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Graphic Design: Online Master's Degree

Learn about online master's degree programs in graphic design, including how to apply and what you can learn. Continue reading for additional information on job growth and salary potential.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic designers express messages and ideas by using illustrations, animation, typography and other art forms. As a graphic designer, it could be your job to design corporate logos, determine the layout of print publications, create company brochures or manage the aesthetics of a website. A graphic designer often must work with clients to determine their communication needs, including their message and target audience. You might collaborate with other artists, Web developers, creative directors or copywriters.

Career Skills Creativity, clear communication, attention to detail, critical thinking, analytical ability
Learning Environment Traditional classroom and online degree options are available for enrollment
Common Courses Editorial design, design systems, illustration, business and art, computer graphics
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree with an GPA minimum met and a portfolio with previous graphic design work
Possible Median Salary (2018) $50,370 for graphic designers
Job Outlook (2016-2026)4% growth for graphic designers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Online Graduate Degree Programs Can I Find?

Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs are available in graphic design. While online degree programs in graphic design are very rarely offered, you could enroll in a low-residency MFA program. Low-residency MFA programs allow you to complete most of the coursework online, but require you to attend on-campus learning sessions a couple times each school year. These brief residencies usually last 1-2 weeks and give you the chance to receive support from faculty advisors and peers.

What Skills Will I Develop?

Master's degree classes in graphic design commonly combine training in art, graphic design software and digital communications. Some programs end in a final project that you must present in a public arena. You could take classes like:

  • Graphic design experimentation
  • Illustration for advertising
  • Editorial design
  • Computer graphics
  • Computer-aided design
  • Business and art
  • Design systems
  • Sequencing for design

How Do I Apply?

To apply to a master's degree program in graphic design, schools typically require you to hold a bachelor's degree and meet a minimum GPA requirement. The most important application component for most admissions committees is your portfolio of visual artwork, which may be submitted digitally or by mail. You can expect to submit 12-20 different samplings of your graphic design work, as well as brief descriptions explaining your artistic goals for the portfolio pieces.

What Is the Job Market Like?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual wage of $50,370 for graphic designers as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the BLS projected a four percent job growth rate for this profession between 2016 and 2026, which was a below-average rate compared to other employment sectors. The BLS expected increased competition for graphic design openings and reported that opportunities will be better for applicants who can work across different medias.