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2023 Best Online Graphic Design Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 2/21/2023
2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Graphic Design Badge

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.

2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Graphic Design Badge
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Online Graphic Design Bachelor's Degrees You May Be Interested In

List Of Accredited Online Graphic Design Schools

School Online Enrollment Annual Tuition
Southern New Hampshire University Online 86,849 86,849 $9,600 $9,600
University of Maryland Global Campus 35,971 $12,336
Liberty University 34,092 $11,700
Arizona State University 33,410 $24,413
DeVry University 16,922 $18,197
Full Sail University 14,908 $24,513
Bellevue University 7,352 $7,851
Regent University Online 3,146 $18,620
Academy of Art University 2,911 $23,412
LA Film School 2,492 NA
Upper Iowa University 1,872 $31,685
California Baptist University 1,643 $34,882
Maryville University 1,326 $28,470
Arkansas State University 1,064 $15,860
Stephen F. Austin State University 1,040 $18,972
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design 851 $19,670
University of West Alabama 718 $20,090
Savannah College of Art and Design 598 $38,075
Lindenwood University 494 $18,100
Hodges University 388 $14,300
Kentucky Wesleyan College 38 $27,200

Southern New Hampshire University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • 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.

University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Annual Tuition: $12,336
  • Locations: Adelphi (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is a public institution offering an online Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Communication for students interested in careers in this creative industry. This 120-credit program generally takes full-time students four years to complete and possibly less if transferring credits. UMGC accepts 100% of applicants, and 28% of students graduate with their degrees.

UMGC's online curriculum is delivered via Brightspace. The online graphic communication program courses include Introduction to Drawing, Typography and Layout, Introduction to Graphic Communication, and Arrangement and Color. Completing a graphic communication portfolio is also required to graduate. The program helps students prepare for carers, such as graphic designers, art directors, freelance designers, and communication designers.

Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • 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.

Arizona State University

  • Annual Tuition: $24,413
  • 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.

Full Sail University

  • Annual Tuition: $24,513
  • 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, 27-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.

Bellevue University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,851
  • 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.

Academy of Art University

  • Annual Tuition: $23,412
  • 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.

Maryville University

  • Annual Tuition: $28,470
  • 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.

Arkansas State University

  • Annual Tuition: $15,860
  • 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.

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

  • Annual Tuition: $19,670
  • 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

  • Annual Tuition: $38,075
  • 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

An online degree in graphic design teaches the principles of effective design as well as the creative, analytical, and problem-solving methods and practices to help graduates enter a career in graphic design. Students at the best online colleges for graphic design learn aesthetics, composition, typography, and representational symbolism, as well as how 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 a Bachelor of Arts often involve more liberal arts courses, while programs that lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Science are typically more focused on developing art and design skills. 

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission into one of the top online graphic design schools, applicants need to understand the graphic design education requirements. In all cases, it's mandatory to present a high school diploma or its equivalent. They may also be required to have a minimum 3.0 GPA and high scores on college entrance exams, such as the ACT or SAT. 

Prospective students typically begin the application process by filling out an online form on the website of online schools for graphic design. At some point, students may be asked to supply a portfolio of recent work to be admitted into graphic design online degrees, in addition to other documentation, such as transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation.

Graphic Design Concentrations

While most graphic design bachelor's programs provide a broad curriculum intended to produce well-rounded design generalists, a few programs offer concentrations that enable students to prepare for specific occupations within the field. Students are usually required to take three or four courses in their chosen area of specialization to complete a concentration. In the process, they'll create a number of portfolio-ready projects showing their mastery of that particular aspect of design. The following options might be found at select schools.

3D modeling and animation

These courses are designed to teach students how to create three-dimensional graphics for use in gaming, advertising, education, and product development. Using sophisticated graphics software, students can practice creating concepts, building digital models, and applying the principles of animation.

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design

Students planning careers in digital design can start developing their expertise in enhancing users' experience with coursework in this field. Some courses focus on user interface, which refers to how users interact with computer systems, software, websites, and applications. Other courses concentrate on user experience, which is the process of using design to create an impression of a brand within a site or app user's mind.

Interactive design

This concentration blends visual design with user interface concepts and computer programming. Courses are meant to teach students how to create interactive designs for web-based media, including mobile apps and tablets, that effectively solve problems and are easy for users to understand and navigate.

Online Bachelor's in Graphic Design Courses

Graphic design online schools 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 for their portfolios. Some programs at online graphic design colleges 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:

Fundamentals of Design

This foundational course is typically one of the first in any graphic design program. Students will explore visual communication and learn about how graphics are used to convey different messages and emotions. Coursework involves basic projects that give students opportunities to apply the theories and principles of design.

Digital Imaging

Since digitized art must be specifically prepared for use in electronic media and print, 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.

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/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.


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?

The graphic design field, while exciting, is competitive. Contrary to what some may think, graphic design is not a dying industry, but rather, it's a stable field with growth opportunities when it comes to 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 qualify for advanced managerial positions.

Graphic Design Careers

With a few years of experience, designers can follow any one of several different career paths. Some focus on designing for print, such as advertising or magazine layouts, while others work on designing for technology, including websites, mobile ads, mobile apps, and multimedia products. Another possibility is to specialize in product design, conceptualizing everything from skateboards to cosmetics packaging. Some seasoned designers may ultimately assume managerial positions, such as art director or creative director.

Graphic Designers

Annual Median Salary:  $50,710
Job Growth Rate: 3%

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.

Multimedia Designers

Annual Median Salary:  $78,790
Job Growth Rate: 5%

Designers who specialize in working with three-dimensional imagery or animated graphics are called multimedia designers. Classified as special effects artists and animators by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 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.

Website Designers

Annual Median Salary:  $78,300
Job Growth Rate: 23%

The work of website developers and digital designers are similar to 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.

Mobile Applications Designers

Annual Median Salary:  $109,020
Job Growth Rate: 25%

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.

Art Director

Annual Median Salary:  $100,890
Job Growth Rate: 4%

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. Five years or more of experience is usually required for this occupation, and it may give job candidates a competitive edge.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 19% of graphic designers are self-employed, which means they likely work from a remote environment, such as a home office.

How Much Does a Graphic Design Degree Cost?

The total cost of any college degree depends on many variable factors. Average published sticker prices for bachelor's degree programs at public and private four-year schools vary widely, from $10,940 to $39,400. Part of this difference may be due to the fact that some schools offer lower tuition rates for online programs, especially for out-of-state enrollees.

Design students need to account for several additional expenses. According to the College Board, students at four-year colleges spend an average of $1,240 per year on books and supplies. This amount may be higher for graphic arts students, who typically need a good computer, high-speed internet, art materials, and design software subscriptions.

At least some of these expenses may be offset by financial aid provided by the federal government, state government, and colleges and universities. The best types of aid are grants and scholarships, which don't have to be repaid. Students can also consider student loans, but these will have to be repaid with interest. To determine how much aid is available, students should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After their applications are reviewed, those who are eligible for aid will receive offers from the schools they have applied to or are attending.

Explore our ranking of the most affordable online graphic design degrees.

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 pros and cons:

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 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, a computer, and other art materials, as needed.
  • 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.

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

With so many online graphic design degrees to choose from, it's important to find one that supports your career path. If you're not sure what your goals are yet, you may want to choose a program that incorporates a comprehensive range of courses in both print and digital design, including typography, design fundamentals, and art history. If, however, you're clear on the type of design work you'd like to do, it may be better to select a program that offers several courses related to that specialty.

Prospective students need to weigh many factors when selecting the best online colleges for graphic design. The list below provides four of the most important factors to consider before applying to a program:


For many, cost is one of the most significant considerations. In general, tuition rates at online schools are lower, plus students don't have to pay for on-campus housing and transportation costs. OnlineU provides prospective students with financial planning guides for student loans, scholarships, and advice on how to save money in college.  


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 database provided by the U.S. Department of Education. The best online graphic design schools have often earned additional program-level accreditation, which you can check through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Career Services

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.

Online Format

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.

FAQs About Graphic Design Programs

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Graphic Designer?

According to the BLS, you typically need a bachelor's degree to land an entry-level job as a graphic designer. Job candidates with other qualifications may also be eligible for design career opportunities, but they may need to demonstrate the required technical skills with their portfolios.

Can You Get a Degree in Graphic Design Online?

Yes, you can get a degree in graphic design online. There are many distance learning programs for associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in design. Some schools also offer Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs.

Is Graphic Design a Hard Major?

As with all majors, the relative ease or difficulty of a graphic design program depends on the student. If you're a creative thinker and problem solver, have an eye for color and spatial relationships, and enjoy working on a computer, you will probably find it easier to succeed in graphic design courses.

How Fast Can You Get a Graphic Design Degree?

Full-time students often fulfill the 120-credit hour requirements for a bachelor's degree in graphic design in four years, while part-time learners may need slightly longer. Newly enrolled students who've already completed some coursework — perhaps by earning an associate degree — may be able to transfer credits and graduate in less time. There are also a few accelerated graphic design programs that enable students to finish their degrees faster.

Bottom Line

Graphic designers get to explore their own creativity every single day. They are constantly challenged to create projects that meet the needs of their clients by using a variety of complex digital art tools. Their work environment can vary from a more relaxed, at-home workspace to a lively urban office. Overall, the combination of workplace freedom, livable wages, and creative expression make graphic design an appealing career for many.

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.

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