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Best Online Graphic Design Bachelor's Degree Programs

Find out what schools offer online bachelor's degrees in graphic design, which ones come highly recommended, what classes are likely offered, how long it takes, and what careers might be available to you.

10 of the Best Online Graphic Design Bachelor's Degree Programs

There is a wide range of schools across the country that offer graphic design degree programs completely online. To compile our list of the best, we used criteria like affordability, flexibility, faculty quality and more.

1. Savannah College of Art and Design

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Savannah, GA $37,130 98%

SCAD offers two 180-credit hour degree programs in graphic design, a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Each program can be completed fully online, but students in good standing may choose to study abroad for a semester or more at the Hong Kong campus; experience the diverse urban scene in Atlanta, GA; or the historic southern charm of the Savannah, GA campus. SCAD's award-winning online program involves cross-discipline collaborative projects, access to star-studded events, and mentorship from titans of the industry. In recent years, SCAD students have been recognized internationally with honors like the Indigo Design Award and Red Dot Design Award.

2. Southern New Hampshire University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Manchester, New Hampshire $31,136 75%

SNHU's 120-credit hour program in graphic design has concentrations in 3-D modeling & animation and web design. In 2017, Southern New Hampshire University received recognition by the Online Learning Consortium as Digital Learning Innovator. The asynchronous nature of SNHU's online Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design means there are no set class meeting times, making it ideal for working professionals. SNHU is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

3. Liberty University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Lynchburg, Virginia $22,584 97%

Liberty University's 120-credit hour program can be completed in 3.5 years on average. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design degree at Liberty is offered 100% online, and the program allows for up to 75% of the degree requirements to be transferred from other approved institutions. Although the program is offered online, there are practicum and internship requirements for graduation. This requirement to work under a degreed graphic designer for practicum and internship experience means that you graduate with a completed portfolio, which can help you jump start your career in graphic design.

4. Arizona State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Tempe, Arizona $10,822 96%

ASU's Bachelor of Science in Graphic Information Technology is a 120-credit hour program that requires 40 classes that run for 7.5 weeks each. In 2020, the school was named #1 Most Innovative School in the country by U.S. News and World Report and has held this title every year since the ranking's existence. ASU's faculty boasts many achievements including being National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences members, and in the past 10 years, more than 50 Young Investigator Awards have been received.

5. Kentucky Wesleyan College

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Owensboro, Kentucky $26,160 100%

The Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design at Kentucky Wesleyan College is offered 100% online. The 120-credit hour program provides a core of art courses that offer foundational principles of art and design. Along with typography and branding, the Kentucky Wesleyan College program provides educational instruction in web design and publication. Kentucky Wesleyan has achieved accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 Franklin University Columbus, Ohio $12,649 86%
7 Bellevue University Bellevue, Nebraska 7,827 89%
8 University of Maryland-University College Adelphi, Maryland $7,416 53%
9 Independence University Salt Lake City, Utah $16,972 100%

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Graphic Design Degree Overview

A graphic design degree can be earned as a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). Essentially, graphic design and technology are forms of communication expressed through visual mediums. Graphic designers produce marketing campaigns, brand logos, animations, web pages and more. Baccalaureate degree programs aim to prepare you to imagine, explore, and create professional-quality visual communication.

Bachelor of Science programs in graphic design and technology provide a more extensive focus on theory, technology, and technique. Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts Graphic Design degrees also provide a curriculum focused on technology and technique but with more of a liberal studies approach that helps you to understand a broader cultural perspective.

Online Learning in Graphic Design Programs

Earning your graphic design degree online might involve applications like Adobe Creative Suite, faculty feedback on individual and peer-partnered assignments and final projects. Some programs will require you to log in and 'attend' classes at set times during the week, while others are asynchronous, meaning you can complete assignments whenever it's convenient for you. Some graphic design programs require practicums and/or internships that afford real-world professional experience.

Learning Outcomes

While each program is unique, there are several program outcomes that you may expect from your graphic design degree program:

  • Follow the design process from idea to creation and presentation to deliver professional quality graphic and media works that appeal to a diverse audience and clientele.
  • Utilize multimedia graphic design and technology to creatively address and solve communication issues.
  • Address the human component involved in the design and communication process to include social, cultural, cognitive, and physical factors that determine design solutions and how the finished work is interpreted.
  • Appropriately identify and select tools and technology to design, develop, and distribute messages via visual mediums.
  • Effectively and confidently work in collaborative environments while participating in the practice of professional design while also applying ethical, social, and cultural sensitivity to the practice of professional design.
  • Use creative and critical thinking and employ interdisciplinary curricula to work collaboratively in a team environment and with consideration to clients/stakeholders.

How Much Time Will I Need to Commit to An Online Graphic Design Program?

The time involved in earning a degree on-campus or online can vary greatly depending on your availability and commitment. Typical bachelor's degree programs in graphic design range from 120-180 credit hours. On average, you can earn your bachelor's degree in four years, though there are programs that are structured to be completed in 3.5 years, often by taking summer classes.

Each program will also allow you to transfer a certain number of credits from approved institutions. If you did college-level work in high-school, attended some university courses or graduated with an associate's degree, you may be able to cut your time (and costs) by as much as half. Some programs even let students transfer life and work experiences to opt-out of classes.

Another factor to consider is the time you will need to give to weekly coursework. This may differ depending on the program, but using quarter and semester (11-15 weeks) classes as an example, we can estimate that you should be prepared to spend between 9-12 hours outside of logged in class-time on schoolwork per class.

Program Accreditation and Why It's Important

Accreditation is incredibly important when considering where to pursue post-secondary education. Accreditation standards are in place to ensure that the higher education provided by institutions and programs meet quality standards. These standards, which include a review of faculty quality and curriculum, are set forth by accrediting agencies. To receive federal student financial aid, your college or university must be nationally or regionally accredited by an approval agency.

Regional accreditation bodies are more common and typically more rigorous. These agencies develop the accrediting criteria and conduct peer evaluations to determine if these standards are being met. Although the U.S. Department of Education does not accredit institutions or programs, they do provide oversight of the accreditation system for post-secondary education. The department makes sure that accreditation agencies are proactively holding higher education schools and programs accountable for meeting accreditation standards. Looking for programs with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accreditation provides further assurance that it meets specific quality standards for art and design students.

Typical Courses for An Online Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design

Although graphic design programs are uniquely designed by each institution, there are some commonalities in curricula that we will explore below.

  • Digital Imaging: Using applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, you might learn trade techniques like creating imaging composites and setting typography. Vector software, drawing tools, and transformations/distortions are some of the other tools and techniques of graphic design that you may explore in your digital imaging coursework.
  • Introduction to Graphic Design: This course explores design theory and its various components. This introductory course takes a holistic view of the process, helping you conceptualize a project from idea to research and on through to execution. Courses like these explore the idea and reality of communicating through graphic mediums.
  • Drawing:In this course, you may delve into some foundational concepts like line, mass, perspective, and composition. Rendering objects such as human figures and spaces from observation and imagination are typical class assignments.
  • Typography: Typography is the art of font and letter design. The historical to present roles of typography in transforming language into a visual medium is explored in typography classes. You may also likely explore the cultural significance and history of letterform.
  • English Composition: English Composition is an introductory college course in reading and writing that involves research, reasoning, critical and analytical thinking skills. By creating your own works and reading from a variety of literary works which may include poetry, graphic novels, creative nonfiction, and plays, you are able to learn effective writing and communication skills. Composition courses also expose you to cultural diversity and literary imagery that can help you connect to others in ways that can improve the quality and reach of your graphic design work.

Some other common courses may include:

  • Multi-Media Design
  • Photography
  • Digital Imaging and Illustration
  • Art History
  • Math
  • Web Design
  • Digital and Graphic Communication

Career Options with a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design

According to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020 65% of jobs in the United States will require at least some post-secondary education with 35% requiring at least a bachelor's degree. The field of graphic design is no exception. Below are a few career choices available to you with a bachelor's degree in graphic design and technology.

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers utilize computer technology and hand-drawn art to create visual works that communicate ideas, promote products or businesses, and create websites. Creativity and communication skills are invaluable to understand what the clients want, provide feedback, and work with a team to take an idea from concept to fruition. Having a portfolio is an essential self-marketing tool when looking for work as a graphic designer.

The median pay for graphic designers in 2018 was $50,370. The projected job growth for graphic designers from 2018-2028 is 3%.

Art Director

Art directors are the creative powerhouses behind the images viewed in magazines, commercials, television and movie productions. Along with developing budgets and timelines, presenting ideas to clients, and developing the overall design concept for projects, art directors manage and oversee graphic designers and other staff. The communication, design, media management, and technology skills acquired in your baccalaureate degree studies will be vital tools in this career, along with the time management skills you hone by successfully navigating your online education. Previous experience may be required, so internships and establishing a solid portfolio during your academic career can be helpful.

The median income for art directors in 2018 was $92,780, and the projected job growth between 2018-2028 is 1%.

Film Editor

Film and video editors edit and arrange video footage while collaborating with producers and directors to achieve the desired finished product. Audio and visual effects may be added or subtracted, and technology skills acquired during your degree studies can be indispensable knowledge in this field. Using communication skills learned in coursework like English composition, visual communication and design are imperative -- it'll help you collaborate in a professional setting and deliver an edited product that conveys an effective message to audiences. Along with a bachelor's degree, there are certifications in editing software (from software makers like Adobe, Oracle and Microsoft) that can prove valuable to demonstrate proficiency in the field.

The median pay for film editors in May 2018 was $62,650. The projected job growth for film editors between 2018-2028 is 14%.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019