2023 Best Online Graphic Design Certificate Programs

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Explore the best online graphic design certificate programs for 2023. Learn valuable skills in typography and design software to start your career.

You can learn about colors, letter styles, photos, and illustrations in a graphic design certificate program.

Best Online Graphic Design Certificate Programs

The college courses you’ll take for your certificate studies can also build your proficiency with popular design software for arranging layouts and editing photographs.

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By completing a certificate program, you can demonstrate that you know how to create compelling digital designs that deliver clients’ messages. You may accomplish this goal in just a few short months, and, for maximum flexibility, you can even do it online.

Online Graphic Design Certificate Programs

Man taking Online Graphic Design Certificate

Maybe you’ve always had an artistic streak, you naturally know what looks good, and it seems to you that visual layouts deliver the strongest messages.

If those characteristics apply to you, then you might be a fit for a career in graphic design. Earning a certificate in graphic design could provide the tools you’ll need to get started. Undergraduate graphic design certificates are available from colleges. They require only a handful of classes, so they don’t take too long to earn—certainly less time than a complete degree.

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Of course, that means you won’t learn all the ins and outs of this field during your certificate program. You will learn the highlights, though. Topics covered in your courses might include:

  • 3D models
  • Animation
  • Color selection
  • Design software
  • History and development of graphic design
  • Logos and branding
  • Photo and video editing
  • Print production
  • Social media graphics
  • Typography
  • Web layouts

As you go through the classes, you’ll likely complete various design projects. Some of them might be suitable additions to your professional portfolio.

There may even be a class in which a professor helps you develop an interview-ready portfolio. You would then be able to show this collection of your work to potential employers. Some students decide to pursue work as a freelance graphic designer after completing this certificate. Also, some companies may hire certificate holders for entry-level positions in graphic design, web design, or illustration departments.

A certificate may be just the start of your education. The courses for certificate programs at accredited colleges may overlap with some of the coursework for related associate or bachelor’s degree programs, such as graphic design degrees online or on campus. That means that your credits may transfer toward one of those degrees.

Perhaps you already have a college degree in another field or a good deal of professional experience.

In that case, your goal with a certificate program might not be to secure entry-level work as a beginning graphic designer. Rather, getting a certificate could help you develop additional skills that would be relevant in your current line of work, such as marketing.

Graphic Design Careers & Salaries

Graphic Design Careers & Salaries

Getting your graphic design certificate online could help you enter an art-focused career. Of course, becoming a graphic designer is one job to look into. Whether digitally or by hand, you could create logos, pictures, and other graphic media for clients. Your designs might communicate a message or represent a brand.

In a graphic design program, you can develop your artistic skills and think about what makes for an attractive layout. Those abilities could be useful in other art-related careers. For example, you might enjoy being an illustrator, which is considered a type of fine artist. Other options might include working in animation, special effects, or crafts.

Photographers could also pursue graphic design training to professionally edits photos. Your understanding of aesthetics might even make you a good candidate to work as an interior designer.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for overall arts and design occupations is $48,220.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Art Directors $100,890
Web and Digital Interface Designers $79,890
Special Effects Artists and Animators $78,790
Film and Video Editors $62,680
Fine Artists $60,820
Interior Designers $60,340
Graphic Designers $50,710
Desktop Publishers $46,910
Photographers $38,950
Craft Artists $35,930

Professional experience or additional training may be necessary for some of these careers, depending on the employer. If you enjoy thinking about visually appealing layouts, then you might want to work as a desktop publisher who prepares the look of printed media. Doing web design would also draw on that skill.

Your experience with visual media could also be useful in creating engaging videos that people want to watch. As an editor, you could work on short videos or full films. As you gain experience in an artistic career, you might advance into roles with increasing levels of responsibility.

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Eventually, experienced art and design professionals may get hired as art directors or creative directors, especially if they’ve continued to take classes and gain more education.

Graphic Design Certificate Curriculum & Courses

students taking Graphic Design Certificate

To earn a certificate in graphic design, you’ll take a series of online courses. A sample curriculum is provided below:

  • Corporate Branding: You can learn to use your graphic design skills in the business world by creating images and logos that convey a strong sense of brand identity.
  • Digital Graphic Design: There may be a course in which you learn about modern developments in the field of graphic design and discuss the importance of becoming proficient with digital art software.
  • Foundations of Graphic Design: In this introductory course, you’ll learn about creating visual layouts that deliver messages and explore the fundamental concepts used in this field, such as creating attractive layouts and selecting the right fonts.
  • History of Graphic Design: Perhaps you’ll survey developments in the field of graphic design and check out the work of well-known graphic designers.
  • Photo Editing: You’ll learn to use editing software to enhance and refine photographs for use in your projects.
  • Portfolio Work: While you may build a portfolio throughout your program, a portfolio-focused class will help you compile the best projects to show prospective clients or employers.
  • Software for Digital Art: In one or more classes, you’ll learn to use popular software programs for graphic design projects.
  • Typography: The focus of this class will be on the categories of typefaces and how to use them.
  • Using Color: This course will introduce you to the idea of color theory and help you select colors that go together well and reflect the message you’re trying to send.
  • Web Writing and Design: Once you have the technical know-how in place, you’ll be able to use your graphic design skills to create attractive and functional websites.

Programs for graphic design certificates usually require a limited number of courses, so your curriculum may not include all of the classes listed here.

Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for Graphic Design Certificate

Before you can begin a certificate program for graphic design, you’ll first submit an application. You might find the admissions process simpler than it typically is for degree programs, but there may still be an assortment of documentation to submit.

Here are some common admissions requirements for undergraduate certificate programs:

  • Application form and fee
  • High school diploma and transcripts
  • Proof of proficiency with certain software programs for graphic design

Most certificate programs don’t require standardized test scores, such as the SAT or the ACT, but some may.


University offering Graphic Design Certificate Online

It’s strategic to select a college with regional accreditation for your certificate program. Regional accrediting associations grant this type of accreditation to select schools. It indicates that the institutions have high-quality academics and reputable operating procedures.

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After completing a certificate program, you might decide to continue your education. Certificate courses from regionally accredited schools are more likely to transfer into related degree programs. That could allow you to enter an associate or bachelor’s degree program with several of the required courses already completed. Plus, potential employers or clients may place more stock in a certificate from a regionally accredited college.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Graphic Design Certificate Financial Aid

You may have some opportunities for financial aid as a student in a certificate program. Government support could be one option.

The possibilities may include grants and loans, and you can find out about your eligibility when you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That application is primarily for federal assistance, but your state may use your FAFSA data when calculating your state eligibility as well. Keep in mind, though, that there’s a minimum course load per semester that must be met in order to use government student aid.

If your certificate program has only a handful of classes, you may not reach that threshold. Other financial programs could be still be an option. For example, you may qualify for scholarship funds through your school or another organization. Some employers also offer education benefits that college students can claim.

What Is a Graphic Design Online Certificate?

 Graphic Designer working in his home studio

A graphic design online certificate is a short, college-level program for people who want to become well-versed in the basics of graphic design. Undergraduate certificates offer a means to get college training without committing to a full degree program. Topics covered in this program might include color theory, design software, and typography.

If you hold a degree in another subject area, earning a graphic design certificate could help you become a more well-rounded professional. The things you learn might complement the skills you already have or help you branch into a new area of your work.

What Degree Do You Need for Graphic Design?

Graphic Designer strategizing for her project

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers want graphic designers to hold a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or another branch of the fine arts.

Even still, there may be entry-level roles available to people who hold certificates or associate degrees in graphic design. For example, you might be able to start as an assistant and work your way up to more advanced positions.

Also, being a self-employed graphic designer often doesn’t have the same degree requirements. If you’re interested in freelancing, an online certificate program could be a way to get started.

Who Should Enroll in a Graphic Design Certificate Program?

Graphic Designers working in their office

Enrolling in graphic design certificate programs online can be useful for people who want to learn design basics but aren’t ready to commit to a full degree. This course of study could lead to freelance or entry-level graphic design roles.

A certificate program could also be a worthwhile idea for professionals in related fields. People who work in communications, marketing, or web development may find that learning about graphic design helps them be more effective in their current positions. Even trained graphic designers may want to take a certificate course to brush up on new developments in the field.

What Can You Do with a Graphic Design Certificate?

Art Director discusses with graphic designer team

Your goal in getting a graphic design certificate might be to work as a graphic designer. Many employers require a bachelor’s degree, but a certificate could be a stepping stone to part-time, assistant, or freelance roles.

Another option is to use your design skills for a career in web design. While employers often prefer candidates with degrees, your certificate could help you secure freelance jobs. Other jobs to consider with a graphic design certificate include photo editor, video editor, and illustrator.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Graphic Design Certificate Online?

Man getting Graphic Design Certificate Online

You might be able to earn an online certificate in graphic design in 3 months to 18 months. Programs can vary significantly in length, depending on how many courses are required and the number of assignments that are included.

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You may find that taking classes online instead of on campus offers you some flexibility in the length of your program. Online courses are sometimes self-paced or offered in short sessions, such as 8 week terms. Also, they’re often held year-round so that summer breaks won’t get in the way of completing your studies.

What’s the Difference Between a Graphic Design Certification vs. Certificate?

As you look to make your mark in graphic design, you’ll probably come across both graphic design certificates and graphic design certification online.

Graphic Design Certification Graphic Design Certificate
  • Professional designation offered by industry organizations
  • Focuses on one particular set of skills, often related to a software program
  • Useful for graphic designers who want to enhance their resumes, especially for specialized positions
  • Academic designation offered by schools
  • Provides a broad overview of graphic design skills
  • Useful for those who want to build an entry-level foundation in the field

You could start with a certificate and then add various certifications over time.

What’s the Difference Between a Certificate in Web Design vs. Graphic Design?

If you like to play with layouts and create eye-catching arrangements, then you could study web design or graphic design.

Web Design Certificate Graphic Design Certificate
  • Focuses on layouts for digital screens
  • Includes lessons on programming languages in addition to design principles
  • Potential jobs: web designer, web developer
  • Focuses on layouts for print media
  • Includes more in-depth study of colors, photo editing, and typography
  • Potential jobs: graphic designer, illustrator, desktop publisher

Because these two disciplines are related, either certificate might help you get started in both fields.

Is a Graphic Design Certificate Worth It?

Graphic Designer and photographer working together

Yes, a graphic design certificate is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for graphic designers are growing at a 3% rate over the next ten years. If you want to break into this field, training that sets you apart from the competition may give you an advantage.

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Plus, accredited certificate courses sometimes transfer into related degree programs. Earning your certificate could be a low-commitment way to try out graphic design courses. If you find it’s a good fit, you’ll already be partway toward completing a full degree.

Universities Offering Online Certificates in Graphic Design Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Atlantic Cape Community College

Atlantic Cape Community College campus

Atlantic Cape Community College offers a certificate in Graphic Design program that features a combination of online and in-studio courses. The certificate requires the completion of 30 credits of courses such as Color and 2D Design, Fundamental Drawing, Art with Computers, and more. The choice of 1 elective is offered.

Atlantic Cape Community College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Auburn University

Auburn University campus

Auburn University offers an online certificate in Graphic Design program. Potential courses include Up and Running on Photoshop, Mastering Adobe Illustrator, and Bringing It Together with Adobe InDesign. Courses may be completed in any order. Courses tend to be self-paced but typically take approximately 4 weeks each to complete.

Auburn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Berkeley College

Berkeley College campus

Berkeley College offers a certificate in Graphic Design program online. Potential courses include Graphic Design Principles I, Typography I, Graphic Design Principles II, and Digital Publishing. Courses tend to last 15 weeks each and are commonly taught by professors with professional design experience. The program typically takes 2 semesters to complete.

Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Central Oregon Community College

Central Oregon Community College campus

Central Oregon Community College offers a certificate in Graphic Design program online. The aim of the program is to develop both artistic and technological skills, and building a portfolio to help you gain employment in the field is a goal as well. The program typically culminates with a capstone project.

Central Oregon Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Emory University

Emory University campus

Emory University offers a certificate in Graphic Design and Visual Communications program online. The program requires attendance in at least 80 percent of synchronous live virtual meetings. The program is often completed in about 3 months. The use of Adobe Creative Suite software is typically the primary topic taught, and the goal is to build a professional portfolio.

Emory University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Lesley University

Lesley University campus

Lesley University offers a fully online post-baccalaureate certificate in Graphic Design program. The program requires the completion of 18 credits of coursework, which may be offered in accelerated 8 week terms. The curriculum typically covers both screen and print technologies. Interactive chats and discussion forums are designed to build a community environment while also providing scheduling flexibility.

Lesley University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Pace University

Pace University campus

Pace University offers a dual certificate in Web and Graphic Design program online. The curriculum aims to teach how to create content for both print and digital formats. The opportunity to build a portfolio using Adobe tools, and to develop a full web design project, is typically offered in the program.

Pace University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

School of the Art Institute of Chicago campus

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago offers a certificate in Graphic Design program in a hybrid format. The program requires the completion of 6 courses. The 2 required courses include Introduction to Graphic Design and then Color Theory. After these, any course listed under Graphic Design in the course catalog may be taken. The program typically culminates with a portfolio review.

SAIC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

The New School

The New School campus

The New School offers a certificate in Graphic and Digital Design program online. Potential courses include Color Theory, Introduction to Graphic Design, Digital Graphics with Illustrator, Digital Imaging with Photoshop, and more. The program consists of eight 9 week courses, and can usually be completed in 18 months.

The New School is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Massachusetts – Lowell

University of Massachusetts Lowell campus

The University of Massachusetts–Lowell offers an online program for a certificate in Graphic Design and Digital Imaging. Both traditional design courses and courses in web development, multimedia, and desktop publishing are typically offered. The program requires the completion of 30 credit hours. Applications are typically accepted on an ongoing basis and there is usually no fee to apply.

The University of Massachusetts – Lowell is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Nevada – Las Vegas

University of Nevada - Las Vegas campus

The University of Nevada–Las Vegas offers a certificate in Print and Graphic Design program online with course meetings in the evenings. The program requires a total of 6 courses on Adobe design products plus usually requires a capstone project. Courses typically start in the fall, spring, or summer, and may be finished in 5 to 23 months.

UNLV is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

University of Texas – Austin

University of Texas Austin campus

The University of Texas–Austin offers an online instructor-led program for a certificate in Graphic Design. Weekly classes are typically taught over Zoom, and are designed to help develop skills in color theory, design principles, and web development. The program commonly takes 3 months to complete, and the end goal is to build an online portfolio of graphic design work.

The University of Texas at Austin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Wake Technical Community College

Wake Technical Community College campus

Wake Technical Community College offers an online or hybrid program leading to a certificate in Graphic Design. Potential courses include Typography, Graphic Design, Computer Design Basics, and Computer Design Tech. The program requires the completion of 17 credits, and the aim is to become proficient working with industry-standard software.

Wake Technical Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

William Paterson University

William Paterson University campus

William Paterson University offers an online program for a certificate in Digital Graphic Design. The program typically includes a 4 week course on Photoshop, a 3 week course on Illustrator, and a 3 week course on InDesign and WordPress. The curriculum often offers hands-on projects. The program usually accepts open enrollment and does not require any prior experience.

William Paterson University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Wilmington University

Wilmington University campus

Wilmington University offers an undergraduate online certificate in Graphic Design. The program aims to teach practical techniques in creating digital images, illustrations, and layouts, and in addressing fundamental concepts in color, typography, and composition. Courses commonly offer hands-on experience using Adobe Creative Suite software while studying under experienced faculty. Classes typically start every 8 weeks.

Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Getting Your Certificate in Graphic Design Online

student taking Certificate in Graphic Design Online

If you’re an artsy person who’s always dreamed of a creative career, then graphic design could be the field for you.

Graphic designers work to produce compelling visual layouts that communicate a message through words, colors, and images. Your first foray into the graphic design world could be through an accredited college certificate program. You may be able to complete the required classes online. In just a few months, you might be a trained professional with a certificate to list on your resume.

You could start looking at graphic design certificate programs today to discover which ones best fit your schedule, interests, and goals.

Ready to start your journey?
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy at Liberty University and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Amberton University, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Columbia College. With over 20 years of experience navigating online degrees and courses, Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.