A Comprehensive Guide to an Online Graphic Design Degree

Graphic design encompasses many disciplines, including desktop publishing, video game design, and branding development. Using technology and artistic techniques, graphic designers create images and media that communicate ideas, define brands, and entertain millions of consumers. For those interested in website design and development or those who dream of creating eye-catching book covers, graphic design offers many opportunities for artists and innovators.

While certain subfields of graphic design, such as web design, continue to grow, all prospective designers face strong competition for jobs. Companies increasingly require higher education for entry-level positions. For many individuals seeking careers in graphic design, online programs provide an affordable and accessible path to employment. Graduates with a degree in graphic design have the technical skills, theoretical knowledge, and industry know-how required to land positions in their field. A degree also provides students with the essential skills needed to master the complex image editing software used by design professionals.

Graduates with a degree in graphic design have the technical skills, theoretical knowledge, and industry know-how required to land positions in their field.

For those interested in a career in graphic design, finding the right degree can be challenging. Let's take a look at what an online degree can do for you; what a graphic design curriculum looks like; and how to choose a program that fits your goals, budget, and lifestyle.

Online graphic design programs hold many advantages over their on-campus equivalents, including convenient class schedules. Combining academic rigor and faculty support with flexibility, web-based programs enable busy students to balance academic, professional, and personal responsibilities. Take a look at some benefits of earning a graphic design degree online.

Accessibility

While on-campus students regularly attend class to receive assignments and lessons, schools provide distance learners with 24/7 access to recorded lectures, course materials, and homework assignments. Students pursuing a graphic design degree online can complete assignments and review materials at any time.

Flexibility

Online graphic design programs fit any schedule or lifestyle. Without designated meeting times or on-campus requirements, web-based programs allow students to complete coursework at their convenience. Many classes feature flexible assignment deadlines, self-paced coursework, and accelerated study plans.

School Options
Distance learners select schools based on merit and their preferences. Pursuing a graphic design degree online makes it possible for students to attend top-ranked schools across the country, without having to relocate.
Diversity

Online graphic design programs attract students from a variety of professional, national, and cultural backgrounds. As part of a virtual cohort, students encounter a broad range of perspectives by building friendships and developing an expansive network of fellow graphic design students.

Technology

Online programs employ cutting-edge technology to connect students with their instructors and peers. Through eLearning platforms like Blackboard, which include discussion forums and live streaming lectures, distance learners receive the same support as their on-campus counterparts. Many schools provide full digital access to university libraries, tutoring services, and other resources.

The kind of degree you earn impacts your future earnings and job opportunities. Advanced degrees lead to higher wages; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for designers and web developers who hold a master's degree amounts to roughly $10,000 more than professionals with a bachelor's. While a bachelor's degree is typically the minimum credential required for most entry-level graphic design positions, a competitive job market drives some individuals to pursue graduate studies. Others find that a two-year associate degree presents a faster, more affordable alternative to four-year undergraduate programs. The type of degree you pursue will depend on your previous academic history, educational and career goals, and the amount of time you wish to spend on your studies.

Median Salary for an Graphic Designers by Degree
Associate Degree in Graphic Design $38,245
Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design $42,134
Master's Degree in Graphic Design $51,824

Certificate in Graphic Design

Earning a graphic design certificate online helps recent high school graduates and working professionals determine their career path and supplement their resumes. A certificate program provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts and competencies needed to create basic graphic design projects. Students gain familiarity with software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, explore the history of graphic design, and examine color and composition. Most feature a relatively brief curriculum consisting of 6-12 credits, and learners can typically earn their graphic design certificate online in six months to two years.

While individuals who complete certificate graphic design programs online sometimes qualify for entry-level positions or promotions, most use the experience to refine their educational goals. Many graduates use the work produced for their certificate portfolios to gain entry to bachelor's degree programs.

Admission requirements for certificate programs vary widely between institutions. While some schools require that applicants submit standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, or a portfolio, others maintain open-door admission policies. Prospective students usually provide a copy of their high school diploma or GED.

Example Courses:

Introduction to Graphic Design

Presenting foundational concepts related to composition, typography, and color, this course builds familiarity with basic theories, project execution methods, and technologies commonly used by professional graphic designers.

Graphic Design Theory

Lectures explore the psychological and emotional aspects of design and color, placing special emphasis on how graduates use these in media and communications.

Web Design

This course provides a broad introduction to the programs and processes used in digital image preparation and web page design. Students learn to work with various image file formats, CSS applications, and multimedia elements.

Photoshop Basics

Hands-on coursework imparts crucial Adobe Photoshop skills, including retouching, color correction, composite image creation, and isolating objects. Learners build proficiency in the essential techniques associated with image editing and creation.

Introduction to Digital Animation

Degree candidates explore the animation process through hands-on assignments that utilize 2D and 3D modeling programs. While coursework emphasizes aesthetics and techniques used in digital animation, the course also focuses on traditional methods.


Associate Degree in Graphic Design

Combining general education coursework with graphic design fundamentals, an associate degree offers prospective designers the chance to master basic software and skills while building a portfolio. Typically consisting of 60-90 credits, the average online associate degree in graphic design curriculum takes two years to complete. Major courses explore integral concepts in design, typography, and color theory, as well as basic production processes. Students gain hands-on experience with integral design software as they learn to create logos, layouts, and publications.

Because most entry-level positions in the field require a bachelor's degree, many students consider an associate program as an entry point to a four-year degree. The hands-on nature of associate coursework allows candidates to develop a personal portfolio. Many schools allow associate-holders to transfer any previously earned general education credits towards their BA. Students seeking a two-year option to jump start their education may select one of several options.

While admissions procedures vary considerably between institutions, individuals applying to a graphic design associate degree program typically need to submit proof of a high school diploma or GED and meet GPA requirements.

Example Courses:

Typography

Offering a broad survey of font design and display, this course encourages students to examine the roles of letterform and space in visual communication by creating original projects.

Introduction to Dreamweaver

This course builds familiarity with the basic tools and techniques used to create websites and templates in Adobe Dreamweaver. Topics covered include HTML, processing scripts, and interactive feature development.

Page Layout

Building on basic design theory, coursework explores the use of structure, proportion, and geometry in creating attractive, visually coherent pages. Learners typically complete multiple portfolio projects.

Logo Design

Emphasizing experiential learning through portfolio-building projects, this course introduces concepts in branding and corporate identity. Students learn to develop a personal style as they work with brands.

Print Production

Using programs such as Adobe InDesign, candidates prepare projects for print, select papers and inks appropriate to a job, and produce quality printed materials while adhering to budget constraints.


Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design

Companies typically require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree. Students pursuing a graphic design bachelor's degree online acquire the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to excel in a variety of positions. Major courses focus on the development of core artistic skills, such as traditional drawing methods and digital interface design, in addition to industry-standard software. Using programs like Adobe Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and InDesign, learners develop a body of work to present to potential employers. Some schools allow students to specialize in a subfield of design, such as motion graphics or print publication. Most programs also include a liberal arts requirement. Prospective bachelor's candidates can select from a diverse pool of program options.

While traditional bachelor's programs usually take four years to complete, distance learners often earn their graphic design bachelor's degree online in three years or less. Most programs consist of about 120 credits and allow students to take online coursework at their own pace or through an accelerated format.

Applicants must provide a copy of their high school diploma or GED, SAT or ACT scores, and a personal statement; some schools require additional documentation. Though rare, some students need to submit a portfolio of their work along with their application.

Example Courses:

Drawing 1

This course imparts basic drawing techniques through hands-on practice. By exploring concepts such as form, proportion, and depth, learners develop the visual thinking skills needed to excel in graphic design.

History of Graphic Design

Exploring the social, political, and technological factors that shape and develop the graphic design industry, this class offers an exhaustive survey of the discipline's major movements.

Typography

Coursework takes an in-depth look at the role of typography in symbolic communication, the use of appropriate fonts in context, and recent typographical developments in digital media and web design.

Color Theory

Class participants examine color properties, sensations, and associations through a combination of research and experiential learning, ultimately developing a vocabulary with which to describe and analyze color.

Magazine Design and Production

This elective takes students through the magazine production process, from planning and design to distribution. Lectures address topics unique to periodical design, including cover layout and publishing trends.


Master's Degree in Graphic Design

Students pursue a master's degree in graphic design online after completing an undergraduate program. Some professionals earn this degree to distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive job market, while others wish to improve their earning power. Master's programs refine students' knowledge of graphic design theory and practice and allow them to explore a particular aspect of the discipline.

Distance learners can enter into one of several different master's programs. Most MFA degrees offer a research-centered curriculum, and most MA programs feature intensive courses that often include an internship component. MA programs typically focus on a specific subfield or topic within graphic design, such as animation, advertising, or interface design. Program duration varies according to degree type and curriculum structure, with most students completing their graphic design degree online in 1-3 years.

For admission, prospective graduate students need a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field with a competitive GPA and a portfolio of their work. Some schools require applicants to submit official GRE scores, professional references, proof of work experience, or other documents.

Example Courses:

Theory and Criticism

Using a variety of critical methods, students analyze major issues and debates in modern design. The class gives special attention to the historical and social factors that shape art criticism.

Design Studio

Working in teams or individually, learners utilize a range of programs and methods to develop original projects and find solutions to common design problems.

Interactive Media

Lectures explore the major elements of interactive design, including motion and time. Combining web design with electronic publishing, this course presents the essentials of enhanced website development.

Design and Practice

This course deepens learners' understanding of design theory through readings, discussions, written assessments, and analysis of their own work and the work of others.

Research Strategies

A continued exploration of visual communication theory, semiotics, and context, this course builds graduate-level research skills through the use of modern and historical design models.


Doctoral Degree in Graphic Design

After completing a master's degree in graphic design online, some graduates go on to pursue a Ph.D. in the same field. Doctoral programs in graphic design cater to candidates hoping to teach at colleges or universities. A Ph.D. curriculum typically culminates in a thesis or a dissertation, and much of a doctoral candidate's time amounts to performing guided research and independent study on their chosen theme. Program length varies considerably, with the average student completing their Ph.D. in four years.

In addition to a master's degree in design or a related field, individuals who apply to a graphic design doctoral program need several years of professional experience. Schools also require learners to present a portfolio of recent work or previous research. At some schools, a prospective Ph.D. student enters the program only after a member of the faculty agrees to serve as their mentor.

Example Courses:

Research Methods

In this course, doctoral candidates use various research methodologies to select and refine the subject of their final thesis. Students work alongside an adviser to develop a proposal.

Doctoral Thesis Preparation

With the assistance of an academic adviser and thesis committee, learners expand on ideas gleaned while researching to develop an original thesis topic and outline.

Independent Study

Comprising the bulk of a doctoral candidate's coursework, independent study allows students to explore their dissertation topic in depth and further revise and refine their ideas.

Foreign Language

Many online graphic design programs include a foreign language requirement, particularly at the doctoral level when students need to access research materials in languages other than English.

Colloquium

This intensive course addresses a particular issue or theme in graphic design. Colloquium topics vary considerably between schools and even semesters. Course subjects include stereotypes in design and social media.


Graphic Design Concentrations and Specialties

Online graphic design programs present the knowledge and hands-on skills required for many roles. Some students with a business background earn a graphic design bachelor's degree online to pursue positions in marketing or branding. The list below includes opportunities open to those with an online graphic design degree.

Motion Graphics

Specializing in animation and video content development, these designers create the two and three-dimensional graphics used in television, film, and internet media. They involve themselves in multiple stages of the creative process, including conceptualization and storyboarding. Many find employment in the motion picture and advertising industries.

Mobile Application Design

Mobile application designers create the visual elements of mobile interfaces. Working alongside user experience designers and programmers, they develop intuitive and attractive applications consistent with a brand's image.

Brand Identity and Logo Design

Individuals in this role typically boast a background in graphic design and marketing. They analyze market trends, identify target demographics, and develop eye-catching marketing materials that meet clients' needs. Brand designers typically collaborate on marketing initiatives with communications professionals.

Type and Calligraphy

Typographers use computer software to design and arrange typefaces in a manner that evokes mood or brand recognition. Many work in advertising or package design. Calligraphers are usually self-employed, receiving commissions to provide artistic lettering for special documents.

Print Design

Print designers focus exclusively on layout design. Working for publishers, advertising agencies, and marketing firms, they create attractive page layouts and make them consumer-ready.


Median Salary For Graphic Design Specialties
Motion Graphic Designer $57,329
Mobile Applications Designer $66,627
Package Designer $48,788
Graphic Designer (With Typography Skills) $41,705
Graphic Designer (With Print Skills) $50,000

While licensure is not required for most graphic designer positions, certifications help professionals convey their expertise. Web designers have dozens of certification opportunities, each providing competence in specialized software and generalized skills. The list below includes some of the common certifications that offer holders better career options.

  • ACE: Adobe Illustrator CC 2015: This industry standard certification is awarded to designers skilled at editing and creating vector graphics in Adobe Illustrator. Candidates must receive a score of 550 or better on the 60-question, multiple choice exam, which gauges skills such as drawing, building Illustrator documents, and working with color.
  • ACE: Adobe InDesign CC 2015: Ideal for prospective print designers, this certification measures a candidate's skill at layout, text, and cross-media design. Interested designers need at least two years of InDesign experience. As with other ACE exams, candidates pay a $180 fee before sitting for the 60-question, multiple choice test.
  • ACE: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015: Nearly every designer benefits from this standard certification. This credential demonstrates proficiency at digital imaging and design in Photoshop. Consisting of 57 questions on topics including tool settings and global color adjustment, the exam takes 90 minutes to complete.
  • ACE: Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015: This accreditation is awarded to professionals, such as animators and motion graphics specialists, who are skilled in media clip editing in Premiere Pro. The 60-question exam takes 90 minutes to complete and covers sequence editing and creation, transitions and titles, audio mixing, and media management. A 550 constitutes a passing score.
  • ACE: Dreamweaver CC 2015: Designers who earn this highly sought-after credential have mastered the premiere program for website design and layout. Candidates take 75 minutes to complete the 55-question certification exam, which measures candidates' knowledge of page creation and structure, CSS design and transition, and HTML coding. Most recipients possess experience with JavaScript and site architecture.
  • Certified Professional Web Designer (CPWDS): Developed by the World Organization of Webmasters, the CPWDS certification designates competence at essential web design skills. After paying a $125 fee, candidates demonstrate their knowledge of HTML and CSS, web graphics, site design, and related topics over the course of 70 exam questions.
  • CIW Web Design Professional: Intended for graphic designers, artists, and marketing directors, this three-part credential provides certification in web design and e-commerce. After completing continuing education coursework in both areas and paying a $300 testing fee, candidates must pass two exams that address topics like marketing strategies and advanced web design technologies.

Graduates of online graphic design programs work in several roles, industries, and settings. An online graphic design degree imparts the broadly-applicable design and tech skills sought by employers nationwide. Some graduates become self-employed or offer freelance work. The list below includes some of the popular career paths taken by students who earn a graphic design degree online.

Graphic Design Careers

Graphic Designer

Creating logos, layouts, and illustrations for clients, graphic designers use cutting-edge software and traditional artistic methods to develop visual concepts. They may work independently or in teams.

Multimedia Artist/Animator

These designers use computer software to create animated graphics and visual effects. They typically specialize in a particular medium, such as video games or CGI film effects.

Desktop Publisher

Using specialized computer programs, desktop publishers design page layouts for print and online publications. Most work with graphic designers to develop complementary images and text.

Advertising Manager

Many advertising and marketing managers come from a background in art or design, applying their skills to promotional campaign development, media design, and creative advertising. Most also possess a bachelor's degree.

Industrial Designer

Industrial designers combine art and engineering to develop the concepts behind a variety of manufactured products. They create prototypes and virtual models, evaluate product safety, and aid in corporate brand development.

Best Jobs For Graphic Design Majors by Salary Potential
  Entry Level Mid-Career Experienced Late-Career
Interaction Designer $72,000 $87,000 $97,000 No Data
Creative Director $54,000 $79,000 $101,000 $106,000
User Experience Designer $69,000 $83,000 $92,000 $97,000
Design Manager $58,000 $75,000 $87,000 $93,000
Creative Services Director $45,000 $69,000 $83,000 $91,000
The Best States for Graphic Design Careers
Click Here to View The Full List of States
State Employment Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Alabama 1,520 $20.57 $42,780
Alaska 270 $25.99 $54,060
Arizona 3,140 $23.17 $48,190
Arkansas 1,080 $18.74 $38,980
California 29,750 $28.46 $59,210
Colorado 4,430 $25.73 $53,510
Connecticut 2,300 $27.92 $58,070
Delaware 450 $25.01 $52,010
Florida 12,500 $22.09 $45,950
Georgia 6,390 $24.85 $51,680
Hawaii 480 $21.88 $45,520
Idaho 1,130 $18.44 $38,360
Illinois 9,630 $25.62 $53,290
Indiana 4,030 $19.98 $41,550
Iowa 2,330 $21.64 $45,020
Kansas 2,000 $21.41 $44,540
Kentucky 1,870 $19.78 $41,140
Lousiana 1,730 $19.37 $40,300
Maine 810 $21.56 $44,850
Maryland 3,260 $28.17 $58,590
Massachusetts 5,020 $27.99 $58,210
Michigan 5,830 $23.23 $48,310
Minnesota 5,710 $25.28 $52,590
Mississippi 870 $18.08 $37,610
Missouri 4,120 $23.06 $47,970
Montana 620 $19.69 $40,960
Nebraska 1,720 $21.63 $44,990
Nevada 1,780 $23.48 $48,840
New Hampshire 940 $23.01 $47,850
New Jersey 5,490 $27.68 $57,580
New Mexico 740 $18.84 $39,190
New York 21,440 $30.17 $62,750
North Carolina 5,910 $23.56 $49,010
North Dakota 630 $19.59 $40,740
Ohio 7,140 $22.49 $46,780
Oklahoma 1,680 $21.34 $44,380
Oregon 3,520 $25.40 $52,820
Pennsylvania 8,870 $23.88 $49,660
Rhode Island 610 $25.60 $53,250
South Carolina 1,840 $19.25 $40,030
South Dakota 650 $17.02 $35,400
Tennessee 3,010 $21.88 $45,500
Texas 12,110 $23.25 $48,360
Utah 2,900 $22.84 $47,500
Vermont 530 $21.70 $45,130
Virginia 5,450 $27.36 $56,910
Washington 5,000 $26.82 $55,780
West Virginia 490 $20.39 $42,410
Wisconsin 5,000 $22.91 $47,640
Wyoming 320 $19.56 $40,680

Brit Casady Graphic Designer, Brit Casady Design

Brit Casady is a freelance graphic designer based in SoCal with her company Brit Casady Design. She specializes in custom logos, business cards, watercolor illustrations, and custom wedding invitations. Her work has been sold on merchandise in stores across the U.S., been featured on websites and social media accounts of national brands, and seen by thousands of individuals.

What was your job search like after graduating? What tips would you give to graphic design graduates starting the job search?

I began doing graphic design internships one-and-a-half years before graduating. I had had a part-time job unrelated to graphic design for four years, which was definitely a security blanket, but I decided to take a plunge one day and get a job in the industry. Even though it was for a new company with new frustrating growing experiences, it directly led me to my next job and title at a much better company shortly thereafter. A lot of your graphic design programs may involve mock projects, but try and get as much real-world experience as possible. Working with real clients and real feedback is invaluable and completely different than a professor/classroom environment. Also, be willing to work for free, especially when it's on a project that will help build out your portfolio.

What are some practical tips to prepare for an interview?

Pretend like you already have the job and you're simply conversing with good friends. Create and bring a portable printed portfolio. Online portfolios are nice, but I've impressed past job interviewers by having a polished printed portfolio.

What software/programs do you think every designer should become familiar with?

Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Dreamweaver. Especially Illustrator, though. It's worth buying your own software, and check with your school bookstore to see if they offer any discounts on Adobe Creative Suite.

How important is networking and what are some easy ways to stay connected to other professionals in this industry?

Networking is actually how I got my first few graphic design internships and jobs. It is extremely crucial. Follow classmates and professors on Behance and social media and make sure you have each other's contact information. I've had professors and former employers come to me with freelance projects years after being in their class or working for them.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest advancements and technology in graphic design?

I look at other designers work on sites like Behance, Pinterest, and Etsy and try to emulate their work to keep pushing and expanding my skills.

What does continual education look like for you?

I like taking on projects that push what I'm comfortable with; that helps me continue growing. In following various design blogs and websites, I can continue to see what modern design looks like and what is overused, etc. I look at other professional's design work on a daily basis. I also keep a sketchbook with me at all times to jot down ideas for future projects.

How important is professional certification for graphic designers?

It's controversial. Really, what's most important is a good portfolio. For a lucky few that can obtain that through their own self-taught methods, that's great; however, having that education and making those networking connections were pivotal to my breaking into the industry.

What advice would you give an undergrad graphic design student who is on the fence about earning a graduate degree in this field?

A bachelor's degree is completely sufficient if you have a solid portfolio. Advanced degrees in this field would only be necessary if you'd like to become a professor of graphic design.

Scholarships help finance your education. Schools make scholarships available to students at every educational level. See the list below for some examples.

Graphic Design Scholarships for Associate Degree Students

Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation

Who Can Apply: Full-time students enrolled in a two or four-year printing or graphics program with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Amount: $20,000

TLMI Two-Year Degree Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in a two-year flexographic printing program who maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Amount: $1,000

Joel Cartun Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time students with a 3.0 GPA or better pursuing a career in document management or graphic communications. Applicants must submit transcripts, a cover letter, and two letters of recommendation.
Amount: $1,000

Helen Truecox Art Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Native American women aged 18-25 who wish to enroll in an accredited art program but lack the funding to do so.
Amount: $1,000


Graphic Design Scholarships for Bachelor's Degree Students

Geri Wolff Scholarship for Women in Computer Science or Design

Who Can Apply: Female sophomores, juniors, and seniors with a minimum 3.0 GPA pursuing careers in digital signage.
Amount: $2,000

Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Asian-American or Pacific Islander students pursuing a bachelor's degree full-time in a creative field. Applicants must hold a GPA of at least a 3.0 and demonstrate leadership skills.
Amount: $1,000

Youth in Print Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time undergraduate students with a minimum 3.0 GPA and an interest in pursuing a career in document management or graphic communications.
Amount: $2,000

CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship

Who Can Apply: African-American students enrolled full-time in an undergraduate visual arts program. Applicants must demonstrate exceptional leadership skills and hold a GPA of at least 2.5.
Amount: $3,000


Graphic Design Scholarships for Master's Degree Students

Support Creativity Graduate Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduate students attending any creative program at a New York school who can demonstrate financial need.
Amount: $1,000

Craft Graduate Research Grant

Who Can Apply: Graduate students enrolled in any accredited college or university.
Amount: $5,000

Vectorworks Design Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduate students pursuing a design-oriented degree at an accredited institution.
Amount: $3,000

Vercille Voss Graduate Student Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Any master's degree candidate who has completed four or more postsecondary design courses.
Amount: $2,000


Graphic Design Scholarships for Doctoral Degree Students

FOARE Creative Arts/Design Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in an accredited graphic design or art doctoral program.
Amount: $3,000

Graphic Communications Graduate Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Postgraduate students in the New York City metro area pursuing a degree in the graphic arts. Students must submit a portfolio of their work, a current resume, transcripts demonstrating a 3.25 GPA or higher, and two faculty recommendation letters.
Amount: Varies -- includes internship and mentoring opportunities.

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program

Who Can Apply: Doctoral students attending an accredited art program who demonstrate financial need.
Amount: Varies according to availability of funding and individual need.

Minted Design Grant

Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in an art or design program.
Amount: $4,000


Graphic Design Software for Students

Professional designers rely on industry-specific software to create, edit, and publish their work, and most online graphic design degree curriculums emphasize the importance of mastering Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and similar programs. As rapid advancements in technology continue to affect the design industry, students need to maintain a working knowledge of industry-standard software. Students typically encounter many of the following software packages throughout a graphic design online degree.

  • Adobe Dreamweaver Used by web designers to develop and code websites and mobile apps, Dreamweaver supports a variety of programming languages, including JavaScript, PHP, and HTML.
  • Adobe Illustrator Most online graphic design programs include an introduction to this industry-standard vector graphics illustrator, which allows designers to create, edit, and refine images such as logos and charts.
  • Adobe InDesign Typically used for desktop publishing, graphic designers and production artists employ InDesign to create page layouts for periodicals and other types of print media.
  • Adobe Photoshop This well-known photo editing program helps in the design of page layouts and individual elements. Some web designers use it in conjunction with Dreamweaver to create websites.
  • Affinity Designer Unlike other graphic editing software, Affinity Designer allows users to easily switch between vector, pixel, and export tools. Envisioned as a Photoshop/Illustrator hybrid, Mac owners typically use this software.
  • Fontographer Typographers often use this program to design original fonts. It also generates alternative versions of existing fonts, performs kerning adjustments, and adds new characters.
  • QuarkXPres: A favorite of print designers and publishers since 1987, QuarkXPress allows users to create and edit page layouts, ebooks, and mobile applications in a WYSIWYG environment.
  • TypeTool A simplified font editor compatible with FontLab Studio, TypeTool creates new fonts or modifies existing ones, including PostScript Type 1 and TrueType fonts with up to 65,000 glyphs.

Professional Graphic Design Organizations

Professional organizations offer a broad range of resources for learners earning a graphic design online degree, including discounted software and mentoring programs. Serving as networking points for industry professionals and students, these associations commonly host conferences and seminars attended by leading employers and innovators in the field. Many offer discounted student memberships and exclusive funding opportunities, such as scholarships, grants, and design competitions. Organization membership looks great on any resume, and some groups maintain certification programs that lead to better career opportunities. There are plenty of resources available to students pursuing an online graphic design degree, including these well-known organizations:

  • AIGA: The world's largest graphic design professional organization, AIGA's exclusive job board lets members access international opportunities. Student members can form local chapters, participate in workshops, and receive special discounts.
  • Graphic Artists Guild: Promoting professionalism in the graphic arts field, this organization offers its members legal advocacy, exclusive webinars, and product discounts. Student members can display their skills through a one-image Guild portfolio page.
  • International Council for Design: Educational members take part in all Council activities, host events, and network with other online graphic design candidates through the organization's Educational Platform and working groups.

More Resources for Graphic Design Students

Designer Meetups

Free Resources

Internship Resources

Websites to Bookmark

General

Web Design

Typography

2018 Accredited Programs

Top Bachelor's in Graphic Design
Rank School State Degree Cost
1 Liberty University VA Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design $24,794
2 California Baptist University CA Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Digital Media $25,875
3 Midway University KY Bachelor of Science in Marketing Communications with a Concentration in Graphic Design $23,802
4 Southern New Hampshire University NH Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design & Media Arts $34,984
5 Savannah College of Art and Design GA Bachelor of Arts Graphic Design or Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design $40,856
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Top Master's in Graphic Design
Rank School State Degree Cost
1 Syracuse University NY Master of Fine Arts in Illustration $31,823
2 Savannah College of Art and Design GA Master of Arts in Graphic Design; Master of Arts in Illustration $40,856
3 Quinnipiac University CT Master of Science in Interactive Media with a concentration of UX Design; Media Design $37,439
4 Maryland Institute College of Art MD Master of Professional Studies in UX Design $41,889
5 Samford University AL Master of Science in Design Studies $29,544
6 Liberty University VA Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design $24,794
7 Ball State University IN Master of Arts in Emerging Media Design and Development $13,369
8 Kent State University at Kent OH Master of Science in User Experience Design $18,180
9 Radford University VA Master of Fine Arts in Design Thinking $14,084
10 Pittsburg State University KS Master of Science in Technology with Graphic Design Emphasis $12,967
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Top Bachelor's in Video Game Design

Rank School State Degree Cost
1 Liberty University VA B.S. in Information Technology - Gaming Design $24,794
2 University of Baltimore MD Bachelor of Science in Simulation and Game Design $15,889
3 Southern New Hampshire University NH B.S. in Game Programming & Development $34,984
4 Lindenwood University MO Bachelor of Arts in Game Design $22,183
5 Savannah College of Art and Design GA B.A. or B.F.A. in Interactive Design and Game Development $40,856
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Top Master's of Fine Art

Rank School State Degree Cost
1 School of the Art Institute of Chicago IL MFA $43,045
2 New York University NY MFA $38,228
3 Pratt Institute NY MFA $28,308
4 Yale University CT MFA $36,500
5 Savannah College of Art and Design GA MFA $34,250
6 The New School NY MFA $28,496
7 University of Iowa IA MFA $26,107
8 Rhode Island School of Design RI MFA $42,932
9 San Francisco Art Institute CA MFA $40,390
10 New York Academy of Art NY MFA $32,500
11 Tufts University MA MFA $45,306
12 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts PA MFA $36,440
13 CUNY Hunter College NY MFA $17,296
14 California College of the Arts CA MFA $42,020
15 School of the Museum of Fine Arts MA MFA $39,276
16 Cranbrook Academy of Art MI MFA $32,905
17 CUNY City College NY MFA $17,300
18 University of Wisconsin-Madison WI MFA $25,184
19 Lesley University MA MFA $17,865
20 Indiana University-Bloomington IN MFA $25,153
21 Virginia Commonwealth University VA MFA $23,081
22 Temple University PA MFA $19,464
23 Rutgers University NJ MFA $27,667
24 Columbia University in the City of New York NY MFA $41,594
25 Bard College NY MFA $32,351
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