Online Graphic Design Degree

To meet the new demand, many schools offer online degree programs in graphic design. Today’s graphic designer may use classic and digital tools to help brands and businesses. If you want to learn how to use software, typeset and color you might earn check into online options. A graphic design degree program typically studies color, drawing, typeset, images and layout. Then looks at free hand and software tools that turn ideas into usable visuals. Many programs may also explore web design, logos, branding, packaging and 3D animation.

Bachelors degree programs are intro level. As a student, you may build skills in traditional and digital design as well as branding. Once you graduate, you may have a clearer professional identity and skills. Masters in graphic design are practical and deeper programs. As a student, you may learn how to integrate design into a marketing strategy. Once you graduate, you may have the mind set needed to pursue a creative type of director role. PhDs may highlight research and innovation. As a student, you may gain expertise while honing creative skills. Once you graduate, you may be able to contribute to the design field as a scholar, teacher or researcher.

At any level, you may check accreditation. Accredited schools tend to take part in state and federal student financial aid.

Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design

An online bachelor’s degree in graphic design is an entry level degree. It tends to need 120 credit hours and an average of four years to complete. You may find three types of bachelors programs available online. Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA).

As a rule of thumb, there may be slight differences in the courses and skill sets covered in all three. BA in graphic design may cover classic and digital visual design tools and concepts. At the same time, your general classes may be in the liberal arts. Areas like media messaging and history.

BS in graphic design tend to cover the technical aspect of graphic design. You may, for instance, study programming languages and web systems. But your graphics classes may emphasize analytics and web page builds. BFA in graphic design tend to cover more arts. Like photography, composition, and packaging. You may be also likely to spend time on your portfolio.

To qualify for admission, you likely need a high school diploma or GED. Schools may also set standards for acceptable GPA, SAT or ACT scores. Many may ask for a sample of your artwork, or access to your digital portfolio.

Master’s Degree in Graphic Design

An online masters in this field is a grad level degree. It tends to entail at least 30 credits and an average of two years to complete. You may find three types of masters degrees available online. Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA). As there may be differences in the courses, it is good to understand your goals. That said, all three typically aim to expand your professional skill sets. 

MA in graphic design may delve a bit more into story telling with content. So, you may learn how to plan, develop, deploy and test designs across platforms. MS in graphic design programs may be technical. It is likely to focus on computer software, programming, user experience and analytics. MFA in graphic design may be professional. So, you may learn how to teach art, present your work and oversee design projects that yield results.

To qualify for admission, you typically need a bachelors degree. Some schools have an acceptable GPA, and a few may ask for GRE scores. You may also need references, a resume, essay and portfolio.

PhD in Graphic Design

A PhD in this field is the highest level degree. It may need upwards of 48 credits and an average of three years to complete. Brainstorming and cross discipline research typically take  a fair share of many programs. So, there are not too many 100% online PhD in graphic design programs. Whereas a masters likely focuses on pro skills, a PhD aims to expand research in the field of design. As such, you may need to produce work of publishable quality. 

To qualify for admissions, you tend to need a masters degree. Other things you need might include references, essay, writing sample and resume. How much might it cost to earn a master’s in graphic design or a PhD online?  The average cost of a graduate degree from a public college from 2015-2016 was $11,303. So, some online graphic design programs may come in more affordable or more expensive than this amount.

What can I do with an Online Graphic Design Degree?

A degree in graphic design may be a gateway to a wide range of current and new multi media fields. The internet is creating a need for brands and businesses to use visual images of all kinds. As digital storytelling is still evolving, there may be jobs for all levels of education. In many arts and design fields, one typically needs a bachelors degree for entry level roles.

Aside from a bachelors degree, many creative directors have a masters or MFA. It also maybe common to have a portfolio that showcases specific graphic design skills. Here is a deeper look at a few potential graphic design careers.

1. Art Director

Art directors may also go by the title Creative director. In their role, they typically decide on the visual look and style of a design campaign.These campaigns may be for magazines, newspapers, websites, product packages, movie or tv. Apart from managerial skills, many art directors may need at least a bachelors degree or MFA.

2. Multimedia Artist

Also versed in animation, a multimedia artist typically creates moving images and visual effects. You may find their work in video games, movies, tv, online classes and much more. As this takes strong programming and technical ability, many multimedia artists and animators may need to have at least a bachelors degree.

3. Graphic Designer

Graphic designers typically create visual concepts, using computer software or freehand methods. Many of today’s graphic designers may also collaborate with teams, clients and production teams. In doing so, they usually bring ideas to life that may inform, entertain or persuade consumers. Besides a robust portfolio, it may be helpful to have a bachelors degree.

4. Film and Video Editor

As a film and video editor, you may work on imagery that entertains or informs an audience. To do this, you might first have to understand what a director hopes to convey. Then, choose the lens, lighting and filming method to achieve this goal. Aside from knowing how to use video editing software, many video editors need a bachelors degree.

5. Web Designer

A web designer develops the pages, layouts, navigation menus and images for websites. To succeed in web design, you’ll need a solid grasp of design software. Like Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Illustrator and Sketch. Plus, coding languages like HTML, CSS and Javascript. Many web designers also find it useful to have a bachelors.

6. Marketing Specialist Administrators

As a marketing specialist, you might collect and analyze consumer data. Then, help with marketing campaigns that build brands. To do this, tends to take a blend of creative storytelling and tech expertise. Many marketing specialists start out with at least a bachelors degree. But for complex roles, may need a masters degree.

7. Logo Designer

A logo designer typically creates smart, simple, memorable visual concepts that represent a brand. Many may find work for a design firm, publishing house or ad agency and some may be entrepreneurs. As with graphic designers, it may help to have a bachelors degree.

8. UX Designer

User experience designers are UX designers. These pros typically look at the ways a consumer interacts with a product. To do this likely takes an understanding of buyer psychology and creative storytelling. Plus, a solid set of computer science skills. Many UX designers may also have a bachelors degree and stay up to date with user friendly trends.

Is a Degree in Graphic Design worth it?

Expertise in graphics may provide flexible skills, opportunity and above average earning potential. Jobs related to digital design may be growing at a fast rate from 2019 to 2029 due to their impact in marketing.

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you keep up with the newest trends in design, the future may be brighter. Many businesses typically want to expand their online presence with appealing websites and layouts. If you prefer to work with animation, this may be helpful too. There may be a steady demand for visual effects used in video games, tv and film. As a result, multimedia artists may find 4% more jobs through 2029 as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salaries in all these creative industries vary. But many jobs requiring graphic design skills paid an median annual wage of $52,110 in May 2019. And those with creative director skills reported a median annual wage of $94,220 for the same time period.

Graphic Design Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation 2019 Median Annual Wage Jobs
Art Director $92,780 900
Multimedia Artist $72,570 3,000
Film & Video Editor $58,990 7,900
Graphic Designer $50,370 8,800

Top States for Jobs as a Graphic Designer

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
CA 29,060 $63,710
NY 21,090 $66,870
TX 14,050 $52,050
FL 13,830 $49,850
IL 11,700 $58,450

What classes could I take with an Online Graphic Designer Degree?

Many online graphic design classes typically revolve around drawing, aesthetics and typography. Many may also go into digital design and popular software tools of the trade. Depending on your program, it may  have a creative feel with lots of ideation and content planning. Or a technical feel that may look at analytics and user experience.

You may study many of these topics when you pursue a graphic design degree online. But each level of degree is likely to do this in a particular way. Below are some of the classes you may find at the bachelors, masters and PhD levels.

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

Classes in graphic design bachelor’s degree program are foundations. You tend to study key concepts like color theory, layout, balance and logo design. Many programs may also help you translate your ideas using digital imaging tools. Many course plans also touch on the languages used in media. Things like image and sound design and how to convey meaning through visuals.

In some programs, you may study design for websites too. So, you might learn how to use software like InDesign, Adobe Illustrator and others. Today’s graphic design concepts bolster e commerce sites, so you may study branding too. Plus, related areas like print, packaging design, typography and multi media. Here are a few sample classes from bachelor’s programs:

History of Graphic Design

The earliest examples of graphic design were pictographs found in caves! In a course like this, you’ll learn the key figures, innovations, and tech tools that shaped the industry as we know it today.

Web Design

Design for web calls for knowledge of how to make websites user friendly and visually pleasing. That’s true whether they’re viewed on a computer screen or mobile device. This course covers the principles of web site design, along with skill areas like CSS.

Graduate Degree Courses

Classes in an online masters program may be career focused. So, graphic design students tend to study topics that relate to a certain niche. Whether artistic or technical. As such, your classes may frame some practical skills and tactics. Many course plans may touch on ideation and story telling. You may learn how to form a content strategy using multi media platforms and design concepts. In some programs, you may study social media practices and methods too. So, your classes may frame UX and analytics to understand your audience. Another aspect may be brand development. This type of class may build research skills as well as a knowledge of how to define client needs.

Classes in a PhD program are often research focused. The research you do often cuts across diverse areas in arts and sciences. For instance, urban design, landscapes, design computation, and building technologies. Much of it is self directed research. So, you may work with a mentor who helps you expand on your creative problem solving skills and work flow. At the end of your program, you may have a dissertation to deliver. It highlights original theory and innovative, integrative thinking. The dissertation is a big part of a PhD. So, many schools offer classes devoted to how to write, research and present your ideas. Here are a few classes from a graduate program in graphic design:


You’ll likely take one or more courses exploring the art of the font. Expect to learn how type is designed and how to use it to communicate with your audience. And, you could work on projects that use type in different ways.

Electronic Publishing

Sometimes, designers work on publications that are many pages long. This course teaches you how to design large documents, from ebooks to magazines. You may study everything from choosing colors to working with master pages in Adobe InDesign.

Many online colleges offer a choice of focal area to grow a specific skill set. Some of the popular areas in graphic design are:

1. Website Design

We have ranked our top 15 schools based on the number of graduates from the program in 2019. Our process looks at 2019 data from the NCES. And, it may help you narrow your search down.

2. 3D Modeling and Animation

Learn how to bring drawings and sketches to life. This area is about how to design 3D models and render realistic effects and animate characters. 

3. Publication Design

Explore the processes of publishing. How to use typography, images and illustrations to create systems that go together.

4. Interactive Design

Study design concepts to use for digital platforms. This area often blends traditional theory with practical tools. So you may learn how to engage and solve digital design issues.

How long does it take to get an Online Graphic Design Degree online?

The time it takes to earn degree in graphic design online can change by level and your course load. On average, a bachelors in graphic design takes a full time student four years. It may take less time if you bring in transfer credits. Once you graduate, it tends to take one to two years to earn a masters degree online. If you move onto a PhD in graphic design, it may take an extra three years or more.

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
Southern New Hampshire University Bachelors 120 6 24
Academy of Art University Bachelors 132 2 48
Franklin University Bachelors 124 3 48
Full Sail University Masters 36 Multiple 12
Quinnipiac University Masters 30 2 16
Arizona State University Masters 30 6 24
Carnegie Mellon University PhD N/A 1 48
North Carolina State University PhD 54 2 36
University of the Arts PhD 48.5 1 36

Scholarships For Graphic Design Majors

Many colleges and other sources offer scholarships to eligible graphic design majors. These go out on the basis of financial need or academic merit. Here are a few to use as a resource guide. 

Most Promising Logo Design Scholarship

For U.S., U.K., and Canadian students studying graphic design, product design, or branding. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. To apply, you send Free Logo Services three original logo designs. These should be for the automotive, construction, beauty and massage industries. The award amount is $1,500 and there are up to two winners.

Deadline: December 31, 2021

Paul Arnold Memorial Scholarship

The Pride Foundation offers this award. It is for U.S. citizens who are residents of Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, or Alaska. Applicants must be studying interior, fashion, or graphic design. Preference goes to self identified LGBT students, members of LGBT families, and straight allies who’ve supported the LGBT community. Awards range from $500 to $12,000.

Deadline: January 8, 2021

John and Ruth Maciag Scholarship 

From the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC). There is one award of $1,000. It goes to a Vermont high school senior studying computer graphics and animation, studio art and other design related fields. Applicants must prove financial need through a FAFSA. 

Deadline: February 11, 2021

Ann Arbor Graphic Arts Memorial Foundation

For high school senior or a high school graduate interested in a career in the print industry. Applicants must be residents of Michigan and need a GPA of at least 2.0. The Foundation awards up to $2,500.

Deadline: March 1, 2021

American Graphics Institute Training Scholarship

For students enrolled in a digital design certificate course of study at the American Graphics Institute.There are up to 2 awards of $1,000 each.

Deadline: July 31, 2021

15 Schools with Graphic Design Degrees

We have ranked our top 15 schools based on the number of graduates from the program in 2019. Our process looks at 2019 data from the NCES. And, it may help you narrow your search down.

  1. Southern New Hampshire University
  2. Maryland Institute College of Art
  3. Portland State University
  4. The New School Parsons
  5. Liberty University
  6. Rasmussen College
  7. Arizona State University
  8. California Baptist University
  9. Northeastern University
  10. University of Florida Online
  11. Bellevue University
  12. Lesley University
  13. Champlain College
  14. Pennsylvania State World Campus
  15. North Carolina State University


Here is a closer look at the 15 schools where you might earn a graphic design degree online.


Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts


SNHU’s 120 credit program allow online students to tailor studies. Choose either 3D modeling and animation or web site design. The program core takes you through the language and practice of media arts, digital imagery, typography and more. You also study brand identity, desktop publishing and other professional practices.

  • Digital Graphic Design 
  • Graphics and Layout
  • Color Theory 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,136
Grad $18,810
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • BA in Digital Photography
  • BA in Game Art and Development 
  • MS in Information Technology / Web Design


Maryland Institute College of Art

Master of Professional Studies in the Business of Art and Design

Online / 3 Day Residency

MICA’s program is for for creatives who need extra business skills. Unlike a typical MBA it aims to stay relevant for creative fields. As such it includes finance, accounting and contracts. While also covering marketing and intellectual property. The cohort comes to a 3 day residency at the Baltimore campus to network and practice pitching ideas.

  • Business Planning
  • Market Research 
  • Human Resources

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $50,330
Grad $50,330
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • MPS Data Analytics & Visualization
  • MPS User Experience (UX) Design


Portland State University

Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design / Advertising Management

Online / Campus

PSU offers an advertising management minor for graphic design majors. To fulfill the minor you need to take 24 credits. The goal of the program is to add business sense to creative talent. You may boost these skills through an internship and PSU has a student led campus Ad agency which may have projects to help with. One of the featured electives is a portfolio workshop too.

  • Intro to Business / World Affairs
  • Creative Strategy
  • Advertising

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $28,410
Grad $19,347
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • MA in Creative Arts Practice

Parsons takes a studio based approach in this 36 credit program. It features a progressive series of courses that include theory and practice. Some of the classes are about design techniques. In these, you may learn how to prototype new ideas for products, services, and systems. Others are about business tools and how to assess market opportunity. A third focus is on leadership.

  • Strategic Design 
  • Regulatory
  • New Design Firms

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $50,994
Grad $47,926
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • MPS in Fashion Management
  • MPS in Design and Management (Global Executive)


Liberty University

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design


Liberty’s 120 credit program blends online classes and Christian world view with hands on practicum and internship hours. For these hours, you work under the supervision of a degreed graphic design professional. And in course work, the focus is to grow your ability to create artwork digitally. To do so, you have access to the entire Adobe Creative Suite and software like Photoshop and InDesign.

  • History of Art 
  • Digital Imaging
  • Intro to Graphic Design

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $22,747
Grad $8,400
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • BS in Graphic Design / Studio and Digital Arts 
  • MFA in Graphic Design
  • DBA in Strategic Media and Digital Content


Rasmussen College

Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design


Rasmussen offers a 120 credit program. Those with eligible transfer credits may reduce this load by 90 units. The course plan includes project work and a study of emerging design trends. Ones like mobile navigation and video production. Also, 3D imagery and others that impact design such as UX.

  • Design Thinking
  • Interactive Publishing
  • Collateral Design

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $10,935
Grad $9,690
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • AS in Web Programming
  • BS in Marketing


Arizona State University

Master of Science in Graphic Information Technology


ASU’s program entails 30 credits. It covers graphics and cross media design. As a result, the focus is on motion graphics, technical photography, and digital media production. Plus, other topics that frame ways to plan and evaluate cross media content creation and output.

  • Usability and UX 
  • Social Media 
  • Digital Asset Management

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $19,398
Grad $6,592
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • BA in Graphic Design


California Baptist University

a href=”” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Digital Media


CBU’s program aims to help sharpen design, presentation and work flow skills. To do so it includes use and instruction in many industry software tools. Like Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver. You also study compositing, drawing and photography. These areas may refine your ability to come up with ideas and build a portfolio.

  • Image
  • Web Development
  • Overview of the Bible 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $34,882
Grad $13,560
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • BS in Marketing

Northeastern offers this as a bachelor completion program. The aim of the courses is to nurture digital skills. As such you study digital channels. Like search engines, websites, social media, email, mobile, etc. Then also how to design, implement and manage content for these kinds of platforms. Other of the 120 credits include marketing and business topics.

  • Human Computer Interaction 
  • Visual Communication
  • Web and Mobile Dev.

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $53,506
Grad $25,085
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • MS in Arts Administration and Cultural Entrepreneurship


University of Florida Online

Bachelor of Arts in Digital Arts and Sciences

UF’s program entails 120 credits. The classes focus on production, animation and game design. As a learner, you also work in media project classes which are online and team oriented. These may help you gain practical skills in digital storytelling and animation.

  • Digital Culture
  • Creating Mobile Games 
  • Digital Visualization

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $6,381 / $28,659
Grad $29,302
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • BFA in Graphic Design


Bellevue University

Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design


Bellevue’s 127 credit program highlights print and web design. There are 120 credits to complete and courses go from simple to more complex. Some of the basics are about color, images, layout, and typography. How these and other principles influence design, branding, and messaging. You also study industry standard graphic design software and hardware.

  • Publication Design
  • Identity Design 
  • JavaScript

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $7,851
Grad $11,205

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More Degree Programs:

  • MS in Strategic Marketing

Lesley’s 120 credit program studies ways to create integrated design solutions. It features a base in graphic design. With other classes that frame the human side of the design process. These ares are about user testing and concept delivery. Along with the UX classes, you may partner with a local startup to tackle design challenges in their app.

  • Design Thinking
  • Advanced Web Projects
  • History of Interface  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $28,875
Grad $18,690

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More Degree Programs:

  • BS in Graphic Design
  • BS in Web Design

Champlain College’s BFA entails about 120 credits and you can customize your program with a focus in one of two areas. Motion graphics or publishing. One of the program goals is to help you learn basic graphic design skills and ones used for emerging digital platforms. So in your first year, you study areas like form and color, drawing and typography. Then as you move through, areas like web and publication design.

  • Aesthetic Expressions
  • Visual Creativity
  • Concepts of the Self

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $41,828
Grad $14,310
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • BFA in Motion Graphics
  • BFA in Publishing


Pennsylvania State World Campus

Bachelor of Design in Digital Multimedia Design


Penn State offers a 120 credit program. It draws from visual arts and design, IT and communications. Part of the format is collaborative. So, you have the opportunity to work with other students. As you move through the course work, you also develop your portfolio and create a self directed project in the capstone semester.

  • Computer Graphics
  • Basic Photography
  • Intro to Digital Art

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $13,988
Grad $22,186
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • MPS in Strategic Communications


North Carolina State University

Doctor of Design


North Carolina State U’s online program entails 54 credits and a mandatory week long work shop each semester. The program is open to established practitioners who want to develop high level skills in applied design. To grow skills, you conduct original research to advance new knowledge.

  • Research (design)
  • Case Study Analysis 
  • Design Practice Leadership

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $29,220
Grad $28,999
Special rates available for military students.

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More Degree Programs:

  • Bachelor of Design

*Unemployment Earnings.  Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.