Best Online Graphic Design Degrees 2021

| TBS Staff

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Graphic designers synthesize art and technology to communicate ideas and concepts visually.

By creating layouts that incorporate text and images, graphic designers help advertisers and marketers attract customers and sell products.

Earning an online graphic design degree prepares graduates for in-demand careers, as many jobs in the field require a bachelor's degree as a minimum education requirement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers earn an average salary of over $50,000 annually.

The flexibility of an online graphic design degree appeals to students seeking to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations. Prospective graphic design students can use our ranking of the best online graphic design programs to identify the right program for their interests and professional goals.

Top Online Bachelor's Programs in Graphic Design
#1 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
#2 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
#3 Kentucky Wesleyan College Owensboro, KY
#4 Lesley University Cambridge, MA
#5 California Baptist University Riverside, CA

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Best Online Bachelor's Programs in Graphic Design. Above angle image of a graphic designer working at their desk with a tablet, computer, and papers.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic designers create image and text layouts that communicate ideas visually. They make advertisements, design book jackets, and develop graphs and charts to represent information. Graphic design requires strong visual intelligence since graphic designers must know how to select ideal images, determine how images and text can best work together, and choose appropriate fonts and styles for their designs. In advertising agencies and publishing firms, graphic designers work with art directors to polish their designs.

Graphic design requires strong visual intelligence since graphic designers must know how to select ideal images, determine how images and text can best work together, and choose appropriate fonts and styles for their designs.

In addition to creativity and artistic ability, graphic designers need strong technical skills. Most graphic designers use software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Graphic designers also rely on communication skills to work with clients and art directors. Additionally, strong analytical skills help graphic designers communicate information to diverse audiences.

What Is an Online Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design?

During an online bachelor's degree in graphic design, students receive training in layout techniques, typography, and visual communication. Courses cover topics like design fundamentals, image creation, and digital advertising. Some programs also incorporate classes in web design and digital media design. Graphic design majors often complete a practicum or capstone course to build a portfolio.

In addition to completing online graphic design courses, students must complete general education requirements to earn their bachelor's degree. In a bachelor of arts program, these requirements may include humanities, social science, and natural science courses. A bachelor of fine arts may incorporate foundational art courses in areas like photography, drawing, and sculpture.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Degree Program?

The length of an online bachelor's degree in graphic design varies by program. However, most graphic design bachelor's students graduate within four years of full-time study.

What Can You Do With an Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Degree?

An online bachelor's degree in graphic design prepares graduates for several careers in art and design. In addition to working as graphic designers, graduates may work as production artists, graphic artists, and art directors. Many advertising agencies, marketing firms, and publishers offer graphic design jobs to candidates with a bachelor's degree, though some employers also require work experience.

In addition to full-time graphic design jobs, graphic designers can pursue freelance and specialized opportunities, including starting their own business. After completing an online graphic design bachelor's degree, graduates may also consider advancing their education with an online master's in graphic design.

Ask an Expert

Alex Bryant is an Emmy-award-winning media relations director for children's media and educational publisher The Trevor Romain Company (TRC), based in Austin, Texas. Bryant has experience with social media, television production, and graphic design. Named a Modern Man of Distinction from Black Enterprise, Bryant has received four American Advertising Awards, a $100,000 graphics scholarship from General Motors, and a Sprout Spotlight Awards Best-in-Class nomination. He was also an official Guinness World Records participant at Podfest Expo. Previously, Bryant worked at CBS, Dick Clark Productions, the Daytime Emmys, and NBCUniversal. He has a BFA in graphic design from Angelo State University.

Preferred Pronouns: He/Him/His

What was your favorite aspect of earning a bachelor's in graphic design degree?

For someone growing up in a special needs program in primary school and told I won't make it to college, earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design from Angelo State University means a great deal. As well as also being a first-generation student to earn a college degree — [that] would have to be my favorite aspect.

What advice do you have for a potential student of graphic design with no or limited experience in the design field?

For any student who wants to pursue graphic design with no to limited experience, I would share: If you're willing to put in the real hard work in harnessing your craft, learning from the masters, and being open to constructive feedback, I believe you have what it takes, for sure.

What makes graphic design a popular field for online study?

I think graphic design is growing in popularity because of its flexibility to be taken almost anywhere, unlike other professions that need to be fulfilled at the physical college or university.

Are there any advantages to studying graphic design online as opposed to in a traditional bricks-and-mortar setting?

A benefit to studying graphic design online instead of in person at an educational institution is the ability to learn design software and make creative projects from the comfort of your home and not needing to navigate traffic and the weather getting to class.

What makes graphic design such an in-demand degree?

When the world turned to digital in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the demand grew for companies and organizations to shift their marketing efforts to focus on creating more digital-friendly materials. These assets can include updating a website, creating social media graphics, or adding some animation to videos to attract an audience to a product or service. The desire is only going to grow, as we have adapted to remote and in-person working environments.

Graphic Design Careers

Because their skills are applicable to many fields and industries, graphic designers enjoy a variety of professional opportunities. Some examples of graphic design careers include:

  • Art Director
  • Advertising Designer
  • Branding Designer
  • Creative Director
  • Desktop Publisher
  • Direct Mail Designer
  • Digital Media Specialist
  • Digital Project Manager
  • Editor
  • Graphic Designer
  • Industrial/Product Designer
  • Layout Artist
  • Logo Designer
  • Medical Graphics Specialist
  • Motion Graphics Designer
  • Multimedia Artist/Animator
  • Multimedia Specialist
  • Packaging Designer
  • Photo Software Editor
  • Print design Specialist
  • Production Art Manager
  • Publication Designer
  • Social Media Graphics Specialists
  • User Experience Designers
  • Video Editor
  • Web Designer

Areas for Graphic Design Jobs

  • Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
  • Animation
  • Architectural Fields
  • Commercial Printing
  • Communications
  • Computer Systems Design
  • Design Studio
  • Government
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Mobile App Development
  • Motion Graphics
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishing
  • Nonprofits
  • Product Packaging Design
  • Signage
  • Specialized Design Services
  • Television
  • Video Game Design
  • Video Production
  • Web Design
  • Wholesale Trade

Graphic Design Jobs

Earning a graphic design degree prepares graduates for graphic design jobs and related positions, such as art director and marketing manager.

Art Directors
Median Salary: $92,780 Projected Job Growth: 1%

Art directors determine the visual style of magazines, advertisements, video productions, and other media. They create an overall design and manage a team of production artists who create artwork and layouts. Art directors then review and approve designs created by their team, which can include illustrations, graphics, charts, and sets.

As managers, art directors oversee staff, work directly with clients on projects, and create budgets and timelines. They often work in advertising agencies, public relations firms, and publishing companies. Theater, television, and movie productions also hire art directors. Most art directors hold a bachelor's degree in an art or design field.

Graphic Designers
Median Salary: $50,370 Projected Job Growth: 3%

Graphic designers visually communicate ideas, working with images and text to create designs. Graphic designers may develop the visual style of advertisements or work with art directors or clients to design custom layouts for magazines, brochures, book jackets, or product packaging.

Graphic designers rely on software to create designs, including digital illustration programs and photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Most graphic designers hold a graphic design bachelor's degree and professional portfolio.

Graphic Design Versus Digital Media Design

Both graphic designers and digital media designers visually communicate information, but they use different approaches. While graphic designers create image-based designs, digital media designers create video, audio, and motion graphics. Training in digital media design often incorporates classes on web design, media production, and screenwriting. Although graphic designers often create work digitally, they may also produce print ads, magazines, and products. Digital media designers work solely in electronic formats.

Graphic designers rely on programs like Adobe Photoshop to complete their designs. In contrast, digital media designers use animation and motion graphic software. With experience, graphic designers can often pursue opportunities in digital media design. Prospective students can research whether online graphic design programs offer concentrations in digital media design.

Graphic Design Professional Organizations

Graphic design students and professionals can take advantage of professional organizations, which offer benefits like networking, professional development, and financial aid opportunities.

Founded in 1914, AIGA promotes the value and impact of design. Members gain access to discounts on services and products, an exclusive job board, the AIGA Designer Directory, and networking opportunities. AIGA also offers professional development resources, such as discounts on certificate courses and leadership workshops. Students can apply for educational support through the AIGA Worldstudio Scholarships program. The Graphic Artist Guild advocates for and represents graphic artists and design professionals. Members include graphic designers, illustrators, animators, and web developers. Members can access discounts on professional services and products and peer advice on client issues. Members also benefit from access to a professional monthly webinar series, monthly newsletter, and advice on negotiating with prospective clients. In addition to graphic designers, SEGD counts architects, industrial designers, brand strategies, and educators among its members. SEGD hosts an annual conference and multiple education events each year to connect members and provide professional development training. SEGD runs 34 local chapters. Members can sign up for workshops, webinars, and classes and can access SEGD's academic journal, white papers, and annual report.

The Best Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Degree Programs

Southern New Hampshire University true View School Profile Manchester, NH 54% 68% 93% Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

SNHU was founded in 1932 and now serves nearly 140,000 students worldwide every year. The university offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs.

Its bachelor of arts in graphic design and media arts includes 120 credits and is one of the best graphic design schools available online. The curriculum trains students to design, develop, and present visual storytelling through photo, video, and digital media platforms. Learners can specialize in 3D modeling and animation or web design.

Applicants can transfer up to 90 credits into this online graphic design and media arts degree. SNHU does not require ACT or SAT scores and offers flat-rate tuition for all learners.

Liberty University true View School Profile Lynchburg, VA 50% 60% 90% Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Liberty is a Christian college founded in 1971. It now houses 15 academic schools and colleges and enrolls more than 100,000 students each year.

Learners can complete Liberty's online bachelor of fine arts in graphic design in under four years. The 120-credit graphic design degree integrates coursework with practicum and internship requirements to prepare students for careers across creative fields.

To apply, candidates must submit transcripts demonstrating a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants can transfer up to 90 credits of previous coursework into the online graphic design degree.

Kentucky Wesleyan College true View School Profile Owensboro, KY 42% 66% 20% Kentucky Wesleyan College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Partnered with the United Methodist Church, Wesleyan moved from its initial home in Millersburg, Kentucky, to its current campus in 1890. Wesleyan offers nearly 50 undergraduate programs to its roughly 800 enrollees each year.

Wesleyan's online bachelor of arts in graphic design emphasizes foundational principles of art and design. Core classes in the 120-credit degree focus on web design, animation, and publishing, all of which students can apply to advanced projects and internships.

Applicants to Wesleyan's online graphic design degree must submit transcripts and ACT or SAT scores for consideration.

Lesley University true View School Profile Cambridge, MA 61% 69% 21% Lesley University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Founded by its namesake, Edith Lesley, in 1909, Lesley now offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate programs. Over 6,500 students attend Lesley every year.

Online programs at Lesley include a bachelor of science in design for user experience. The degree includes 120 credits of coursework and emphasizes the human side of digital design. Core classes include elements of interface, sketching for interactive design, and user experience business design. The program also offer opportunities to work in practical settings with design professionals.

Applicants must submit transcripts for consideration. Lesley does not require ACT or SAT scores for online admission.

California Baptist University true View School Profile Riverside, CA 55% 70% 54% California Baptist University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded by the California Southern Baptist Convention in 1950, CBU enrolls over 11,300 students each year. This university offers more than 110 undergraduate and graduate programs, including 40 online degrees.

Designed for individuals looking to either advance or transition into graphic design careers, CBU's online bachelor of arts in graphic design and digital media includes 48 credits of required major courses. The curriculum builds foundational design knowledge through project-based learning, covering topics like typography, image development, and web design.

Preferred applicants have a minimum of 24 transferable credits with a 2.0 GPA.

Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

Frequently Asked Questions

true What is graphic design?

Graphic design blends creativity and technology to create visual representations of information. Graphic designers make brochures, logos, magazine layouts, infographics, and other visual media.

What does a graphic designer do?

A graphic designer visually communicates ideas by arranging text and images in user-friendly layouts. They work with art directors and clients to create advertisements, product packaging, and other designs.

What kinds of jobs can you get with a graphic design degree?

A graphic design bachelor's degree represents the entry-level education requirement for many graphic design jobs, including graphic designer and art director.

How long does a graphic design degree take to complete?

A graphic design bachelor's degree generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. Students with prior college credits or an associate degree can complete the degree in less time.

What is a bachelor's degree in graphic design?

A bachelor's degree in graphic design trains students in design software, visual techniques, and the graphic arts. It represents the entry-level education requirement for graphic design jobs.

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