An online graphic design associate degree program can help prepare you for a career in art, design, or editing.
In a college program, you’ll learn the fundamentals of graphic design and become familiar with today’s top tools for digital art production.
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An associate degree may help you find entry-level work in the design field or prepare you for further studies, such as a bachelor’s degree program in graphic arts.
Online Graphic Design Associate Degree Programs
Graphic design is an exciting field that combines principles from both art and communications studies. In a graphic design associate degree program, you’ll learn about delivering powerful messages through visual media.
This field may be a good fit for students with artistic inclination. Graphic designers need to be creative and imaginative. They should also be good communicators who know how to deliver a message. Being an organized multitasker is helpful, too, since design professionals may have several projects going at the same time.
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These days, computer skills are invaluable for graphic designers. Modern design work is often done on computers with high-tech art and publishing software. Plus, in the past, most designs were intended for print only. While print is still key, online and video media have become just as important.
To cultivate these crucial skills, students in a graphic design associate degree program take classes that cover topics like:
- Color and design
- Computer software
- Image editing
- Online media
- Printing processes
An associate degree program can introduce you to some of the main concepts in those categories. After graduation, you could choose to transfer your credits into a bachelor’s degree program to keep learning more advanced material.
Alternatively, your associate degree might qualify you for beginning roles in a graphic design company. For example, some graduates might be able to work as an assistant to a graphic designer. You could also offer your design services as a freelancer or pursue a career as a web developer.
Graphic Design Careers & Salaries
Graduates with an associate degree in graphic design may qualify for an entry-level position as a graphic design assistant. Some graphic designers work for design firms. Others are employed in the advertising, public relations, printing, or publishing sectors.
Holding an associate degree might provide the confidence to start your own graphic design service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that about one-fifth of graphic designers are self-employed.
Graphic design skills can help many graduates land jobs in related fields. For example, they might go into special effects, using their design know-how to create moving images for television, movies, and more.
Film and video editing is an associated field. Digital design skills could be useful when learning to work with editing software. Your artistic eye might help you select the right shots to use.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for jobs in art and design is $49,600.
|Annual Median Salaries
|Special Effects Artists and Animators
|Web Developers and Digital Designers
|Film and Video Editors
|Market Research Analysts
|Craft and Fine Artists
Graphic design is often used in marketing and advertising. For that reason, some professionals in the field might be able to work as marketing specialists.
Technical writers produce materials such as instruction manuals. With your art skills, you might create detailed diagrams and illustrations for these documents. Graphic designers may also branch out into other artistic forms. Illustrators are just one of the many types of fine artists.
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In the digital sphere, graphic design graduates could work as web developers or desktop publishers. A good eye for color and layout can be useful in these roles. Additional training may increase your opportunities and salary. With education and experience, some designers eventually become art directors.
Graphic Design Curriculum & Courses
A college program in graphic design will provide an overview of this field and equip you with entry-level skills for jobs in the design world. You may take courses like the following:
- Art History: You’ll refine your own artistic abilities as you explore the works of the masters and consider how artistic expression has developed throughout different eras.
- Design Software: Much art and design work is done digitally these days, so you’ll take one or more classes on how to use the most popular illustration and editing programs.
- Fundamentals of Graphic Design: In an introductory class, you’ll get to know the design field and some of its governing principles.
- Page Layout: You’ll learn how to create visually appealing projects that look just as good when printed as they do on your screen.
- Photo Editing: You can learn to tweak photos in ways that improve their quality and deliver the message that you want to send.
- Print Preparation: This class will familiarize you with the printing process and help you create works that are ready to send to the printer.
- Programming Basics: Because graphics are such a key component of websites, you may learn how to use HTML coding for web design.
- Theories of Color: As you study the science behind colors and their relationships, you’ll learn to select the best hues for your design projects.
- Typography: This class will cover historical facts about printing and typefaces and will equip you with skills for selecting the best fonts for your projects.
- Video Editing: In this course, you’ll learn production and post-production secrets and try your hand at an editing project of your own.
Most associate degree programs in graphic design require earning 60 or more credit hours.
How to Choose an Online AA Degree in Graphic Design Program
Once you make a plan to earn a graphic design associate’s degree, your next step is to select a college. Choosing to get your graphic design degree online means that you can enroll in a school anywhere in the country.
Factors like those listed below can help you narrow down your choices:
- Accreditation. For your associate degree, it’s strategic to choose a regionally accredited college. Not only can an accredited degree help during your job search, but it can also be easier to receive credit at another college for the courses you’ve taken.
- Curriculum. It’s beneficial to look through course lists before you enroll in a graphic design program. Each college sets its own curriculum, and one might appeal to you more than another. For example, you might want to choose a school that emphasizes digital design.
- Time to completion. An associate degree is often considered a 2 year program, but some online programs offer accelerated schedules. With certain programs, you might be able to finish in about 15 months.
- Transfer arrangements. Often, students plan to advance to a bachelor’s degree program after receiving an associate degree. Selecting a school that has an articulation agreement with a four-year college can make it easier to transfer your degree elsewhere.
You may want to select a few top options so that you can compare financial aid offers from multiple schools.
Admissions policies for an associate degree vary from school to school, but you may need to provide materials like those listed below. There’s usually a basic application form to fill out as well.
- Design portfolio with 5 to 10 pieces of work
- High school diploma and transcripts
- Personal essay
- Standardized test scores (only some schools require them)
Associate degree programs vary in their selectivity. Some accept all qualified applicants, and others are more stringent about how many students they admit.
Regional accreditation provides a sure sign that you’re attending a reputable school. Credits earned at a regionally accredited institution are generally respected throughout the world of higher education.
An associate degree may fully transfer toward a bachelor’s degree program, but only if it was earned at a regionally accredited school. Accreditation can also be a precondition for securing federal financial aid or getting hired for a job.
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To learn more about the seven accrediting agencies that provide regional accreditation in the United States, you can consult the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Financial Aid and Scholarships
An associate degree can be an economical way to begin your college studies. Financial assistance can make getting a degree even more affordable.
State governments and the federal government offer student assistance programs. You might qualify for grants, or you might receive loans that feature low interest rates. Some students can also enroll in work-study programs.
Many colleges distribute scholarship funds to select students. You can also apply for scholarships from industry organizations, community clubs, and other groups.
If your employer would benefit from your studies, you might qualify for workplace-based tuition assistance. Some companies have formal tuition programs, and others might be willing to work something out if you ask.
To learn more about your financial aid options, especially government assistance, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Graphic Design Professional Organizations
Getting to know other graphic design professionals could sharpen your skills and introduce you to new ideas. You can network with others in this field by joining an industry organization, such as the ones listed below:
Benefits of membership in a professional organization could include online courses and toolkits, local chapter meetings, annual conferences, industry discounts, digital networking forums, newsletters, and mentorships.
What Can You Do with an Associates Degree in Graphic Design?
An A.A. in Graphic Design could help you get started in the design field as a self-employed graphic designer or web developer. It might also qualify you to get your foot in the door at an advertising or design firm as an assistant to an experienced artist.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers earn a median of $53,380 each year. Web developers and digital designers make a median of $77,200. Others with an associate degree in graphic design pursue work as technical writers, desktop publishers, or film editors.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate’s in Graphic Design Online?
If you attend a traditional associate degree program on a college campus, it typically takes 4 semesters to complete your graphic design studies. That’s equal to about 2 years.
Online college programs often move faster. By taking short courses throughout the year, you may finish your graphic design studies in less time. Often, online students can finish their associate graphic design programs in just 15 to 18 months. Transferring credits may further reduce your timeframe.
What Jobs Can You Get with an Associate Degree in Graphic Design?
A graphic design associate’s degree can help prepare graduates for self-employment or entry-level jobs in art and design. Some work as design assistants, graphic designers, or illustrators.
Jobs are often available in publishing houses, design firms, and advertising companies. Other career paths in the field include web developer, technical writer, industrial designer, or film editor.
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Special effects artistry and animation is another field to consider. These jobs are often offered by film, software, computer, and advertising companies.
Is an Associates Degree in Graphic Design Worth It?
Yes, an associates degree in graphic design is worth it for many students. While some graphic design skills can be self-taught, a systematic college program can ensure that you receive thorough, step-by-step training for this field.
Also, graphic design training can help prepare you for work in some growing fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects web development and digital design jobs to grow by 8% over the next decade. Film and video editing jobs are growing by 22%.
Universities Offering Online Associates in Graphic Design Degree 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.
Academy of Art University offers an Associate of Arts in Graphic Design. Students must receive a minimum grade of C- in all core courses and have a GPA of 2.0 or higher in all general education requirements to graduate. Applicants must apply online with their official high school transcripts.
Academy of Art University is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Columbus State Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Digital Design and Graphics. The program requires 65 credits to graduate and can typically be completed in 5 semesters. Applicants must test into ENGL 1100 and MATH 1116 and need to submit official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.
Columbus State Community College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
The Community College of Denver offers an Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design. Students must complete 60 credits, a capstone project, and either an internship or a service learning project to graduate. Applicants may apply online and will be automatically accepted into the school as long as they are 17 or older.
CCD is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Foothill College offers an Associate of Arts in Graphic and Interactive Design. To graduate, students must complete 90 units, including 50 core courses that must be completed with a grade of C or higher. Applicants must submit their high school transcripts and complete a guided self-placement or assessment test.
Foothill College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Gateway Technical College offers an Associate in Graphic Communications. To graduate, students must complete 61 credit hours. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a technical diploma or higher, a high school GPA of 2.6, a college GPA of 2.0 or higher, or qualifying ACT or Accuplacer test scores.
Gateway Technical College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Lone Star College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design. The program can typically be completed in 2 years and offers students a chance to learn behavioral workplace skills. A capstone course must be taken to graduate. Applicants must complete the TSI assessment and need to submit high school transcripts when applying.
Lone Star College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Miami Dade College offers an Associate of Science degree in Graphic Design Technology. The 64 credits required to graduate can typically be completed in 2 years. Students may also complete an internship at a graphic design studio or marketing firm to gain hands-on experience. Applicants may apply online with ACT or SAT scores and official transcripts.
Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Rasmussen University offers an Associate in Graphic Design. The program requires 91 credit hours to graduate and can often be completed in just 18 months. Applicants must have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree to be eligible. Those interested in the program are encouraged to talk with an admissions advisor.
Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Toledo offers an Associate of Technical Studies in Graphic and Web Design. Students may customize their degree by speaking with an adviser, who can help ensure they receive courses that fit their career goals. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.8, an ACT score of 25, or a SAT score of 1200 to be eligible.
The University of Toledo is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Wake Technical Community College offers an online program for an Associate in Applied Science. Students must complete 72 credit hours to graduate but may also choose to add a certificate in specific areas, such as Web and Graphic Design, Design Portfolio, or Design Basics. Applicants may apply online with official high school transcripts.
Wake Technical Community College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Getting Your Associates in Graphic Design Online
If you are skilled in creativity, communication, and organization, then you might be a good candidate for the graphic design field. Earning an associate degree in graphic design could be a strategic first step.
Online courses can be a convenient way to earn your graphic design credentials. Modern design work relies on computer applications, so it’s only natural for students to learn those skills in a digital setting.
If you’re interested in the possibility of earning an associates degree online, you can start looking for graphic design programs from accredited universities today.