Best Online Master’s in Graphic Design Programs | TheBestSchools

by TBS Staff

Updated September 9, 2022 is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Graduates with master's in graphic design online degrees can pursue leadership roles such as art director, marketing manager, and product designer. These professionals enjoy the possibility of earning good salaries.

For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that art directors earned a median annual salary of $97,270 in 2020.

Earning a master's in graphic design online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Online learning also allows students to attend the top programs in the country without relocating.

The Best Online Master's in Graphic Design Programs

  1. Savannah College of Art and Design

    Savannah, GA

    A private university founded in 1978, SCAD offers a master of arts in graphic design and visual experience through its innovative eLearning department. Students finish 45 credits and may require additional coursework depending on their background.

    Required courses include ideation models and process, visual analysis of static content, professional practice of visual design, and typographic voice and visual narrative. Students also complete electives and can opt to complete an internship.

    Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree and a portfolio for review. Students do not need to send GRE scores to apply.

  2. Liberty University

    Lynchburg, VA

    A private Christian university, Liberty offers an online master of fine arts in graphic design. Students complete 60 credits and can transfer in up to 50% of the credits required to graduate.

    Required courses include visualization illustration, advanced digital photography, vector illustration, and digital imaging. Students take a course sequence in art history to ground their practice and a field experience for hands-on training.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a professional portfolio for review. The program also requires an artist statement.

Best Online Master's

Online Master's in Graphic Design Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

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Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

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The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

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Featured Online Master's in Graphic Design Programs

Choosing an Online Online Master's in Graphic Design Program

Why do you want to earn your online graphic design master's degree? To answer this question, first examine a the prospective programs' concentrations. Concentrations such as brand development appeal to students interested in managerial jobs at large marketing agencies. Others, such as exhibition design, attract students preparing for careers as independent artists. Choosing one or two concentrations that interest you automatically creates a shortlist, which you should later analyze in closer detail.

Once you create a shortlist, focus on each program's courses and educational experience. Most programs stress advanced design courses alongside those that teach interpersonal, leadership, and business skills. Finally, the online graphic design master's degree program you select should meet all your online learning needs. With so many online options, you do not need to sacrifice quality for convenience.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Graphic Design Program?

While virtually all online graphic design master's programs teach similar skills, they offer unique curricula. Some focus on one graphic design subfield, while others present a more holistic approach. Keep this in mind as you explore the sample courses below. Courses at programs you consider may use similar titles or course descriptions but a different curriculum.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Graphic Design

  • Brand Redevelopment: Students learn about graphic design's role in advertising products and services. Class activities include analyzing famous brand development examples and developing graphics for new products. Students interested in marketing take one or more brand development courses.
  • Design Integration: Students develop new ways to use design in their projects as they critique each other's work. Most master's students take this or a similar course during their first year.
  • Defining Client Needs: This course conveys crucial interpersonal skills all graphic designers require to work with clients. Course topics include interview and communication skills and relationship–building.
  • Design Research: To stay successful, graphic designers must learn new technologies and collaborate with peers. This course introduces students to research methods and latest graphic design tools.
  • Thesis: Most master's programs include a thesis course wherein students research and craft their thesis. Some programs may require students to write a lengthy research essay, while others programs ask students to complete a design project that includes a presentation to faculty and peers.

Careers With a Master's in Graphic Design

Online graphic design master's degree programs prepare graduates for managerial–level positions that oversee entire projects. Some graduates use these skills as classroom teachers, while other graphic designers use their graduate educations to launch their art and design careers as self-employed artists. The three positions below represent a few jobs you can explore after earning your degree.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers instruct students at colleges and universities. They create lesson plans and rubrics, evaluate students' work, and mentor students' development as artists. Nearly all postsecondary teaching positions require a master's or doctoral degree. Most professionals who enter this position also have at least five years of work experience in the graphic design field.

Median Salary: $80,790 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 9%

Art Director

Art directors lead teams of artists to create unique visual products for their clients. For example, they manage the development of movie posters, product packaging, and commercials. As managers, they control their projects' every aspect and mentor less-experienced graphic designers. A master's degree teaches the managerial and interpersonal skills required for this position.

Median Salary: $97,270 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): -2%

Multimedia Artist and Animator

Multimedia artists use digital tools to create original artwork and animations for advertisements, games, and movies. Many artists and animators specialize in fields like facial animation, making them highly valuable employees. A master's program allows students to develop specialized skills.

Median Salary: $77,700 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 4%

Frequently Asked Questions About Graphic Design Master's Programs

Is a Master's Degree in Graphic Design Worth It?

Graduates of master's level graphic design programs can go on to work as postsecondary teachers, art directors, or multimedia artists. These professionals can earn upwards of $77,000 a year.

How Long Is a Graphic Design Master's?

Graphic design master's programs usually consist of two years full-time study. Students enrolled in part-time programs may take longer to graduate.

Can You Get a Master's Degree in Graphic Design?

Yes. Students can study graphic design at the master's level to improve their graphic design, brand development, and research skills. Graduates from these programs can go on to work as art directors, marketing managers, or product designers.

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