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Online Colleges for Graphic Design

Look anywhere in the world today and you will see the touch of a graphic designer. Think of your favorite brand of gum: a graphic designer created that logo so it could be easily remembered. Flip through any magazine: a graphic designer put together those images and painstakingly adjusted the location of the text around it for maximum effect. Pop in your favorite movie: right from the opening credits you're seeing the labor of the graphic designer in action. When it comes to making a visible impact on the world around you, graphic design is one of the most influential careers there is.

Best Online Colleges for Graphic Design

Hundreds of schools in the U.S. offer traditional or online graphic design degrees, and knowing which programs have the most to offer can be a great asset in helping you choose. With data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and analyzed with our multi-point methodology, we present our list of the top ten best online colleges for graphic design.

1

Sessions College for Professional Design

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$7,800
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
10
Accredited
School Type
2-year

This school, based in Tempe, Arizona, puts a lot of energy into its graphic design students. Sessions College awarded the highest proportion of graphic design degrees in 2015 — 65.4 percent — according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Students at Sessions also graduated at the third-highest rate among all schools on our list.

The program at Sessions offers a good mix of visual art knowledge and tech skills. Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are covered in separate classes. Visual art courses include color theory, image composition and print production.

In addition to its graphic design associate degree program, the school also offers a degree program in advertising design for graphics students who want to focus their training on the advertising industry.

Accreditation:

  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)

Location:

51 W 3rd St, Suite E-301
Tempe, AZ 85281
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2

Gateway Technical College

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$3,852
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
6
Accredited
School Type
2-year

Gateway Technical College's graphic communications degree typically takes four semesters to complete. It has fewer software courses than our No. 1 program, focusing instead on visual theory and media concepts. Students are urged to take classes in photography, illustration and publishing during their first program year.

The graphic communications department at Gateway also offers two certificate programs, in desktop publishing and digital photography. Design students who want to add depth to their skillset may be able to complement their degree with these certificates.

This school also has an open admissions policy. Students in Wisconsin who are interested in a hybrid program may be able to take some of their graphic design courses in a standard classroom environment at one of Gateway's campuses in the region.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Location:

3520 30th Ave.
Kenosha, WI 53144-1690
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3

Community College of Vermont

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$5,904
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
12
Accredited
School Type
2-year

Courses in the Community College of Vermont graphic design program take place fully online and are often taught by industry professionals. The program is designed to prepare students for jobs in the field with a balanced mix of academic courses and workplace training.

For students looking to go into a four-year program after earning their associate degree, CCV has transfer agreements with several universities in the region. Transfer students may even earn bonuses from certain institutions. For example, here are the perks that qualifying CCV transfers can receive from Marlboro College in southeastern Vermont:

  • University application fee waiver
  • Acceptance guarantee with a 2.75 or better CCV GPA
  • Award of a $1,000 transfer scholarship

Coursework for the graphic design associate degree at CCV includes classes in drawing, advertising and typography.

Accreditation:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC)

Location:

1 Abenaki Way
Winooski, VT 05404-2245
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4

Full Sail University

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$16,561
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
30
Accredited
School Type
4-year

This Florida-based school is home to the first fully online bachelor's degree in graphic design on our list. Courses in the four-year Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in graphic design from Full Sail University are designed to give students a broad understanding of the field. Here are a few subjects listed on the online study plan:

  • Graphic principles
  • Creative presentation
  • History of visual communications
  • Popular culture in media
  • Logos and symbols
  • Psychology of play

Full Sail University also features advanced-degree online programs for students who want to take their education beyond the bachelor's. Graphic design graduates aiming for a master's degree can transition into Full Sail's online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in media design.

Accreditation:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)

Location:

3300 University Blvd.
Winter Park, FL 32792-7429
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5

Independence University

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$18,021
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
16
Accredited
School Type
4-year

Independence University posted the highest graduation rate among the best online colleges for graphic design. NCES numbers show that more than 71 percent of students carried through from enrollment to graduation in 2014. Online graphic design degrees also make up a fairly large portion of the degrees awarded at the Utah school; only two other schools on our list had a larger percentage of design graduates than IU.

The coursework for Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in graphic arts at Independence University includes both general and specific subject matter:

  • Layout design
  • Typography
  • Vector illustration
  • Marketing
  • Identity design
  • Professional development
  • Entrepreneurship

The school's online bachelor's degree in graphic design consists of a similar mix of courses. Students earning online graphic design degrees at the bachelor's level may choose to enhance their visual storytelling skills with an emphasis in information design.

Accreditation:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)

Location:

4021 S 700 E, Ste. 400
Salt Lake City, UT 84107
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6

Academy of Art University

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$20,040
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
67
Accredited
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1929, Academy of Art University trains students in a wide range of artistic fields. Online graphic design degree programs take many forms at the San Francisco school:

  • Award of Completion (A.O.C.)
  • Associate of Arts (A.A.)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)
  • Master of Arts (M.A.)
  • Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

As a B.F.A., the online bachelor's degree program in graphic design at Academy of Art University focuses on the creative side of the field. The study plan contains classes in 3-D design, motion graphics, semiotics and visual systems.

The A.A. program aims to provide a firm foundation in graphic design that can serve equally as a stepping stone to professional work or a bachelor's program. The A.O.C. program consists of just three courses and must be taken completely online.

Accreditation:

  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)

Location:

79 New Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
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7

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$16,920
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
22
Accredited
School Type
4-year

The online division of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh offers numerous online programs, and graphic design is one of their most successful. Design students made up more than 31 percent of graduates in 2015 — a higher percentage of total degrees awarded than all but one of the best online colleges for graphic design.

Study plans for online graphic design degrees at the Art Institute include courses like these:

  • Image manipulation
  • Web page scripting
  • Business of graphic design
  • Art direction

Students in both the associate and bachelor's programs in graphic design also take classes in product packaging, posters, illustration and interactive media. The bachelor's degree program typically takes 12 quarters, or about four years of full-time study, to complete. The associate degree can be earned in roughly half that time with a full-time study plan.

Accreditation:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Location:

420 Boulevard of the Allies
>Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1301
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8

Savannah College of Art and Design

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$34,470
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
20
Accredited
School Type
4-year

This Georgia institution came in near the top in two categories on our rankings. It had the most selective admissions of any school we surveyed in 2014, and it had the second-highest graduation rate among the best online colleges for graphic design.

SCAD offers two online bachelor's degree programs in graphic design. The B.A. program consists of 45 credit hours of graphic design classes mixed into a 90-credit general education curriculum. The B.F.A. program requires fewer general education classes and expects students to take 75 credit hours of training in graphic design and the arts.

Two graduate degrees, an M.A. and an M.F.A., are also available online for students looking to take their design education to the next level. No associate degree in graphic design is available from SCAD as of 2017.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Location:

342 Bull St.
Savannah, GA 31402-3146
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9

Stevens-Henager College

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$18,021
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
13
Accredited
School Type
4-year

Students seeking online graphic design degrees at Stevens-Henager College can find them somewhere that may sound familiar to readers of this list. Stevens-Henager works together with Independence University to offer one online bachelor's degree and one Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in graphic arts.

Students in the bachelor's program can add an information design emphasis, which teaches extra skills for visual and multimedia communication. Not only can these skills be useful for graphic designers, but jobs in marketing, public relations and other creative communication fields can put them to good use.

Accreditation:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)

Location:

383 Vine St.
Murray, UT 84123-5761
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10

Bellevue University

Tuition/Year Tuition per year refers to the average in-state tuition for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
$7,800
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
10
Accredited
School Type
2-year

Coming in at No. 10 is Bellevue University, a Nebraska school with an online bachelor's degree in graphic design. The four-year program takes a multidisciplinary approach and aims to train students in both the conceptual and the practical elements of the profession.

Here are a few of the subjects studied in the online program:

  • Problem-solving
  • Print design
  • Branding
  • Identity design
  • Publication design
  • Interactivity

The degree plan contains 42 credits of graphic design courses, 36 general education credits, nine signature course credits and 40 elective credits. Non-degree students can take advantage of a 15-credit certificate program that covers introductory concepts in the field.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Location:

1000 Galvin Rd S
Bellevue, NE 68005-3098
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Graphic Design Career Outlook

Graphic design is holding steady as a career, with little to no change (good or bad) predicted by the BLS all the way through 2024. If you're considering a job in this consistent field, one of the following might be right up your alley:

Art Directors
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$101,170
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
15,800
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2.4
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

Art directors combine their passion for art with leadership skills to oversee the visual imagery used in magazines, newspapers, product packaging and television or movie productions. They work with artists and other professionals to create the perfect concept for a variety of business and artistic purposes, then determine the best ways to bring that idea to life.

As leaders in their field, art directors are charged with communicating with clients, coordinating design activities among different departments, approving budget details and timelines, and delivering a final product for each client's approval. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most art directors need previous work experience to go along with a bachelor's degree in art or design.

Multimedia Artists and Animators
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$72,200
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
15,900
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
6
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

Multimedia artists and animators use their artistic skills and talents to create powerful and meaningful art used for business purposes and in the entertainment world. Depending on their specialty, they may create two- or three-dimensional models, animation or visual effects used in television, movies, video games and other media. Most often, these professionals rely on computer software programs to assist with their designs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a little more than half of multimedia artists and animators were self-employed in 2014. The other half worked mostly in motion picture and video industries and in professional, scientific, and technical services. Those interested in multimedia artists and animator careers should consider completing some freelance or personal projects to buff up their portfolio; an impressive portfolio alongside a bachelor's degree in art or computer graphics makes for a major advantage in this field.

Graphic Designers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$52,290
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
65,800
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
1.4
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

Graphic designers use their design skills to create unique concepts meant to portray a specific message. The artistic creations built by graphic designers are often used in advertisements, brochures, magazines and presentations. Most graphic designers use computer software to create digital illustrations, then photo-editing software and layout software to perfect their designs. These specialists have created many of the world's most recognizable logos and advertising campaigns, and they've done it all with creative thinking and their own technical skill.

In addition to a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field, individuals interested in graphic design careers would be well advised to work on creating a professional portfolio that demonstrates their creativity and skill.

Sources and Methodologies

Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  5. Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

Sources

  1. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014-15 and 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed February 13, 2017, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  2. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed February 15, 2017, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
  3. School pages, accessed February 15-16, 2017: Online Graphic Design Degree, Sessions College, https://www.sessions.edu/online-degrees/graphic-design/; Certificate Programs, Sessions College, https://www.sessions.edu/certificate-programs/; Accreditation, Sessions College, https://www.sessions.edu/about-sessions/accreditation/; Graphic Communications, Gateway Technical College, https://www.gtc.edu/programs/associate-degree/graphic-communications; Affiliations and Accreditation, Gateway Technical College, https://www.gtc.edu/about-gateway/affiliations-and-accreditation; Graphic Design (A.A.), Community College of Vermont, http://catalog.ccv.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=3&poid=73; Special Transfer Agreements, Community College of Vermont, http://ccv.edu/explore-ccv-programs/transfer-from-ccv/special-transfer-agreements/; About, Marlboro College, https://www.marlboro.edu/about; Graphic Design Bachelor's Degree, Full Sail University, https://www.fullsail.edu/degrees/graphic-design-bachelor; Media Design MFA Degree, Full Sail University, https://www.fullsail.edu/degrees/media-design-mfa; Accreditation, Full Sail University, https://www.fullsail.edu/policies-and-guidelines/accreditation; Online Graphic Design Courses, Independence University, https://www.independence.edu/graphic-arts; Accreditation Advantage, Independence University, https://www.independence.edu/about-us/accreditation; Online Graphic Design Degree Programs, Academy of Art University, http://www.academyart.edu/academics/graphic-design/online-degrees; Accreditation, About Us, Academy of Art University, http://www.academyart.edu/about-us#accreditation; Online Graphic & Web Design Degree Programs, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division, https://www.artinstitutes.edu/online/academics/visual-design/graphic-web-design-degree-programs; Accreditation and Licensing, The Art Institutes, https://www.artinstitutes.edu/accreditation-and-licensing; Graphic Design, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, The Art Institutes, http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/198; Graphic Design Degree Programs, Savannah College of Art and Design, http://www.scad.edu/academics/programs/graphic-design; Accreditation, Savannah College of Art and Design, https://www.scad.edu/about/institutional-effectiveness/accreditation; School of Graphic Design, Stevens-Henager College, https://www.stevenshenager.edu/graphic-arts; Information Graphic Design Bachelor Degree, Stevens-Henager College, https://www.stevenshenager.edu/graphic-arts/bachelors/graphic-arts-information-design-emphasis; Scholarship Assessment & Accreditation, Stevens-Henager College, https://www.stevenshenager.edu/about-us/accreditation; Online Graphic Design Degree, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/degrees/bachelor/graphic-design-ba/; Graphic Design Certificate, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/degrees/certificates-of-completion/graphic-design; Accreditation, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/about/accreditation-awards/;
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Art Directors, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm (visited April 16, 2017)
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Graphic Designers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm (visited April 16, 2017)
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Multimedia Artists and Animators, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm (visited April 16, 2017)
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Sources and Methodologies