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Organizations around the world need talented artists and communication professionals to ensure their messages and brands are seen, understood, and remembered. With a master's in graphic design, graduates can access most art and design careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professions pay strong median annual salaries.
In addition to ranking the best online master's in graphic design programs, this page explores the different types of degrees and concentrations available and how they can impact students' career options.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Graphic Design Programs? Here Are Our Top 3:
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|1||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|2||Quinnipiac University||Hamden, CT|
|3||Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah, GA|
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2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Graphic Design Programs
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|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
An evangelical Christian institution that was founded in 1971, Liberty offers more than 400 online programs. Students complete Liberty's 60-credit master of fine arts in graphic design in two years, on average. This fully online program consists of eight-week courses, field experiences, and projects.
Enrolled students take 10 core courses, such as advanced typography and interactive design, as well as three art history and theory courses and three electives. This master's in graphic design requires field experiences, including a 180-hour professional internship and a 90-hour practicum. Students finish their degree by completing a research course and thesis or portfolio.
Liberty allows students to transfer in up to 30 credits. Applicants must submit an artist statement, portfolio, and transcripts. To be admitted in good standing, applicants must possess a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
|Hamden, CT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 77%||
Quinnipiac offers more than 70 programs, including several online graduate-level pathways. The school's online master of science in interactive media and communications emphasizes user-centered design and cross-media communication. Students learn web design, user experience design, and social media analytics.
Requirements in this 30-credit master's program include a writing for interactive media course and a web-based capstone portfolio that graduates can show to prospective employers. Elective offerings include visual design, content strategy, visual storytelling, and data visualization. Students may also complete an independent study project or an internship.
Applicants must submit a resume, two recommendations, a 500-word personal statement, a 1,000-word writing sample, and official transcripts. Applicants must also turn in an online portfolio demonstrating their ability and experience as a creative professional.
Savannah College of Art and Design
|Savannah, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
Established as a professional art college in 1978, SCAD now serves more than 14,000 students. SCAD's graduate offerings include a master of arts in graphic design and visual experience that students can complete through asynchronous online classes.
Required courses explore topics such as design research, ideation models, typographic voice, and visual analysis. Enrolled students may participate in a graduate internship or professional multi-disciplinary collaborative project. The degree requires at least 45 credits, although SCAD may assign additional courses depending on a learner's background (up to a total of 70 credits).
Applicants must submit a portfolio that includes a designed resume, 4-6 graphic design work samples, and a passion project. Additional application requirements include two recommendations, a resume, and a statement of purpose. SCAD may also require an interview or GRE scores from some applicants.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Graphic Design Program?
Master of design (M.Des.) programs can lead to careers in innovation and industrial design, and master of fine arts (MFA) programs help mold professional artists and educators.
Graphic designers possess creativity and artistic ability, as well as technical skills that enable them to manifest their ideas into a complete project. During a master's in graphic design program, students learn to apply their talents to different media and industries.
Graphic design master's degrees require 30-60 credits and take learners approximately two years to complete. MA and MS degrees typically lead directly to careers or further study. Master of design (M.Des.) programs can lead to careers in innovation and industrial design, and master of fine arts (MFA) programs help mold professional artists and educators.
The various degree types often differ in their structure and content. MA, MS, and M.Des. programs may incorporate a thesis component, while MFA degrees typically feature a final art project. For online learners, the more hands-on nature of MFA programs may require more substantial residency requirements.
Concentrations are another consideration that can impact students' studies and career options. Specializing in areas like sustainable design, design and technology, advertising and marketing, and interactive design can provide graduates with a competitive advantage in those fields.
Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Graphic Design Programs
To earn admission to a master's in graphic design program, applicants typically need a bachelor's degree in a related field. Some competitive programs require a minimum GPA and GMAT or GRE scores.
For most MFA programs, prospective students must submit an extensive portfolio that demonstrates their skill and commitment. MFA applicants may also need to complete an interview. For more information, check out our graduate admissions guide.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Graphic Design Program?
Each program features a unique curriculum with different courses and requirements. However, some classes are more common than others. The following list describes a few courses that students may encounter in their program.
- Perspectives on Visual Art
In this course, students examine the function of art and the different stages of art creation. They also evaluate the historical functions of art compared to today and analyze various events and contexts that influenced shifts.
- Issues in Graphic Design
This course delves into the major issues in graphic design throughout history. Students examine how graphic design careers have evolved and where the next generation is headed. They also explore the technology, limitations, and ethics involved in the design industry.
This course teaches learners how to run their own businesses and handle self-employment. Covered topics include finance, business law, and marketing. This training provides current and aspiring graphic designers with the skills and confidence needed to become a professional artist outside of an organization.
- Evolution of Publication Design
This course covers the historical development of design in various publications. Students examine the influence design has had on culture and society and vice versa. Learners also study the move from print to digital media and discuss possible transitions moving forward.
- Interactive Design
This course focuses on the growing demand from consumers for interactive elements in various designs and publications. Students learn about the evolution of this style, the effects interaction has on consumers, and methods and techniques for creating effective interactive design projects.
Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree
- Scholarships for Art and Design Majors
- Your Guide to Researching Online Programs
- Your Guide to Financial Aid
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Graphic Design Degree?
A master's in graphic design can lead to an array of career opportunities. While the BLS projects that opportunities in this industry will decline overall between 2019 and 2029, opportunities in the digital and technology landscape continue to grow. With a master's degree, graduates can qualify for management and interdisciplinary roles like art director and industrial designer.
Learn more about graphic design careers here.
- Graphic Designer
Graphic designers develop the visual communications for organizations and publications. They work with various media, technologies, and design concepts to reach and influence readers and consumers. According to the BLS, 21% of graphic designers are self-employed, 10% work in specialized design services, and 8% work in advertising.
- Art Director
Art directors oversee design projects and overall strategies for organizations and publications. In addition to creating design frameworks and standards, they may also oversee budgets, manage the design team, and work with other departments to ensure consistency. According to the BLS, 56% of art directors are self-employed, 13% work in advertising, and 4% work in the motion picture industry.
- Industrial Designer
Industrial designers create the designs for various industrial products and organizations. They develop products that function effectively and meet consumer needs, based on research and design tests. According to the BLS, 33% of these professionals work in manufacturing, 22% are self-employed, and 9% work in wholesale trade.
- Multimedia Artist
Multimedia artists create an array of animations and effects for various industries. They work on television effects, video games, and interactive media. According to the BLS, 56% of these artists are self-employed, 14% work in the motion picture industry, and 7% work in software publishing.
- Computer Programmer
Computer programmers create the code that allows software programs to run as the designers intended. Graphic designers can enter this world by combining programming and design skills and designing for digital media.
Graphic Design Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Graphic Design Programs
- Is a master's in graphic design worth it?
Despite a projected decline in the art and design industry, a master's in graphic design offers avenues to many promising careers, particularly in digital and technology environments. These positions pay strong median annual salaries. If you are passionate about pursuing a career in this field, a master's can offer many advantages.
- What can I do with a master's in graphic design?
With a master's degree, graduates can pursue many careers in graphic design, including with traditional publications and digital media. They can also pursue careers in marketing and communications. Additionally, master's graduates often qualify for roles like marketing manager and art director.
- Is graphic design in demand?
Overall, employment in graphic design is in decline, driven by a major decrease in traditional print publications. As the industry continues to transition to online and digital work, graphic designers need to keep their skills updated. Animators and multimedia artists, for example, enjoy a projected growth that equals the national average.
- How much money can I make with a master's in graphic design?
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for arts and design occupations is $48,130. Master's graduates can also pursue management careers like art director, which pays a median annual salary of $94,220, and marketing manager, which pays $135,900 per year.
- What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in graphic design?
According to the BLS, art directors earn a median annual salary of $94,220. This is the highest paying career specific to the field. Marketing managers can work in many arenas, including but not limited to graphic design. Because of their diverse skill set, they earn a competitive salary of $135,900 per year.