Best Online Graphic Design Programs

Want to earn your bachelor's in graphic design? Find out about online programs, common degree requirements, and career options for graduates.

portrait of Michelle Kelley
by Michelle Kelley

Published on September 24, 2021 · Updated on April 27, 2022

Share this Article

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

Graphic designers use visual elements to convey ideas. They design logos; product packaging; and layouts for brochures, books, and websites. Bachelor's in graphic design programs prepare students for careers in graphic design and related fields, such as web development and marketing. Students learn design theory fundamentals while honing their skills using the latest design software and digital tools.

The College Board reported that during the 2019-2020 academic year, the average tuition and fees at a four-year public school was $10,560 per year. Students enrolled in nonprofit private schools paid an average of $37,650 per year.

Earning your degree online may be more affordable than attending school on campus. Learners can sometimes save on costs related to travel and on-campus student fees, and they may qualify for in-state tuition rates no matter where they live. Whether earning a degree on campus or online, full-time students can usually complete a bachelor's in graphic design program within four years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for graphic designers will increase by 3% between 2020 and 2030, which is slower than average. However, the BLS also projects that the number of jobs in related fields, such as web development and digital design, will increase faster than average during this period. According to PayScale, graduates with a BFA in graphic design earned an average salary of about $56,000 per year, as of September 2021.

If you're considering a career in graphic design, keep reading. The following guide discusses the application process, major requirements, and career options for graduates.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Program?

Unsurprisingly, most graphic designers are visually creative. However, they are also gifted communicators, capable of expressing themselves through their work and in conversations with clients. Graphic designers are also comfortable with technology and familiar with the latest software applications and coding languages.

There are many different types of graphic design bachelor's programs for students to choose from. Depending on the school, graphic design students can earn a bachelor of science (BS), bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of fine (BFA), or bachelor of science in design (BSD).

In general, BA programs include more liberal arts courses than either BS or BFA programs. BS and BSD programs emphasize more technical training, while BFA programs are most suitable for students committed to pursuing careers in the arts.

Both on-campus and online bachelor's programs consist of at least 120 credits of coursework, including core curriculum courses and major requirements. Most bachelor's programs take full-time students about four years to complete.

Some online graphic design programs offer concentrations, such as 3D modeling, web design, motion graphics, and interactive design. Some also provide internship opportunities, allowing students to gain valuable experience in the field. Graduating students often create a portfolio of their work, which they can then present to prospective employers.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Best Online Video Game Design Degree Programs Best Online Web Design Degree Programs Best Online Film Degree Programs

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Program?

Motion Design

In classes on motion design, students learn how to create motion graphics for film, television, video games, and the web. They work on various projects, incorporating motion graphics into closed captions, rolling credit sequences, and opening titles.

Fundamentals of Web Design

This course covers the basics of web design, including web standards, user interface design principles, and pattern libraries to create digital products. Students also learn about stylesheet and markup languages, such as HTML and CSS.

Publication Design

Students planning to go into book, magazine, newspaper, or digital publishing can learn about page layout and other aspects of publication design. They tackle hands-on projects, develop their design skills, and learn how to address common problems.

Branding

Students learn about the role of graphic design in branding. Through print-based and digital projects, they develop branding strategies and apply them in their work. Learners also study research methods used to address design problems in branding.

Logos and Symbols

Logos and symbols play critical roles in marketing and branding initiatives. In courses on these topics, students learn what makes a well-designed logo and how to combine typography and graphic elements to leave a lasting impression on consumers.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Online College Students Your Guide to College Loans Your Guide to the FAFSA

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Program?

In general, admission requirements for online and on-campus bachelor's programs are the same. Bachelor's programs require prospective students to submit a completed application and official academic transcripts. Some also request that applicants submit standardized test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. Applicants to graphic design programs may be required to share a portfolio of their creative work.

Application

Academic programs require prospective students to submit a completed application. Over 900 schools accept the Common Application, which is an online platform that allows students to manage college applications to multiple schools. Most schools charge students a fee to apply.

Test Scores

Many colleges request college entrance exam scores from applicants. U.S. schools generally accept SAT and ACT scores and do not prefer one exam over the other. The format and subject matter covered in the ACT and SAT exams differ somewhat. When choosing which to take, consider which exam will best showcase your academic strengths.

Letters of Recommendation

Admissions departments may ask you to submit 1-3 letters of recommendation in support of your application. If you're a high school student, ask for recommendations from teachers from your junior or senior year. You may also consider submitting letters from coaches, advisors, or employers.

Essays

The programs you apply to may require you to write college application essays. Many schools ask applicants to respond to one or more prompts in around 200-600 words. You may wish to discuss your interest in graphic design in your essay. However, only do so if it fits the prompt.

Official Transcripts

Most undergraduate programs request official transcripts from applicants. Typically, high school guidance counselors can submit academic transcripts to colleges on a students' behalf. You should also send transcripts from any postsecondary schools you've attended. Many schools accept transfer credits from applicants who have completed undergraduate coursework at other colleges or universities.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Degree?

Career Outlook

Visual and performing arts degrees, including graphic design, are popular majors among students. During the 2018-2019 academic year, U.S. colleges and universities awarded students 89,700 visual and performing arts bachelor's degrees.

Studying graphic design can be a fun and rewarding way to explore your creative side. However, before choosing it as your major, you should consider the job market for graphic designers. The BLS projects that the graphic design field will gain about 7,000 jobs between 2020 and 2030, which would represent 3% growth — slower than the national average for all occupations. However, graphic design graduates also work in fast-growing industries, such as web design and advertising.

The BLS projects that jobs for web developers and designers will increase 13% between 2020 and 2030, adding more than 25,000 new jobs. Additionally, jobs for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers are projected to grow by 10% from 2020-2030.

According to PayScale, graphic designers earned an average annual salary of $46,570 as of September 2021. Web designers made slightly more, earning an average income of $51,820 per year, as did marketing specialists ($51,730 per year).

See where a bachelor's in graphic design can take you. Explore graphic design careers.

Career Paths

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers use visual elements, such as typography and color, to communicate ideas and attract consumers. They design product packaging and logos and create layouts for books, magazines, and websites. Graphic designers work in advertising, publishing, and related industries.

Average Annual Salary: $46,570 (September 2021)

Multimedia Designer

Multimedia designers work across media, using artistry and technology to inform, entertain, and persuade. Some work in set design, while others create 3D environments for video games. Many shoot and edit video content. Multimedia designers work in several different industries, including film, television, advertising, and gaming.

Average Annual Salary: $54,400 (September 2021)

Marketing Specialist

Marketing specialists create promotional content, including print advertisements, digital videos, and social media posts. They also research consumer demand, analyzing sales and other data to determine how to market a product or service effectively. Marketing specialists need creativity, technical skills, and business savvy. Many work for companies and advertising agencies.

Average Annual Salary: $51,730 (September 2021)

Web Designer

Web designers determine the look, feel, and functionality of websites. They create page layouts, choose fonts and color schemes, and ensure that websites are easy to navigate. Web designers use software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator) and programming, markup, and stylesheet languages (e.g., HTML, CSS, and JavaScript).

Average Annual Salary: $51,820 (September 2021)

Creative Director

Creative directors lead teams of copywriters, graphic designers, and other creative professionals working on marketing campaigns, web design projects, and other large-scale initiatives. Some creative directors work for agencies, while others work in house as creative directors at large companies.

Average Annual Salary: $89,480 (September 2021)

Graphic Design Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Animation Careers Game Design Careers Art and Design Careers

Continuing Education

You don't need a graduate degree to succeed as a graphic designer. However, some graduates of bachelor's in graphic design programs pursue master's degrees or doctorates.

Master's in graphic design programs provide bachelor's degree-holders with further training, which can help them improve their design skills and stand out to potential employers. In contrast, Ph.D. programs in graphic design typically emphasize research. Degree-seekers study design theory and history and write about various subjects, such as sustainability in design and design in urban environments.

Often, individuals who earn a Ph.D. in graphic design pursue academic careers.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Program?

Cost

Tuition and fees for online bachelor's in graphic design programs vary. In general, public universities charge lower tuition rates than private schools. If students are concerned about keeping costs low, they should look at public schools located in their state. They can also consider earning an associate degree at a community college and then transferring to a four-year institution to finish their program.

When choosing an online bachelor's in graphic design program, compare the cost of enrolling in an online program versus attending classes on campus. Although online programs are sometimes more affordable — by avoiding on-campus student fees and travel costs — several factors affect the overall or "true cost" of earning a degree remotely.

Program Format

Synchronous online programs require students to attend classes virtually at specific times. Alternatively, asynchronous options permit students to complete course requirements at any time. When choosing a bachelor's in graphic design program, consider which online learning format you prefer. Also, some schools offer accelerated bachelor's programs, allowing students to earn their degrees in less than four years.

Location

The location of your school can also matter, even if you choose to go to college online. For instance, if you attend a school in your home state, you may be eligible for in-state tuition rates. Also, some programs require online students to visit campus to complete specific requirements. If you're unable or unwilling to travel, make sure potential programs don't have any in-person components.

Accreditation

Look for an online bachelor's in graphic design program offered by an independently accredited school. Accreditation helps ensure that you receive a high-quality education. Also, if you decide to transfer, enrolling at an accredited school and program increases the likelihood that the courses you've completed will transfer to your new school. Many colleges and universities only accept transfer credits from regionally accredited schools.

Student Support

When choosing an online program, consider options that provide student services like online tutoring, faculty mentorship opportunities, and career services. Also, look for programs offering internship opportunities, as these can help you gain valuable industry experience and expand your professional network.

Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

Is your school on this list? Get the BestColleges ranking seal.

How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Best Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Programs

  1. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Liberty's bachelor's in graphic design program features classes such as history of art and digital imaging. This BFA degree program helps students build graphic design portfolios that they can use in their job search.

    Applicants need a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA. Liberty allows students to transfer up to 75% of their credits into the program. Applicants must submit proof of English proficiency. The university boasts that it has frozen tuition rates for "the past six years — and counting."

    Program Snapshot

    • Scohol Website: Visit Program
    • Cost per Credit: $390 per credit (full time); $455 per credit (part time)
    • Program Length: 3.5 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Private
    • School Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  2. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    The bachelor's in graphic design program at SNHU offers two concentrations: 3D modeling and animation and web design. Courses for this degree program include digital graphic design for the web, basic design and color theory, graphics and layout in print media, and language and practice of media arts.

    Students can transfer up to 90 credits into this program. Applicants must fill out a free application form. SNHU does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores.

    Program Snapshot

    • Scohol Website: Visit Program
    • Cost per Credit: $320 per credit
    • Program Length: 3.5 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Private
    • School Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  3. Bellevue University
    Location

    Bellevue, NE

    BU's online bachelor's in graphic design features classes such as identity design, website development, typography, and interactivity basics. The program requires a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud software.

    The university allows students to fully transfer credits from an accredited associate degree in graphic design. Students may also earn credit for previous military experience and training. Applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and complete an online application. BU does not require any standardized test scores for admission.

    Program Snapshot

    • Scohol Website: Visit Program
    • Cost per Credit: $430 per credit
    • Program Length: 4 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 127 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Instruction style: Asynchronous
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Private
    • School Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  4. Kentucky Wesleyan College
    Location

    Owensboro, KY

    Wesleyan's online bachelor's degree in graphic design features classes like digital photographic techniques, digital painting, beginning drawing, and art survey. This program concludes with a senior seminar course.

    Online learners can access a variety of resources, such as a digital library and academic advising. Applicants need a minimum 2.0 GPA and a score of at least 19 on the ACT (or the equivalent score on the SAT). The school does not charge an application fee.

    Program Snapshot

    • School Website: Visit Program
    • Cost per Credit: $455 per credit
    • Program Length: 4 years
    • Total Credits Required to Graduate: 120 credits
    • Degree Completion Program: No
    • Instruction style: Asynchronous
    • Format: Online
    • School Status: Private
    • School Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Graphic Design Programs

Is a bachelor's in graphic design worth it? true

If you want to be a graphic designer, earning your degree is probably worth it. Graphic designers typically need a bachelor's degree, either in graphic design or a related field. Enrolling in an online bachelor's in graphic design program can help you develop the technical and design skills needed to succeed. Earning a degree can also lead to internship and professional networking opportunities.

What can I do with a bachelor's in graphic design? true

A bachelor's in graphic design is a versatile degree. Graduates of graphic design programs can pursue careers as web designers, marketing specialists, animators, and illustrators. Some graphic designers earn master's and doctoral degrees, although you don't need a graduate degree to succeed in the field.

Master's in graphic design programs provide advanced technical training, helping students develop their skills, build their portfolios, and stand out to employers. In contrast, doctoral programs in graphic design focus on developing students' research and academic writing skills. Graduates of Ph.D. programs in graphic design typically pursue careers as researchers or college professors.

Are graphic design majors in high demand? true

The BLS projects that jobs for graphic designers will increase by 3% between 2020 and 2030, which is slower than average. However, many creative professionals with backgrounds in graphic design work in in-demand industries, such as web design and marketing.

The BLS projects that the web development and design field will add 25,500 new jobs between 2020 and 2030. Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers are projected to see an increase of more than 31,000 jobs during the same period.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in graphic design?

As of May 2020, BLS data showed that graphic designers earned an average annual salary of $58,370. However, salaries for graphic designers vary considerably depending on their experience, expertise, and location. For example, graphic designers in the District of Columbia earned an annual mean wage of $ 83,070, while those in South Dakota earned just $37,510 a year.

Additionally, as of May 2020, graphic designers working in advertising, public relations, and related services earned median annual salaries above $55,000, while professionals in printing and related support activities typically earned less than $42,000 per year.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a bachelor's in graphic design?

Creative directors are among the highest-paid professionals in graphic design — PayScale data from September 2021 showed that they earned an average annual salary of $89,480. However, creative directors typically have many years of industry experience.

Art directors are also highly-paid creative professionals, and some begin their careers as graphic designers. Art directors often work under the supervision of creative directors, executing the visual aspects of an ad campaign or other project. According to PayScale, art directors earned an average annual salary of $69,630 in September 2021.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.