2022 Best Online Graphic Design Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 6/14/2022

Visual communication is an increasingly important aspect of marketing and design. Whether through advertisements, business reports, or magazine covers, graphic designers have the ability to turn messages into visually appealing artwork. Nearly all companies with an online presence utilize digital artists in some capacity. As a graduate of a graphic design program, you'll have the option to create visual storytelling for the industry you're most interested in.

In order to sift through the large number of graphic design bachelor's programs, it's helpful to look at a comprehensive list of available online programs in the field. Read further to gain a better understanding of the coursework, program requirements, and your future career opportunities.

View our methodology for more details about our list or learn more about OnlineU.

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List Of Accredited Online Schools

School Online Enrollment Salary Score Median Starting Salary
Southern New Hampshire University Online 106,375 106,375 68 68 $37,976 $37,976
Liberty University 70,429 42 $32,506
University of Maryland Global Campus 46,847 NA NA
Arizona State University 44,253 68 $38,105
DeVry University 21,321 NA NA
Rasmussen University Online 19,588 NA NA
Full Sail University 16,164 23 $28,143
Bellevue University 10,503 67 $37,794
Regent University Online 8,238 NA NA
Maryville University 6,123 74 $39,469
Arkansas State University 4,478 42 $32,561
Academy of Art University 4,209 24 $28,222
University of West Alabama 4,018 NA NA
LA Film School 2,492 6 $21,584
Upper Iowa University 2,386 NA NA
California Baptist University 2,335 NA NA
Stephen F. Austin State University 1,614 NA NA
Lindenwood University 1,536 NA NA
Savannah College of Art and Design 1,096 13 $24,889
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design 851 20 $27,370
Hodges University 509 NA NA
Northern Vermont University 408 NA NA
Kentucky Wesleyan College 38 NA NA

Maryville University

  • Salary Score: 74
  • Median Starting Salary: $39,469
  • Locations: St. Louis (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Maryville University's Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media aims to prepare students with the technical and artistic skills to become professionals in digital experiences. Through 128 credit hours, you'll take core coursework in UX/UI Design, Icon, and Identity; Sequential Art; and Digital Photography. An internship is also required before graduation. This program can be completed fully online within three to four years with a full-time schedule.

Maryville is a medium-sized nonprofit institution that uses Canvas for its online coursework. Students have access to online libraries and technical support. Graduates of this program can find career opportunities in graphic design, animation, film editing, and digital illustration.

Arizona State University

  • Salary Score: 68
  • Median Starting Salary: $38,105
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Arizona State University (ASU) is a large, public university with a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Information Technology. This 120-credit program can be completed fully online in three to four years with a full-time schedule. Students explore a broad overview of media disciplines — such as web design, advertising, and visual media. Prior to graduation, ASU students can get career counseling, time management coaching, wellness support, and success coaching. Career opportunities include animator, graphic artist, graphic designer, and photographer.

ASU Online uses LearnX for its coursework which for this program includes Graphic Communications, Digital Publishing, and Digital Video Techniques.

Southern New Hampshire University Online

  • Salary Score: 68
  • Median Starting Salary: $37,976
  • Locations: Manchester (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Southern New Hampshire University Online (SNHU) hosts a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts requiring 120 credit hours. This full-time program can be completed entirely online in three to four years. Choose between concentrations in web design or 3-D modeling and animation. Students learn important design technologies, analyze media messaging, create professional portfolios, and understand the ethics and cultural issues surrounding visual media. Core courses include Graphics and Layout in Print Media, Typography, and Advanced Digital Imaging.

SNHU is a large nonprofit institution with resources that range from online libraries and bookstores to a wellness center. Students may go on to explore careers as web designers, multimedia designers, creative directors, or production artists.

Bellevue University

  • Salary Score: 67
  • Median Starting Salary: $37,794
  • Locations: Bellevue (NE)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Bellevue University (BU) is a medium-sized nonprofit institution with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design. Through 127 credit hours, this program offers an understanding of typography, imagery, color, and messaging through various media and technologies. Students can graduate in three to four years on a full-time schedule. This 100% online degree includes core courses, such as Fundamentals of JavaScript, Web Page Design, and Branding. Requirements also include the Kirkpatrick Signature Series, which explores American values and traditions.

BU uses Canvas for its online learning programs. Online students also have access to support tools, such as digital libraries and tech support. Graduates of this program may go on to seek positions as UX or UI designers, graphic designers, or art directors.

Arkansas State University

  • Salary Score: 42
  • Median Starting Salary: $32,561
  • Locations: Jonesboro (AR)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Arkansas State University's (AState) Bachelor of Science in Digital Technology and Design offers a concentration in graphic communication. This program involves learning how to create digital products and interactive media. Core classes include Desktop Publishing and Publication Design, Media Aesthetics, Design Build, and Design Literacy. A graphic design internship, along with 120 credits, are required to complete this program. Most students take three to four years to finish this fully online degree, but this is at a full-time pace. Top careers for graduates include art director, web developer, interactive designer, and graphic designer.

AState is a medium-sized, public university that uses Blackboard as its learning management system for online degrees. Resources are offered to students, such as tech support, virtual research assistance, and an online career center.

Liberty University

  • Salary Score: 42
  • Median Starting Salary: $32,506
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University (LU) is a large nonprofit institution offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. This 100% online program requires 120 credit hours, which can be completed in three to four years on a full-time schedule. The degree explores digital design through cutting-edge technologies, with courses such as Digital Imaging, Digital Imaging and Art, Culture, and Technology. An undergraduate internship is required before graduation. LU also has a Bachelor of Science in Digital Design, which includes a concentration option in graphic design. This program focuses more on visual communication within electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.

LU uses Canvas for its distance learning programs in digital design and graphic design. Students have access to resources, such as research tutorials and an academic success center. Career options include art director, web developer, multimedia artist, or animator.

Academy of Art University

  • Salary Score: 24
  • Median Starting Salary: $28,222
  • Locations: San Francisco (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The Academy of Art University (AAU) offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design that aims to develop students' skills in typography, branding, user experience, and motion graphics. All 132 credit hours can be completed in three to four years on a full-time schedule. Core courses include History of Graphic Design, Visual Communication, and Design Technology: Visual Design Tools.

AAU is a medium-sized, for-profit institution, with fully online courses in graphic design offered through a proprietary learning management system. Students may have the option to learn asynchronously with virtual and in-person classes. Online resources include libraries, career development, and tutorials. Graduates will leave with a portfolio that enables them to seek professional work as graphic designers.

Full Sail University

  • Salary Score: 23
  • Median Starting Salary: $28,143
  • Locations: Winter Park (FL)
  • Accreditation: ACCSC

Full Sail University's (FS) Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design uses projects and critiques to provide students with a broad understanding of graphic design. As a large, private institution, Full Sail offers a full-time, 29-month bachelor's program featuring core courses, such as Digital Publishing and Typography as well as Page Layout. The degree requires 116 credit hours, which includes two professional development seminars and a career readiness course.

FS uses a custom learning management system for its coursework, which is 100% online. Students receive career support through advisors. Beyond graduation, career opportunities may include graphic designers, art directors, and production artists, to name a few.

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

  • Salary Score: 20
  • Median Starting Salary: $27,370
  • Locations: Lakewood (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) offers two programs in graphic design. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design includes technical courses in graphic design, which highlight techniques and methodologies through 123 credit hours. Subjects such as UI/UX, design software, typography, and visual storytelling are explored in this online program. There is also a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Education, which includes a concentration in graphic design. This program explores teaching philosophies and leadership skills in the arts. Each program can be completed in three to four years on a full-time schedule.

RMCAD is a small nonprofit institution that uses a proprietary learning management system tailored toward visual media. Free digital resources include Adobe Creative Cloud, Behance, and LinkedIn Learning. Graduates have gone on to become creative directors, communications managers, web designers, and digital project managers.

Savannah College of Art and Design

  • Salary Score: 13
  • Median Starting Salary: $24,889
  • Locations: Savannah (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers two online bachelor's programs for aspiring graphic designers. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design requires 180 credit hours and can be completed in three to four years on a full-time schedule. Students take core courses — such as Graphic Design Media Management and Typography 1: Anatomy, Form and Space — plus an undergraduate internship, as they explore design theory and concepts of digital art. SCAD also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication, with a concentration in graphic design, which teaches many of the same foundational digital art courses.

SCAD is a medium-sized, private university that utilizes a signature learning management system, known as SCADnow, for its fully online coursework. Student resources include career advisors, resources, and job fairs. Most career opportunities can be found in marketing and advertising.

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Overview of Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Degrees

Online bachelor's in graphic design programs introduce students to the principles of effective design, as well as the creative, analytical, and problem-solving methods and practices used by professionals. By studying subjects such as aesthetics, composition, typography, and representational symbolism, students learn to apply design skills to the creation of both print and digital products. They'll also gain proficiency in the use of industry-standard design software and related technologies. Programs that lead to Bachelor of Arts degrees often involve more liberal arts courses, while programs that lead to Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees are typically more focused on developing art and design skills.

By studying subjects such as aesthetics, composition, typography, and representational symbolism, students learn to apply design skills to the creation of both print and digital products. They'll also gain proficiency in the use of industry-standard design software and related technologies.

To be considered for a graphic design program, applicants need a high school diploma or the equivalent. They may also be required to have a minimum 3.0 GPA and high scores on the ACT or SAT. Prospective students typically begin the application process by filling out an online form on the website of the school they'd like to attend. At some point, students may be asked to supply a portfolio of recent work in addition to other documentation, such as transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation.

Is Graphic Design a Two- Or Four-Year Degree?

Although some schools offer two-year associate degrees, all of the accredited programs on our list are four-year bachelor's degrees, which require the completion of 111-132 credits. Many full-time students fulfill the requirements in four years, but part-time students may need additional time. A few schools also offer accelerated online bachelor's degrees that students can complete in less than three years.

If you're not ready to commit to a four-year degree, you may want to check out our list of the best online associate degrees ranked by their return on investment.


Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Curriculum and Courses

Online graphic design programs are designed to provide students with the skills and aesthetic sensibilities they need to work on a wide range of print and digital communications media. Students use design software such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to complete eye-catching projects to be included in their portfolios. Some programs dedicate a final capstone course to polishing those presentations, and some require internships. The following are some common graphic design courses found in online programs.

Design Principles and Color Theory

This foundational course is typically one of the first in any graphic design program. Coursework involves basic projects that give students opportunities to explore and apply the theories and principles of design. Students may also be introduced to color theory so they can understand how color can be used to convey a mood or message.

Digital Imaging

Digitized art must be prepared for use in electronic media and print in very specific ways, so this course teaches students how to meet the technical specifications involved in production. Students use the Adobe Creative Cloud suite or similar software programs to complete projects.

Fundamentals of Print Design

This course requires students to synthesize theoretical design concepts — such as composition, typography, and visual organization — into mock-ups for common design jobs. These include various types of ads, brochures, catalogs, books, and book covers. Developing multiple solutions and evaluating presentation strategies are important skills that design students may gain through this course. Inspired by assignments, some students may decide to pursue a print design specialization, such as advertising, book, or book cover design.

Introduction to Web Design

In this hands-on, project-based class, coursework is designed to teach students the basics of HTML, CSS, and possibly other languages and programs used to build websites. Students also learn about the various types of websites they may be asked to design and how to make them both visually enticing and functional. This course is often a prerequisite for students who want to specialize in web development or mobile app design.

Typography

A course on typography teaches students how to design the text portion of a project, whether it's a single-page ad, a multi-page website, or a novel. They learn to select the fonts to support the mood and message of the piece, and they discover how to choose the sizes and colors that place the correct emphasis on certain words and make the piece easy to read.


What Can You Do With a Graphic Design Degree?

Career Outlook

The graphic design field, while exciting, is competitive. Contrary to what some may think, graphic design is not a dying industry but rather a stable field with growth opportunities in designing for technology. Many employers prefer to hire job candidates who have demonstrated design and computer skills, as well as a bachelor's degree in graphic arts or related fields. Recent graduates typically land entry-level positions before working their way up the ladder in their graphic design careers. Those with master's degrees in design may be qualified for advanced managerial positions.

Graphic Design Careers

Graphic Designers

Median Annual Salary: $53,380
Graphic designers are responsible for the look and feel of digital and print media, such as advertisements, catalogs, brochures, and books. They often meet with clients at the beginning of a project to discuss goals, and then present their design concepts for approval before completing projects. They generally use computers to create their layouts and visuals. According to the BLS, graphic designers earn a median annual salary of $53,380. Demand for graphic artists is expected to be somewhat limited over the next eight years, but there will still be approximately 23,900 new jobs emerging per year.

Multimedia Designers

Median Annual Salary: $77,700
Designers who specialize in working with three-dimensional imagery or animated graphics are called multimedia designers. These artists design video games, virtual reality products, short films, websites, animations, and similar projects. Their efforts may be used for entertainment, advertising, or educational purposes. Special effects artists and animators earn a median annual salary of $77,700.

Website Designers

Median Annual Salary: $77,200
The work of website designers is similar to that of graphic designers in that they're responsible for the visual design of communication vehicles, only applied specifically to websites. Web designers must have extensive coding knowledge in order to create various kinds of websites to suit their clients' needs. This technical expertise must be coupled with a contemporary design sense that is creative and original. The median annual salary for web designers is $77,200, and demand is expected to grow by 13% through 2030, which means an average of 17,900 positions opening each year.

Mobile Applications Designers

Median Annual Salary: $65,000- $110,140
Much like web designers, mobile applications designers need both visual design skills and technical expertise to create the interactivity found in games, shopping sites, and other types of apps. According to the BLS, mobile app designers are included in the broad category of software developers, so they can expect to earn a median annual salary of $110,140 in this high-growth industry. However, some online job recruiting sites set the average salary for mobile app designers closer to $65,000.

Art Director

Median Annual Salary: $97,270
A long-term ambition of some designers is to become an art director. Although more than half of all art directors are self-employed, they typically work with publishers, manufacturers, and television and movie studios, serving as the guiding manager and overall creative director of an organization's products. A graduate degree, while not required for this occupation, may give job candidates a competitive edge. The median annual salary for art directors is listed as $97,270, with an 11% growth rate projected through 2030.

Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth It?

Many aspiring designers question whether an online graphic design degree will be worth the money, time, and effort that goes into earning one. Although a degree is not required to enter this field, bachelor's programs prepare graduates for entry-level positions and make them more attractive job candidates. Prospective students may want to include other personal circumstances in their decision-making process as well, such as family responsibilities and financial resources. Those considering attending graphic design school online may want to reflect on the following potential advantages and drawbacks.

Potential Advantages

  • Many graphic designers are self-employed. This can be beneficial for people who appreciate the freedom to work with different teams on various projects while having complete control over their work schedules.
  • Graphic design careers offer opportunities to be creative while earning a steady income. Many fine artists have to work multiple jobs to support themselves, so graphic design professionals who opt for full-time jobs with benefits may enjoy greater financial stability while still having room for creative expression.
  • An online graphic design program may offer more educational options. By including distance learning degrees in the mix of possibilities, prospective students can select the best online graphic design school to fit their career goals and financial situation without having to move to a new location.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Graphic design students have additional expenses. In addition to the usual cost of books and supplies, graphic design majors may have to pay for an Adobe Creative Cloud software account, high-speed internet connection, high-quality computer, and other art materials.
  • Graphic design can be a stressful profession. This industry is known for being fairly competitive. Additionally, according to O*NET Online, 54% of graphic designers report facing time pressure every day.
  • Some online students find it harder to connect with others in the distance learning environment. A valuable part of the learning experience in a graphic design program is the ability to discuss and critique each other's work. This can be challenging to do online, but program instructors often work hard to promote collaboration. Online students may also have to put more effort into building their network of peers through discussion boards and email.

If you're not sure about pursuing a graphic design degree, you may want to consider programs in related fields. Learn more about online bachelor's degrees in art, interior design, web design, or fashion.


How to Choose an Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Program

Prospective students need to weigh many factors when selecting the best online colleges for graphic design. For many, cost is one of the most significant considerations. The average annual tuition rate of 10 programs that we analyzed is $18,600, as compared to the average tuition for all public and private four-year schools, which ranges from $27,020 to $37,650. In general, tuition rates at online schools are lower, plus students don't have to pay for on-campus housing and transportation costs.


The average annual tuition rate of the ten programs featured on our list of the Best Online Graphic Design Bachelor's Degrees is $18,600, as compared to the average annual tuition for all public and private four-year schools, which ranges from $27,020 to $37,650.


Another important quality to look for is accreditation, a designation that means a school's programs and faculty have met rigorous standards according to an independent agency. Enrollment in an accredited online graphic degree program is a requirement to be eligible for federal financial aid, and it may be required to transfer credits between schools or for acceptance into a graduate degree program. To determine whether a school is accredited, students can check the databases provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education, which oversee accreditation. Graphic design students can confirm that their chosen online programs have earned additional program-level accreditation by checking the National Association of Schools of Art and Design website.

Prospective students should also investigate each school's ability to assist them in building their graphic design careers. Some valuable questions to explore include:

Are the faculty members practicing professionals? Are they well-known in the industry?

When studying an ever-changing subject like graphic design, students benefit from working with practicing professionals who are current on design trends, professional processes, and the use of industry-standard technology. Studying under particularly well-known designers reflects well on students, and some instructors may even become mentors who assist students in entering the workforce.

Does the school offer career resources for online students? Does the program include coaching on interviewing and portfolio presentation?

Most schools have career centers, but students should confirm that these resources are available to online students. Career mentors typically provide coaching on resume writing, interviewing strategies, and portfolio presentation, either one-on-one or through group workshops. Job search assistance is another valuable service offered at many schools.

Will there be industry-specific networking opportunities for students?

Some schools host events — or make arrangements for students to attend events — that attract professionals from the design, publishing, and technology fields. There may also be student chapters of professional organizations, such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, that students can join. These opportunities allow students to start building relationships with professionals who can help them find jobs in the future.

Finally, students may want to research the specifics of the online format at each school. Some online programs are asynchronous, meaning that online students complete assignments on their own time, as long as they meet assigned deadlines. Other programs, however, are synchronous, which requires learners to join in virtual class meetings at designated times. Students should choose a format that will give them the flexibility they need to work with their schedules and personal learning preferences.


Frequently Asked Questions About Online Graphic Design Programs

Can You Become a Graphic Designer Online?

Yes, our ranked list of online graphic design programs highlights a diverse array of options. Some schools specialize in graphic arts and design, some are traditional colleges with online programs, and some are primarily online schools. They all feature learning management systems that allow you to access course materials, share design projects, and interact with your classmates and instructors via the internet.

What Is the Easiest Program for Graphic Design?

Although there are variations from one school's program to another, the graduation requirements for bachelor's of graphic design degrees are generally fairly similar. If you have work or family commitments and time is an issue, opting for an online bachelor's degree in graphic design may be easier in terms of balancing your workload.

Is There a Free Graphic Design Program?

No, it's not possible to earn a graphic design certificate or degree without paying tuition. However, there are a number of free online classes you could take if you'd like to get a feel for the topic before enrolling in an accredited degree program. Free online training is available from Udemy, Canva, Adobe, and more.

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