From creating advertisements and infographics to designing websites and more, graphic designers have the ability to inspire and inform, all with the simple tools of color, text, and image. If you have excellent attention to detail and a creative mind, a degree in graphic design may be perfect for you!
What kind of graphic design degree should you get?
Do you have a trained eye for color, font, and imagery? Are you ready to put in long hours in the studio, prepare a portfolio, and complete an internship or comprehensive thesis project? If you already have prior experience or an undergraduate degree in graphic design, then you’ll be well-prepared to take on a master’s in graphic design.
Even if you don’t have prior experience, many of the below programs offer three-year degrees. These degrees provide an extra year so folks with less experience can learn the fundamentals of graphic design. If you think you can channel a mood and convey feeling simply through art, you’ll excel in this field of study. Need a more flexible degree option? Check out our ranking of the Best Online Graphic Design Degrees.
How much money do people make with a graphic design degree?
The future is bright – societal demand for advertising and web design is rapidly increasing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can expect to make upwards of $47,000 per year as a graphic designer – and that’s just with a bachelor’s degree. The more experience and training you have, the higher your potential salary will be.
Plus, the employment of graphic designers is projected to grow 4 percent from now until 2026. Many graphic designers also have the luxury of working remotely.
What are the requirements for a graphic design degree?
Many of the below programs are very competitive and require prospective students to not only have experience in the field, but a portfolio of work to prove it. Once you’re accepted into a program, you will have tons of hands-on experiences and you’ll most likely have to complete a thesis or another comprehensive design project to earn your degree.
Many people are drawn to graphic design because it allows for a flexible work schedule and promotes a creative lifestyle. Graphic designers often benefit from an increased dependence upon a remote workforce. This allows many graphic designers the freedom to work from home and to set their own hours. In fact, one in four people in the emerging field of graphic design are self-employed.
What are the best master’s degrees in graphic design?
If you’ve already started looking around, you’ll have noticed that there are a lot of graphic design programs out there. Not only that, but there are a plethora of different areas of specialization as well! We hope this College Choice ranking helps you find your perfect graphic design program to suit your career goals!
Looking to create the next stellar design? College Choice has taken the stress out of finding the perfect program. In fact, we’ve ranked the Best Master’s in Graphic Design Degrees for your convenience. Check them out below!
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $18,319
Established in 1701, Yale is a private Ivy League research university based in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale is consistently ranked within the top three universities in the country, and within the Top 15 Universities Worldwide. The average class size at Yale is less than 20 students and the student teacher ratio is 6:1. Now, Yale offers a two-year M.F.A. program in Graphic Design.
Offered through Yale’s School of Art, students in this M.F.A. program will have to complete 42 credits to earn their degree. Required courses may include:
- Advanced Graphic Design: Series and Systems
- Typography: Expression, Structure, and Sequence
- Diving into the Wreck: Rethinking Critical Practices
All students in this program will also have to complete a “Thesis Book.” Each graduate student will have a designated work space in the design studio loft. Students also have access to bookbinding materials and workshops, and to printing and digital work spaces in the School of Art and the Digital Media Center for the Arts.
Prospective students should note that this is an extremely competitive program. In fact, each year, up to only ten students are admitted into this graphic design master’s program. If you apply, you should have substantial experience in visual studies and related professional experience as well.
Rhode Island School of Design
College Choice Score: 77.83
Average Net Price: $39,389
Located in Providence, RI, the Rhode Island School of Design was founded in 1877 and currently enrolls just under 2,500 students. RISD is not only home to one of the strangest (unofficial) college mascots, Scrotie, but it’s consistently ranked among the world’s best art schools. Check out RISD’s comprehensive M.F.A. in Graphic Design today.
Students in this program may choose between a two-year track or a three-year track. The two-year option is for those who already have an undergraduate degree in graphic design or another visual communication. The three-year option is for folks with degrees in liberal arts, the sciences, or fine arts. Students in the three-year track can expect courses like:
- Graduate Form
- Graduate Typography
- History of Graphic Design
No matter which track you choose, you will be expected to complete a thesis prior to earning your degree. Not only that, all graduate students in this program will participate in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, a large-scale public show held in the Rhode Island Convention Center.
The M.F.A. program at RISD is so highly praised, not only for its faculty and courses, but for its state-of-the-art facilities as well. Graduate students can take advantage of spaces in the large design studio on the 5th floor of RISD’s Center for Integrative Technologies. This center is also next to the school’s Fletcher Building, which offers graduate studio space for MFA candidates in five fine arts programs.
North Carolina State University
College Choice Score: 75.67
Average Net Price: $13,066
Founded in 1887, NC State is a land, sea, and space grant institution located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Home to mascots Mr. and Mrs. Wuf, as well as nearly 40,000 students, it is the largest four-year college in the state of North Carolina. Ranked among the Top 100 National Universities in America by U.S. News & World Report, NC State offers students more than 100 programs to major in. Now, you can earn a Master of Graphic Design at NC State.
This two-year master’s degree program is perfect for those who wish to dive deeper into a research-based practice of graphic design. Rather than traditional coursework, your graduate experience will include:
- 3-credit seminar each semester
- 9-credit studio each semester
- 3-credit elective
- Final project research course
Studio topics will vary by semester and often includes speakers and field trips. If you do not already have an undergraduate degree in graphic design, you will want to look into NC State’s three-year master’s program.
The Graphic Design program in NC State’s College of Design is ranked in the top 1 percent of considered schools in the U.S. Graduates of NC State have gone on to work for prestigious companies, including IDEO, IBM, Pentagram, and Nike.
California Institute of the Arts
College Choice Score: 75.55
Average Net Price: $50,472
Located in Valencia, CA, California Institute of the Arts is a private institution that is home to nearly 1,500 students. CalArts is a complex of six professional schools, and is a tight-knit community that fosters creativity and collaboration. Check out the school’s two and three-year MFA programs.
If you already have an undergraduate degree in graphic design, then you will be good to go for CalArts two-year MFA program. However, if you have no prior undergraduate experience, you will want to look into their three-year program. Depending on your chosen program, required courses may include:
- Visual Literacy
- Graphic Design Theory
- Historical Survey of Graphic Design
Students can choose from a variety of electives as well, including type design, web design, typography, motion graphics, design theory and design history. All graduate students must complete a thesis project and review in order to receive their degrees.
MFA students at the California Institute of the Arts can also opt to pursue a concentration in Integrated Media. An interschool degree (double major) is also possible for select third- and fourth-year undergraduates and graduate students. The school also offers various opportunities if you’re interested in studying abroad or interning as well.
Maryland Institute College of Art
College Choice Score: 74.52
Average Net Price: $41,889
Home to just under 1,700 students and located in Baltimore, MD, the Maryland Institute College of Art was founded in 1826. In fact, this college is one of the oldest art schools in the United States. If you’re interested in graphic design, look no further. MICA’s MA in Graphic Design is perfect for both experienced professionals as well as those with non-design backgrounds.
Led by a director who has a strong background in education and professional work, this program is comprehensive and hands-on. Rather than sit through lectures, students will work in the studio to create, design, and research across media. Graduates can expect to follow this curriculum:
- MAGD Studio 1
- MAGD Studio 2
- MAGD Workshop
- Type Intensive
- Transmedia Type Lab
- Design Theory & Practice
In the spring, all MAGD students work to create and exhibit a self-directed design project and a professional portfolio.
MICA has been ranked in the Top 10 of MFA programs in the Visual Arts, #3 in Graphic Design, #3 in Sculpture, and #4 in Painting/Drawing by U.S. News and World Report. Also, the Princeton Review has named MICA as one of the Best Colleges in the Northeast for the past eight years.
College Choice Score: 74.51
Average Net Price: $31,539
Located in the heart of Boston and founded in 1839, this private research university is home to over 32,000 students from more than 130 countries. With 17 schools and over 250 fields of study, BU is an excellent place to form connections and pursue design and research in this ever-changing modern world. In fact, the Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design program at BU is one of the nation’s best.
This two-year, 60-credit M.F.A. program includes both modernist and postmodernist design theory. Required courses may include:
- Graduate Graphic Design
- Graduate Typography
- Thesis Preparation
- Thesis Development
- History of Graphic Design
Graduate students will also get to take 16 credits worth of electives. All students must complete a thesis and present it in an exhibition in order to earn their degree.
Boston University has been ranked as having one of the Best Graduate Fine Arts Programs in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. Students in BU’s graduate Graphic Design program will receive individual work areas within the spacious studio. The Graphic Design space also includes printing facilities, a seminar room, and two large classrooms with LCD projectors and critique walls.
Carnegie Mellon University
College Choice Score: 74.15
Average Net Price: $35,250
Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University is a private research university that was founded in 1900 by American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Home to mascot Scotty the Scottie Dog and nearly 14,000 students, Carnegie Mellon is a highly-ranked school among many subject areas. Check out CMU’s prestigious two-year Master of Design program below.
All students in this program will take part in stimulating seminars, studios, and design labs. Graduate students will also be required to complete a thesis prior to earning their degree. Required courses and studios may include:
- Seminar: Interaction & Service Design Concepts
- Studio: Research Based Design for Interactions
- Studio: Designing for Interactions
- Seminar: Transition Design
- Interaction Design Lab
Graduate students will also be able to choose from a range of exciting electives. If you’re a non-designer looking to dive into this new and creative world, Carnegie Mellon also offers a one-year Master of Arts in Design.
Carnegie Mellon was placed at #5 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Graduate Graphic Design Programs ranking. Not only that, Carnegie Mellon was also ranked among the nation’s Most Innovative Schools, Best Value Schools, and Best Colleges for Veterans.
Savannah College of Art and Design
College Choice Score: 72.51
Average Net Price: $40,856
Home to mascot Art the Bee, SCAD is a private university with locations in Savannah, Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and France. With over 10,500 students, SCAD is a hub of innovation and offers more than 40 majors and over 60 minors. Now, the school offers an M.F.A. in Graphic Design and Visual Experience.
Graduate students in this program at SCAD must complete at least 90 hours of study to earn their degree. Required courses may include:
- Integrated Design Media
- Ideation Models and Process
- Typographic Communication
- Design History and Context of Media
- Visual Design for Interactive Contexts
- Experience Design for Physical Spaces
This program is ideal for those who already have prior experience and knowledge of the graphic design field. The Savannah College of Art and Design also offers a 45-hour M.A. in Graphic Design for interested students.
The Savannah College of Art and Design is consistently ranked among the top art schools in the nation. In fact, it was ranked #1 in the U.S. in the 2017 Red Dot Design Rankings. SCAD was also named the Top Creative School in the world in 2017 for Motion Graphics by The Rookies.
Cranbrook Academy of Art
College Choice Score: 72.29
Average Net Price: $26,970
Located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, the Cranbrook Academy of Art was founded in 1922 and is now home to just 150 graduate students and ten artists-in-residence. This tiny academy is continually ranked as the country’s top graduate-only program in architecture, design, and fine art. Rather than set curriculums, students lead a self-directed and relatively unscripted course of study. Learn more about Cranbrook’s 2D Design Department below.
The 2D Design Department at Cranbrook is led by an Artist-in-Residence, Elliott Earls. If accepted into this program, you will be mentored by Earls as you work to craft your course of study. Issues pursued in this department include:
- An exploration of the relationship between writing, criticism, and production
- Objects first: theory, language, and writing all in support of the object
- Work situated at the intersection of design and art
- The process of critique as a generative tool
- An interdisciplinary approach to design
Students in this program are sure to have an experience unlike any other program in the country, or even the world.
Student life at Cranbrook is built around the hallmark that life and work blend seamlessly together. Your art studies are not a separate entity at Cranbrook; your design studies are an integral part of your day-to-day. From dinners with visiting artists to late-night brainstorming sessions, you will be a part of close-knit community of creators, innovators, and go-getters.
Art Center College of Design
College Choice Score: 70.36
Average Net Price: $43,814
Located in Pasadena, CA, the ArtCenter College of Design is a private college that was founded in 1930 and is now home to nearly 2,100 students. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees. The college also houses ten gallery and exhibition spaces for students to showcase their work. Now, current students can participate in the MFA Graduate Graphic Design program.
This two-year program is made up of four full semesters, a summer term for a studio-based independent study, and an internship. All graduate students must also complete a thesis. You will complete a total of 72 units which may include:
- Project Writing
- Graduate Studio
- Graduate Seminar
- Graduate Typography
- Design Research/Strategy
The ArtCenter College of Design also offers a three-year graphic design program for those who need additional design skills to earn their degree.
Students of the ArtCenter College of Design have a wide range of learning experiences. Transdisciplinary studios help students to focus on collaboration among faculty and peers from various majors. Studios abroad offer students a chance to create and experience the world outside of the more traditional classroom environment.
Otis College of Art and Design
College Choice Score: 70.32
Average Net Price: $39,413
Located in Los Angeles, CA, Otis College of Art and Design is a private art school that was founded in 1918. Home to mascot Otis Owl and nearly 1,100 full-time students, this college has enrolled folks from over 20 different countries. Otis offers just four Master of Fine Arts degrees including programs in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing.
The MFA in Graphic Design program is made up of four semesters. Required courses and seminars may include:
- Seminar Studio I
- Theory and Criticism
- Seminar Round Table
- Directed Study: Mentorship
- Contemporary Graphic Design Issues
All graduate students will have to complete a final studio project as well as several electives in order to earn their degree.
The Graphic Design program challenges students to research and develop projects that mix meaning with image-making and typographic form. Otis College of Art and Design was ranked third among Art and Design Colleges by the Wall Street Journal / Times Higher Education (WSJ/THE) College Rankings in 2017. The ranking compared over 1,000 colleges. Otis has also been named among the best value schools for art and design in the nation.
Virginia Commonwealth University
College Choice Score: 69.02
Average Net Price: $20,544
This public research university located in Richmond, Virginia was founded in 1968 and is now home to over 31,000 students. U.S. News & World Report has ranked VCU among the Top 100 Public Schools in the nation. Popular areas of study include Business, Biomedical Sciences, Psychology, and Visual/Performing Arts. In fact, the arts program at VCU is so well-received that the university also has a campus in Qatar that focuses on arts programs. Now, students can partake in the MFA Program in Design/Visual Communications.
The graduate program in design at VCU focuses on the philosophical, communicative, and aesthetic relationships of visual problem solving. Curriculum requirements may include:
- Visual Communications Seminar
- Visual Communications Workshop
- Research Methods in Visual Communications
- Research Documentation and Exhibition Design
- Directed Thesis Research in Visual Communications
All graduate students must complete a total of 60 credit hours to earn their degree. Prospective students should note that 36 undergraduate credit hours in studio art, including a minimum of 20 credit hours in visual communications or a related field, is required for admission into this program.
Whether you’re cheering on the VCU Rams or partaking in one of the hundreds of student organizations, there is never a dull moment at this university. With students performing over a million community service hours in a year and VCU student entrepreneurs earning more than $1 million in revenue, grants and investments (also in just a year!), this campus is full of driven and passionate individuals.
California College of the Arts
College Choice Score: 63.11
Average Net Price: $38,276
Founded in 1907, the California College of the Arts is an art, design, architecture, and writing school located in Oakland, CA. With just under 2,000 full-time students enrolled, this college offers just 22 undergraduate and 12 graduate programs. Check out the school’s prestigious MFA in Design program.
The unique thing about this program is that the school combines three concentrations: graphic design, industrial design, and interaction design. This collaborative environment allows students to connect, create, and innovate. The two-year curriculum includes:
- Mixed Reality Experiences
- Conceptual Cartography
- Business of Design
- Design Research
All graduate students will complete a thesis prior to graduation as well. This MFA program is best suited for those who already have a background in graphic design. However, if you don’t have a related degree or professional experience, you can opt for the college’s three-year MFA program. The three-year program includes a foundation year that focuses on prototyping, design process, tools, and technology.
California College of the Arts was ranked one of the 25 Best Design Schools in the world by Business Insider. It was also ranked as having one of the best MFA programs in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.
Academy of Art University
College Choice Score: 54.36
Average Net Price: $29,301
The Academy of Art University was founded by fine art painter Richard S. Stephens in 1929. The Academy now offers two bachelor’s degrees, three master’s degrees, one associate’s degree, and several certificate programs. The student body represents over 112 countries, and all folks pay the same tuition rate, including U.S. permanent residents and international students. Now, students can earn an MA in Graphic Design & Digital Media.
This program requires graduate students to complete 36 units to earn their degree. Required courses may include:
- Type Forms
- Visual Literacy
- Visual Thinking
- Principles of UX
- Making Ideas Visible
- The Nature of Identity
- History of Graphic Design
Prospective students may also wish to look into the Academy’s 63-unit Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design degree. Graduates pursuing an MFA must successfully complete a final thesis project.
The Academy of Art University holds over 70 student and alumni art shows and gallery exhibitions in San Francisco each year. The Academy is also the first art university that has been invited to showcase student work at New York Fashion Week biannually. Notable alumni include actresses Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, and 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice.
University of Illinois at Chicago
College Choice Score: 51.98
Average Net Price: $11,571
This public research university located in Chicago, Illinois is home to mascot Sparky D. Dragon and just over 29,000 students. Founded in 1965, there are now more than 200 student clubs and organizations, including fraternities and sororities, for students to get involved in. Check out the university’s two-year Master of Design in Graphic Design.
Offered through the university’s College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, this Master’s of Design program is unlike any other. What makes this program so unique is its international component. All Chicago-based students will participate in the Basel School of Design summer workshops located in Basel, Switzerland! Other degree requirements may include:
- Combined Studio
- Research Seminar I
- Documentation Studio
- Advanced Graphic Design
- Master’s Research Project + Exhibition
All students must complete a minimum of at least 64 semester hours, including at least 16 hours of graduate-level electives.
U.S. News and World Report has ranked the University of Illinois at Chicago among the Top Public Schools and Best Value Schools in the nation. It was also ranked within the Top 50 Best Graduate Fine Arts Programs in the country.