30 Best Online Graphic Design Degrees [2020 Guide]

Do you hope to build a brighter future by pursuing an online graphic design degree? Discover how to improve your design skills and become a professional graphic designer by obtaining an accredited online degree.

Online Graphic Design Degrees

To help you sift through all of the possible options for your career path, we’ve gathered the details you’ll need to make the right choice for you.

In addition to advancing your talent for design, an online graphic design degree will prove to your future employer that you have a strong combination of technical and aesthetic skills that set you apart from your competition.

Best Online Graphic Design Degrees

A wide array of accredited universities offer an online graphic design degree. You can study graphic design or choose to specialize in animation, multimedia design, or web design.

Click the degree that interests you the most to explore that section of the guide:

While each of these degrees combines technology with visual arts, the specific technologies and techniques taught in each program are distinct.

Graphic Design

graphic designer working on her laptop in a cafe

An online degree in graphic design provides a broad range of design experiences to help you uncover your own personal style. You will learn a bit of everything that the graphic design field embodies, including software, design history, illustration, animation, and communication.

Along with graphic design theory, most programs aim to equip you with the skills and ability to effectively market yourself to employers. As such, you will be required to take general education classes that lean heavily on creative communication and media strategies.

As you focus your studies, you will have a colorful variety of coursework to choose from, like drawing, digital media, advertising, product packaging design, typography, copywriting, and UX (user experience).

Depending on the specific expertise you garner from your online graphic design degree, your career options range from graphic designer, photo editor, UX designer, and multimedia artist to creative director, product developer, animator, and more.

Animation

Computer Animators working on a project together

Are you fascinated by computer animations or visual effects? An online degree in animation will allow you to bring your designs to life in 2D or 3D landscapes.

Among other skills, you’ll learn elements of storyboarding, sketching, stop motion, modeling, and character animation. In most programs, you’ll be expected to complete a final project or thesis and develop a comprehensive portfolio.

By obtaining a degree in animation, you open yourself up to a multitude of career options such as art director, flash animator, video games designer, and visual development artist. You can choose to work for television, film, video games, or even for yourself as a freelancer.

Multimedia Design

Multimedia Artist working on animations on her computer

Multimedia design involves the creation of integrated and interactive media. The central focus of this field of study is to combine two or more types of media for various applications on the web, in games, movies, digital video, and more.

This degree program is similar to the graphic design degree in that you’ll be exposed to color theory, concept development, and digital illustration, but you’ll also build skills in digital video production, motion graphics design, and HTML.

Your coursework will involve crafting interactive content with special effects and combining graphics, audio, and video in creative ways.

Become a Multimedia Artist and Animator who produces illustrations, movies, and video games. You will have the option of working for TV, film, websites, or other audio and video productions.

Web Design

web designer working on his computer in the office

Web design requires a strong understanding of both aesthetics and programming. In this field, web designers create visually-appealing electronic and digital layouts that are user-friendly and optimized for web browsers.

In this degree program, you will likely study digital arts and design, multimedia production, web publishing, web-based interactivity, usability testing, and programming languages like HTML and CSS.

Potential career paths include becoming a website designer, media integration specialist, web publications specialist, or a web producer.

Graphic Design Careers & Salaries

Graphic Design Careers & Salaries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a three percent growth in graphic designer job opportunities between 2018 to 2028 and predicts that prospects will continue to “face strong competition for available positions.”

As of 2019, the median annual wage for a graphic designer was $52,110 per year with the highest 10 percent earning more than $89,210 per year. With this in mind, you are far more likely to stand out and make more money with a graphic design degree.

According to PayScale, there are many high-paying careers that you can choose from as a professional graphic designer. An online graphic design degree will help you get recognized by top positions in the industry and gain credibility on your resume.

Careers Average Annual Salary
Creative Director $82,000
UX Designer $71,000
Senior Art Director $68,000
Art Director $64,000
Senior Graphic Designer $62,000
Visual Designer $62,000
Marketing Manager $59,000
Web Designer $49,000
Graphic Designer $44,000
Junior Graphic Designer $39,000

Graphic Design Curriculum & Courses

graphic designers working in the office

No matter which graphic design degree you choose to pursue, the general curriculum will expose you to introductory graphic design principles, theories, and basic skills.

As for higher level classes, the university you join will tailor their curricula to meet the requirements of your specialization. For this reason, you’ll want to view the details of each program you’re considering.

Some of the key courses you’ll be required to take may include the following:

  • Public Speaking and Presentation Skills: In this class, you will learn to combine logic and communication to articulate your ideas in front of others. You will gain vital skills in effectively preparing and delivering presentations to employers or potential clients.
  • Language and Practice of Media Arts: This course will teach you the common language of design creation and analysis. You will cover elements of production design, technology, and methods that will build your visual media literacy.
  • Principles for Graphic Design I and II: In these core classes, you will learn to recognize and capitalize on fundamental principles of design such as alignment, contrast, repetition, balance, color, and more.
  • Graphic Design History: This class explores the origin and evolution of graphic design, equipping you with a holistic understanding of how graphic design has developed over time and how it may change in the future.
  • Graphics and Layout in Print Media: A combination of lecture and hands-on computer work, this course will train you to use primary visual software tools to build skills in shape grouping, letterform shape creation, figure manipulation, and other formal elements of graphic design.
  • Desktop Publishing: In this course, you will learn the basics of the desktop publishing field, which involves using page layout software to design digital or printed content such as books, newsletters, business cards, advertisements.
  • Basic Design and Color Theory: In this course you will discover the science of color theory and its application in design. You will likely be expected to deliver assignments that align with industry standards.
  • Introduction to Digital Imaging: This class will empower you to produce, manipulate, and enhance digital images. You will also learn the fundamentals of processing, compression, storage, printing, and display of such images.
  • Typography: This foundation course will introduce you to the basics of typography and letterforms. Based on industry standards, it will teach you to design your own typefaces, layouts, and grids.
  • Graphic Design Portfolio: In this course, you will gather all of your graphic design projects into a comprehensive portfolio. You will also likely learn attitudes, behaviors, and other skills to help you succeed in the industry.

Admissions Requirements

Graphic design student studying online at home

As you prepare your application, you’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary admissions requirements. Typically, a graphic designer degree isn’t likely to have a complex list of requirements. Most universities will ask for the following:

  • High school transcripts: Your university of choice will want to know that you completed high school and (in some cases) that you earned the minimum GPA requirement.
  • Official university transcripts: If you have credits or a degree from another university, you will need to submit these along with your application to gain transfer credits.
  • GED scores: If you completed your GED, you will need to know the GED policy for your university of choice. They may ask for your official high school transcripts as well as your GED score report and diploma.
  • Standardized test scores: While many universities are becoming test-optional, you may be required to complete an SAT or ACT test. This is especially relevant if you plan to apply for a scholarship or grant.
  • Application fee: You will likely have to pay an application fee between $50-$100.
  • Proof of English proficiency: If you’re an international student, you may be required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Accreditation

Online Graphic Design Degrees Accreditation

As you explore your options in online graphic design degrees, you will need to pay close attention to accreditation. At its most basic, accreditation means that your future employers will respect your degree.

While you are gathering information about the programs that interest you, make sure you are verifying that the degree they offer is accredited by a reputable agency.

What does a “reputable agency” look like? The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provides a comprehensive directory of organizations that are accredited by them, giving you a resource to double-check the validity of your program’s accreditation.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

financial aid for online graphic design students

If you hope to reduce the cost of your degree program, you can explore options such as student loans, state aid, grants, employer programs, and scholarships. If you apply for a student loan through FAFSA, you will have to determine whether you qualify for subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

The main difference is that with subsidized loans, the Department of Education will pay the interest while you’re in school and for some time afterward. Be sure you understand the fine print if you choose to accept any of these loans as they may lead to high levels of student debt.

Other options include grants and scholarships that can come from a variety of sources, namely state, private, federal, and institutional. Discover how to “get paid to go to school” by searching for grants or scholarships related to an online graphic design degree combined with any academic or institutional affiliations you may have.

What Can You Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design?

creative director meeting with his team

By completing your online bachelor’s degree in graphic design, you will likely jumpstart your career as a junior or entry-level graphic designer. As you gain experience, you can climb the corporate ladder to higher, executive level positions.

What does an entry-level graphic designer position look like? It’s possible that you’ll join an agency producing a multitude of designs for a selection of clients or you may work for a product company as an in-house designer on the marketing team.

Potential job titles include anything from visual or digital designer to junior graphic designer or animator, and more. Higher level, executive positions that you can look forward to holding include being an art or creative director, senior graphic designer, UX designer, and marketing manager.

How Much Does an Online Bachelors in Graphic Design Cost?

graphic design student studying on his laptop

Many online bachelor’s degrees in graphic design are flexible and convenient since they are designed to appeal to working professionals. But are they affordable?

In short, yes. Many online learning institutions provide low prices coupled with financial aid, scholarships, or other loan opportunities. Although tuition rates vary among universities and are continually subject to change, you can expect to pay between $320 and $754 per credit hour.

Additionally, if you are a U.S. service member, your credit hour rates may go as low as $225.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Graphic Design Degree Online

graphic design student studying online at home

The time required to obtain an online bachelor’s degree in graphic design is dependent entirely on your schedule and availability.

If you follow a traditional, 16-week semester of courses and attend full-time, it will take you four years to complete the program. If instead you opt for an accelerated online program that follows an 8-week semester schedule, you will finish in less time. However, the accelerated program requires that you stay continuously enrolled year-round.

Are There Any Affordable Online Graphic Design Degrees?

Luckily, there are a variety of affordable online graphic design programs available for you to choose from. Some of the lowest credit hour rates are between $225 and $320 in programs that require up to 120 credit hours for you to obtain your online graphic design degree.

By finding the most affordable online graphic design degree and coupling it with financial aid programs, grants, or scholarships, you may be able to get your degree for a very reasonable price.

What is the Best Online School for Graphic Design?

graphic designers collaborating on a project

In your search for the perfect online school for graphic design, you’ll want to make sure they fulfill certain requirements and meet your standards. Be sure to:

  • Consider your wants and needs as well as lifestyle and career goals to find the right fit.
  • Research each university to see if it’s accredited and by whom.
  • Confirm that all of the classes you’ll need to take to obtain the degree are offered online.
  • Check the admissions requirements and assure that you can meet them.
  • Pay close attention to extra fees, such as course fees, textbooks, and lab costs.
  • Focus on tuition, fees, and additional costs as you compare potential schools.

Can Graphic Designers Do Web Design?

Graphic designer working in her office

If you’re interested in web design as well as graphic design, then you will need to follow a specific career path. Web design is a highly specialized technical field of study that has some overlap with graphic design, which is why the two are often confused.

The major difference is that web design never focuses on print and revolves more around interface design, coding, programming, and search engine optimization.

The defining similarity between web designers and graphic designers is their reliance on technology and digital software for creating valuable user experiences. However, graphic designers do not do any programming.

Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth it?

Graphic designers working together in the office

Yes, an online graphic design degree is worth it! With an average salary of $52,110 and 3% job growth, a degree in graphic design can help you launch a career in this cutting-edge industry. Common graphic design careers include creative director, visual designer, senior art director, animator, and digital illustrator.

Other perks to pursuing a graphic design degree program include free design software, networking with like minded individuals and professionals, and increasing your chances of being eventually hired by a top notch designing firm.

Universities Offering Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Degree Programs

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer a graphic design bachelor’s degree online.

#1  Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University campus

  • BFA in Graphic Design

Academy of Art University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

#2  Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

  • BSD in Graphic Design

Arizona State University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#3  Bellevue University

Bellevue University campus

  • BA in Graphic Design

Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#4  Berkeley College

Berkeley College campus

  • BFA in Graphic Design

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

#5  California Baptist University

California Baptist University campus

  • BA in Graphic Design and Digital Media

California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

#6  California Institute of Arts

California Institute of Arts campus

  • BFA in Graphic Design

CalArts is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

#7  Champlain College

Champlain College campus

  • Bachelor’s in Web Design and Web Development

Champlain College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

#8  Franklin University

Franklin University campus

  • BS in Interactive Media Design

Franklin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#9  Hodges University

Hodges University campus

  • BIS in Digital Design and Graphics

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

#10  Kentucky Wesleyan College

Kentucky Wesleyan College campus

  • BA in Graphic Design

Kentucky Wesleyan College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#11  Lesley University

Lesley University campus

  • BS in Design for User Experience

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

#12  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

  • BFA in Graphic Design

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

#13  Maryland Institute College of Art

Maryland Institute College of Art campus

  • BFA in Graphic Design

Maryland Institute College of Art is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#14  Maryville University

Maryville University campus

  • Bachelor’s in Digital Media

The Maryville University of Saint Louis is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#15  Midway University

Midway University campus

  • Bachelor’s in Marketing Communications – Graphic Design

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

#16  Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Minneapolis College of Arts and Design campus

  • BFA in Graphic Design

Minneapolis College of Art and Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#17  National University

National University campus

  • BA in Digital Media Design

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

#18  Pennsylvania State University – World Campus

Pennsylvania State University campus

  • Bachelor of Design in Digital Multimedia Design

Penn State World Campus is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

#19  Rasmussen College

Rasmussen College campus

  • Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Rasmussen College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#20  Regent University

Regent University campus

  • BFA in Graphic Arts

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

#21  Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design campus

  • BFA in Graphic Design

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#22  Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design campus

  • BA in Graphic Design
  • BFA in Graphic Design

The Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#23  Southeastern University

Southeastern University campus

  • BS in Digital Media and Design

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

#24  Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University campus

  • BA in Graphic Design and Media Arts

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

#25  University of Florida

University of Florida campus

  • BA in Digital Arts and Sciences

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

#26  University of Maryland Global Campus

University of Maryland Global campus

  • Bachelor’s in Graphic Communication

University of Maryland Global Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#27  University of Massachusetts – Lowell

University of Massachusetts Lowell campus

  • BS in Information Technology – Graphic Design

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

#28  University of West Alabama

University of West Alabama campus

  • BA/BS in Integrated Marketing Communications

The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#29  University of Wisconsin – Stout

University of Wisconsin Stout campus

  • BS in Digital Marketing Technology

The University of Wisconsin-Stout is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#30  Upper Iowa University

Upper Iowa University campus

  • Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Upper Iowa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Graphic Design Degree Online

Graphic Design student studying on his laptop at a cafe

As you can see, your goal of obtaining an online degree in graphic design is not only attainable, but also affordable, convenient, and worth the investment. By choosing the specialization that suits you, investigating and comparing potential schools, and uncovering your financial aid options, you are choosing to pursue a brighter future.

Your creative goals and desire to succeed will lead you forward. Set yourself up for achieving the career you’ve always wanted and start getting your graphic design degree online today.

Lindsay Brown
WRITTEN BY
Lindsay Brown
Lindsay holds bachelor's degrees in Linguistics, French, and Psychology from Ohio University, where she also acquired a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Her focus is on foreign language education, teaching methodologies, and innovative teacher training.