Best Online Associate in Graphic Design Programs of 2021

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By The BestColleges Rankings Team

Published on February 18, 2021

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In the world of digital marketing, businesses and organizations need skilled and creative graphic designers to help them tell stories and create engaging consumer and user experiences. These professionals can earn competitive salaries with only an associate degree, allowing them to start their careers without needing to spend four years taking classes.

This ranking and guide feature information and insights on how an online graphic design associate degree can help students move forward in this artistic career field. This page delves into common jobs for graduates, along with salary and career growth potential.

What Are the Best Online Associate in Graphic Design Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 5:

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#1 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA
#2 Surry Community College Dobson, NC
#3 Hagerstown Community College Hagerstown, MD
#4 Gateway Technical College Kenosha, WI
#5 Columbus State Community College Columbus, OH

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2021 Best Accredited Online Associate in Graphic Design Programs

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Foothill College View School Profile Los Altos Hills, CA

Foothill offers over 165 certificates and degrees, including an online associate of arts in graphic and interactive design that prepares graduates for entry-level positions in web development and digital publishing. Distance learners can complete the program entirely online or take some classes at Foothill's campus in Los Altos Hills, California.

Requiring 90 quarter credits, this associate in graphic design program covers topics like 2D foundations, typography, and user experience design. Students use elective credits to pursue specialized topics, choosing from options like mobile application design and cartoon/comic illustration. They may also take an advanced game art and design course.

Foothill does not require applicants to have a minimum GPA or submit ACT or SAT scores. However, all prospective students need to meet prerequisite assessment requirements.

Surry Community College View School Profile Dobson, NC

Based in Dobson, North Carolina, SCC serves more than 3,000 students, many of whom enroll in online courses. SCC's academic catalog includes an online associate degree in digital media technology/graphic design. After completing this 72-credit program, graduates are prepared to work as web developers, graphic artists, and animation specialists.

Program coursework covers graphic design tools and quantitative literacy. Students also delve into web programming and database administration. During their final semester, learners prepare for careers by exploring professional practice and emerging technologies in the design and IT fields. SCC powers distance education with the Moodle platform

To enroll in this online associate in graphic design program, applicants complete a residency determination form and an online application. The college offers a variety of financial aid opportunities, including Finish Line Grants for working professionals and returning students.

Hagerstown Community College View School Profile Hagerstown, MD

Founded in 1946 as Maryland's first two-year school, HCC now serves over 4,000 students annually. Programs include an online associate of arts and science with a graphic design concentration. Using a hybrid delivery method, the program allows students to complete general education courses online before taking major courses on campus.

The curriculum consists of courses like technical writing, digital imaging, and computer illustration with Adobe. While earning their online associate degree in graphic design, students also develop skills in typography and digital layout. Learners work with an advisor to choose 2-3 electives, with options like figure drawing and 2D animation.

HCC maintains an open-door admission policy that does not require a minimum GPA or standardized test scores. Applicants submit an online application and official school transcripts before meeting with an enrollment counselor, who helps them access financial aid and sign up for classes.

Gateway Technical College View School Profile Kenosha, WI

Located in Racine, Wisconsin, Gateway serves about 7,000 students through more than 70 career-training and academic programs each year. The college offers an online associate in graphic communications that requires 61 credits.

Program coursework includes advanced design concepts, digital photography, and technical reporting. Learners can gain hands-on experience by participating in a district-wide design show sponsored by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. They may also pursue internships with local tech companies and even study abroad. Students can complete the program entirely online or complete some on-campus coursework.

Applicants must submit an online application and high school transcripts. They must also sit for placement testing.

Columbus State Community College View School Profile Columbus, OH

CSCC offers an online associate of applied science in digital design and graphics that emphasizes technical competencies. Learners gain the skills needed to pursue entry-level careers or take advantage of one of the college's many transfer opportunities.

CSCC's associate in graphic design curriculum covers topics like digital photography, interactive media fundamentals, and website creation. Students also examine storyboarding techniques and branding strategies. They master a variety of Adobe programs, including InDesign, Muse, and Illustrator.

CSCC provides a free online application process. Prospective students can fulfill placement testing requirements by submitting ACT or SAT scores or taking an institutional entrance exam. The college powers distance education with the Blackboard platform.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Graphic Design Program?

In an online associate in graphic design program, students learn how to develop visual concepts using computer programs.

Students who succeed in associate in graphic design programs tend to possess creativity, self-motivation, and problem-solving skills. They also take feedback well and maintain patience as they take general concepts and transform them into high-quality graphics, logos, and images.

The typical online associate in graphic design program requires 60 credits and takes about 18-24 months to complete. In addition to coursework, students may complete internships to hone their skills and learn from experienced graphic designers and marketing professionals. While graphic design programs usually do not require these internships, these experiences can provide important paths to entry-level jobs after graduation.

In an online associate in graphic design program, students learn how to develop visual concepts using computer programs. They also explore how their work impacts advertising, marketing, web development, and print production. They gain expert-level knowledge of color, design, and typography theories while building a portfolio of their work to share during job interviews.

Graphic design employers tend to look for skill and experience rather than an advanced degree. To that end, an associate in graphic design can qualify graduates for most jobs in the field.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Associate in Graphic Design Program?

Although exact courses differ based on the program, most online associate in graphic design students explore foundational concepts in graphic design, digital art, and typography. The following list features five of the most common courses in these programs.

Principles of Interactive Design

This course provides students with an introduction to interactive design, including concepts in information architecture, user experience design, content creation, and consumer research. Students build functional websites, incorporating image optimization, search engine optimization, font selection, and multimedia files. The course teaches students how good digital design engages the end user.

Introduction to Computer Illustration

In this course, students become familiar with Adobe Illustrator, a commonly used design and illustration program. They explore all the tools Illustrator offers, along with the many ways professionals use these tools to create visually appealing designs. Students also learn about best practices in layout, graphics, and font selection.

Advanced Graphic Design

Students explore all the tools and features of InDesign and similar platforms to create visually appealing documents and marketing materials. As they create these pieces, students carefully consider color theory, typography, and composition, along with the processes used for print production. Learners move through the process, starting with mockups and creating a final version of their product.

Digital Photography

This course introduces students to best practices and approaches related to digital darkrooms and how they apply to the art of photography. Learners use an SLR camera to capture images, then move to Adobe Photoshop to manipulate them in a variety of ways. The course helps students use the creative process to create unique, aesthetically pleasing photos for exhibition, publications, or commercial purposes.

Introduction to Typography

Students learn about the history of printed words; how types developed; and the usage, legibility, and classification of various font types. The course looks at hierarchies in text and type family characteristics, particularly how they apply to graphic design, print materials, and digital media.

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What Can I Do With an Online Associate in Graphic Design Degree?

Although graphic designers can earn competitive salaries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4% decline for the field between 2019 and 2029.

However, individuals with an online associate in graphic design degree can find career opportunities in related fields, such as marketing, web design, and video production. The BLS projects faster than average growth for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers between 2019 and 2029. Graduates can earn these positions with additional education.

See where an associate in graphic design can take you. Learn more about graphic design careers here.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers create digital illustrations, logos, layouts, and other design pieces, usually based on direction from a marketing manager, project manager, or client. They frequently work with software like Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, creating mockups that they then revise based on client or art director recommendations. Graphic designers most often work at marketing agencies or as freelancers.

Web Design

Web designers create websites and webpages that help businesses and organizations reach their target audiences. They ensure each page features a strong balance of content, images, and white space to optimize the user experience. While most web designers hold a bachelor’s degree, many get their start in this field with an associate in graphic design.

Printing Specialist cloud-upload

These professionals work in print shops, using their knowledge of graphic design to help clients create visually appealing flyers, brochures, fact sheets, mailers, and other marketing materials. They prepare these pieces for printing, ensuring they meet the client’s needs and specifications. Today, printing specialists find the most career opportunities in print logistics and print marketing.

Production Artist

Production artists combine a thorough knowledge of graphic design with skills in computer applications to manage all steps in the production of graphics, video, and other multimedia. They consider the strategy, animation, and user experience of each project from conception to the final product.

Marketing Specialist

Many graphic designers move into careers as marketing specialists, which allows them to take a more comprehensive approach to promoting the products of the businesses and organizations they serve. Marketing specialists analyze consumer data, create and implement marketing campaigns, and monitor the effectiveness of their efforts.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Associate in Graphic Design Programs

Is an associate in graphic design worth it?

Pursuing an associate in graphic design degree prepares learners for entry-level jobs as graphic designers and provides a great first step toward more advanced careers in marketing, advertising, and promotion. The BLS projects employment of marketing managers and specialists to grow at a faster than average rate between 2019 and 2029. Keep in mind that graduates often need additional education to qualify for these jobs.

What can I do with an associate in graphic design?

An associate in graphic design degree enables students to work as graphic designers for businesses, organizations, and marketing agencies. Graduates can also work as freelancers with their own clients or find opportunities as a web designer, marketing specialist, production artist, or printing specialist, especially as they gain more experience in the field.

Are graphic design majors in demand?

While the BLS projects that demand for graphic designers will decrease between 2019 and 2029, many closely related fields should experience growth. With additional education, you can become an advertising, promotions, or marketing manager, a career the BLS projects to grow 6% between 2019 and 2029.

How much money can I make with an associate in graphic design?

According to the BLS, graphic designers earn a median annual salary of $52,110, a solid salary for two-year degree-holders.

What are the highest paying jobs with an associate in graphic design?

According to the BLS, website designers and developers earn a median annual salary of $73,760. Many of these jobs only require an associate degree. Many associate in graphic design programs focus primarily on digital design compared to traditional print design, giving students the skills they need to provide expert web design services to employers and clients.

Feeling first-day-of-college jitters? Learn what to expect and how to prepare for the first day of class. Looking for a good school in the Southwest? Check out our list of the top 10 online colleges in the southwestern United States. Students can make college life easier by bringing 10 documents that are essential for study, work, and other aspects of student life.

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.

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