Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following four criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
- Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2016-17
- Have reported data for all 11 ranking variables listed below
We ranked 1,813 colleges and universities in the United States on 11 criteria, using 2016-17 data from IPEDS:
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
- Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
- Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Guaranteed, Other)
- Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
- Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
- Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.
NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- 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/
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed February 15, 2017, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- 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/;
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
- Class Descriptions, City College of San Francisco, Accessed June 2017, https://www.ccsf.edu/en/educational-programs/school-and-departments/school-of-liberal-arts/vmd/graphic-communications-class-descriptions.html
- Online Graphic Design Degree Bachelors Degree, Southern New Hampshire University, Accessed June 2017, http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-graphic-design-and-media-arts
- Online Graphic Design - Associate Degree, Penn Foster College, Accessed June 2017, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/web-and-graphic-design/graphic-design-associate-degree
- Graphic Design, Pratt Institute, Accessed June 2017, https://www.pratt.edu/academics/school-of-art/undergraduate-school-of-art/associate-degrees/aos/graphic-design-aos/
- Graphic Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm
- Graphic Designers, O*NET OnLine, Accessed June 2017, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-1024.00
- Graphic Design, Federal Student Aid, Accessed June 2017, https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college/careers/search/career_list/Graphic%20Design
- Digital Media Arts College, Accessed May 2018, https://www.collegeatlas.org/digital-media-arts-college.html#degrees-and-programs
- Graphic and Web Design, AI Miami International University of Art & Design, Accessed May 2018, https://www.artinstitutes.edu/miami/academics/visual-design/graphic-web-design-degree-program
- Online Bachelor's Degree, Southern New Hampshire University, Accessed May 2018, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-graphic-design-and-media-arts
- Parsons Online Courses & Programs, The New School, Accessed May 2018, https://www.newschool.edu/parsons/online-courses-programs/
Look almost anywhere in the world and you can see the touch of a graphic designer. Think of the logo for 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 might be one of the most influential careers there is.
Best Online Colleges for Graphic Design in 2018-19
Several schools all across the U.S. offer online graphic design degree programs for their students to pursue, and knowing which programs have the most to offer can be a great asset in helping you choose. Using data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and analyzed with our proprietary methodology, we present our list of the top ten best online colleges for graphic design.
Academy of Art University
Full Sail University
AI Miami International University of Art and Design
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
Sessions College for Professional Design
The New School
Southern New Hampshire University
Digital Media Arts College
Why Pursue an Online Graphic Design Degree?
The graphic design field is made up of a combination of talent and technology, and students learn about both when they enroll in online colleges for graphic design. This page explores the courses that students may take in order to prepare for the field, as well as the skills they can develop during their time in the program.
What Online Graphic Design Courses Can I Take?
Graphic design degree programs offer a comprehensive curriculum that includes diverse topics. The following are examples of some of the courses that may be found in a graphic design program.
- Typography: This topic addresses the use of fonts in graphic design. The course may cover subjects such as the history of type; the ways fonts can be used to create a mood or specific message; and how color and fonts are married to tell a visual story.
- Portfolio development: In order to stand out in the competitive market, it's important for students to learn how to create and manage a portfolio that will get employers' attention and help them land a job. A course in portfolio management might cover areas such as the use of sequencing in a portfolio, how to choose the right pieces of work and creating brand identity.
- Design history: Students who are interested in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the graphic design industry can take courses in this subject. Design history classes may cover trends such as art nouvea, bauhaus and constructivism.
- Web design: This course may include information on graphic design theories and strategies, aesthetics, website optimization and the different programs used for web design, such as Adobe Photoshop and Flash.
- Color theory: One of the building blocks of a graphic designer's aesthetic is the use of color. Students who take a color theory class might learn about different principles and theories, how colors are organized with wheels and spheres, and the use of color in two- and three-dimensional images.
What Skills Are Necessary to Become a Graphic Designer?
Students who earn online graphic design degrees are variety to a combination of technological and communication skills that can prove useful in the industry. The following are a few examples of these skills.
- Project management: Graphic designers must be able to juggle different elements of a project and ensure it is completed on time. In addition, they may work on multiple projects at the same time, so they need the ability to manage each project from start to finish while making sure each project meets the clients' specifications.
- Interpersonal: Graphic designers must be able to nurture relationships with their clients, as well as colleagues. The ability to effectively communicate with others is necessary to build and maintain such connections.
- Computer: Professionals in the graphic design field are required to be proficient in a number of programs, such as Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Visio and Apple Final Cut Pro.
- Artistic: Although the technological skills that graphic design programs teach are important, there is still a huge aesthetic element to the work. Professionals must harness their artistic eye in order to create designs that clients and consumers find appealing and interesting.
Graphic Design Career Opportunities
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 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 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 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.
Graphic design may not be the creative endeavor for everyone. If reading this page made you think it might not be for you, then you might want to consider one of these other programs instead: