See our rankings methodology page.
This guide ranks the best graphic design degrees in the country. These programs combine comprehensive professional preparation with a flexible online format, preparing graduates for a variety of freelance and salaried positions in graphic design.
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
University Park, PA
Penn State World Campus offers more than 150 online programs. Learners can complete the bachelor's in digital media design fully online. The 120-credit program helps students build their graphic arts skills. Enrollees complete a portfolio to showcase their work.
The online graphic design degree focuses on digital multimedia design. Students learn how to develop designs that blend visual communication and technology.
Courses cover digital imaging techniques and storywriting. Learners grow their digital multimedia design skills through studio courses. Enrollees apply their knowledge through projects. Seniors complete a self-directed capstone project to prepare for the job market.
Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. Transfer applicants submit official transcripts.
Arizona State University-Skysong
ASU's online graphic design degree trains learners to tell visual stories. Students explore key design principles. They build a portfolio to showcase print and web design abilities.
The graphic design program includes courses in visual literacy, layout, and color. Learners strengthen their theoretical knowledge before applying their training in advanced courses. ASU encourages students to complete projects in interface design and motion graphics to build well-rounded skills. During a capstone project, seniors research and create a campaign based on a social issue.
Applicants submit transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Students with fewer than 12 transferable credits must also meet GPA or standardized test score minimums.
Founded in 1971 as an evangelical institution, Liberty offers a 120-credit online graphic design program. The program uses accelerated eight-week courses and allows up to 90 transfer credits.
Enrollees build visual communication skills and master graphic design software. Graduates can work in advertising, marketing, and the graphic arts. The program emphasizes hands-on learning. Students complete a practicum and internship to strengthen career-ready skills.
Coursework covers art history and digital imaging to provide basic knowledge of the arts. Learners then pursue advanced courses in graphic design. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty requires an application, official college transcripts, and a high school self-certification form.
Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU offers a 120-credit online bachelor's degree in graphic design and media arts. Enrollees study design software like the Adobe Creative Suite. Courses help strengthen learners' visual storytelling skills.
The project-based curriculum covers graphic design content. Students explore media messaging strategies. They grow teamwork skills and focus their studies with a concentration. Options include web design and 3D modeling and animation. Both options prepare graduates for digital media and graphic arts careers.
SNHU accepts up to 90 transfer credits. The school does not require SAT or ACT scores. Applicants do not pay an application fee. Prospective students work with an admissions counselor to complete their application.
BU offers an online graphic design degree. The program prioritizes visual problem-solving and critical thinking. Students develop visual communication skills while learning graphic design software programs. Enrollees hone their eye for design and study production methods for print and web design.
The 127-credit bachelor's program includes 37 credits of general education courses. It also includes 49 graphic design coursework credits and 41 elective credits. Learners take courses in branding, identity design, and typography. Enrollees build a portfolio as they advance through their core courses.
First-year students submit a high school or GED diploma. Transfer students submit transcripts. BU offers a tuition discount to active-duty military service members and their spouses.