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Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

College Values Online - Top Degree Programs-01In this article, we profile the top 30 best graphic design degree programs of 2020.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports strong competition expected for graphic design positions over the next eight years. In fact, the employment growth rate falls short of the average for all other occupations, thus leading to limited jobs. However, the job outlook for graphic designers is still favorable and should see a 3 percent projected growth through 2028. To set yourself apart from the competition, consider earning a graphic design degree and gaining the skillset needed to qualify for management roles.

Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs Methodology

We reviewed approximately over 80 colleges and universities listed by the Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator and reputable online sources (U.S. News and World Report) that offered both online and traditional graphic design degree programs. We evaluated both master’s and bachelor’s degree programs and looked at the following criteria to narrow our search. Accreditation (regional and/or national), institution rankings with U.S. News and World Report, and tuition costs. We then ranked our chosen schools according to raw affordability.

Below are the resulting selections for our top 30 best graphic design degree programs of 2020.

#30 – Carnegie Mellon University

Bachelor’s in Design

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Website

Carnegie Mellon University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Outstanding ranking! Carnegie Mellon offers a top graphic design degree program.

Undergraduate Tuition: $57,119

Carnegie Mellon University offers a graphic design degree emphasizing the importance of human interaction within the context of the natural and built worlds. In addition to classroom curriculum, students work in dedicated studio space learning and honing their craft. The first-year curriculum builds a solid base covering three design tracks: communications, products, and environments. The coursework exposes students to design more broadly and helps them develop their interests and talents before moving into more specialty coursework. One of the highlights of the year includes the annual career event, Confluence, which is attended by more than 70 companies looking to fill internships and career opportunities. Carnegie Mellon has an outstanding academic reputation and ranks #25 in national universities by U.S. News and World Report.

#29 – Boston University

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Boston, Massachusetts

Website

Boston University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

A BFA for those seeking graphic design degree programs! Boston University!

Undergraduate Tuition: $55,892

Students seeking a graphic design degree may find the BFA at Boston University’s a plausible option due to its innovative curriculum and dedicated faculty. The program uses a sequenced approach to design within the context of creativity and problem solving that prepares students for success in a fast-paced work environment. Students are mentored carefully by faculty and work on projects that are both open-ended and well defined, which helps students navigate different types of project parameters they may face in the field. The degree consists of 132-semester credits and includes general education courses typically taken during the student’s first two years. Boston University ranks #40 in national universities by U.S. News and World Report.

#28 – Rhode Island School of Design

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Providence, Rhode Island

Website

Rhode Island School of Design - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Small class sizes at Rhode Island School of Design. A top choice for graphic design degrees.

Undergraduate Tuition: $52,860

The Rhode Island School of Design offers a graphic design degree focusing on the development of analytical problem solving and creative design processes that culminate in a bachelor of fine arts degree with a major in graphic design. The institution offers small class sizes and dedicated studio space for students to explore and hone their craft. First-year foundational courses include first-year literature seminar, spatial dynamics I, and theory and history of art and design I: global modernism. Towards the end of the degree, the coursework culminates in a challenging, largely self-defined project that exhibits student mastery in the conceptual and applied aspects of the degree program.

#27 – California Institute of the Arts

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Valencia, California

Website

California Institute of the Arts - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Study graphic design at the California Institute of Arts.

Undergraduate Tuition: $51,466

California Institute of the Arts provides undergraduate students with a transformative graphic design degree blending conceptual and practical design coursework along with a comprehensive general education curriculum incorporating socio-cultural, political, and ethical considerations. In addition to the bachelor of fine arts degree, students can also earn a minor in digital arts, which prepares them to integrate and operate digital platforms used for engineering and design purposes. Coursework may include digital design, graphic design, intro to digital photography, and professional practice for graphic design. The degree culminates in a student portfolio that is uniquely their creation and highlights student mastery and uniqueness.

#26 – California College of the Arts

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

San Francisco, California

Website

California College of the Arts - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Earn a bachelor’s in graphic design at California College of the Arts!

Undergraduate Tuition: $51,092

The graphic design degree at California College of the Arts utilizes cutting edge software and technology that prepares students for a wide range of design careers. Students learn skills that prepare them for professional practice such as motion graphics, interactive media, Illustrator, InDesign, and more. The core of the curriculum begins and ends with three sequence courses of graphic design and typography. These classes teach the foundational principles and concepts regarding form and craft. While the program is grounded in applied skill-building, students also learn about the social, cultural, and political influences of art and technology within the context of society and the individual.

#25 – Maryland Institute College of Art

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Baltimore, Maryland

Website

Maryland Institute College of Art - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Gain pre-professional experience at Maryland Institute College of Art – a top choice for graphic design degrees.

Undergraduate Tuition: $50,330

Potential graphic design majors asking what can you do with a graphic design degree will discover the abundance of occupations and settings a graphic design degree affords. At Maryland Institute College of Art, students engage in pre-professional experiences during their junior and senior years that prepare them for entrance into the professional world. The faculty are leading professionals in their respective fields and utilize their social and occupational capital to help students land internships, freelance opportunities, and post-graduation jobs. The 120-credit curriculum includes both general education courses across the liberal arts as well as design courses. Classes may include cartographies, contemporary practices, and history of graphic design.

#24 – Otis College of Art and Design

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Los Angeles, California

Website

Otis College of Art and Design - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Otis College of Art and Design offers a bachelor’s in graphic design.

Undergraduate Tuition: $48,380

Students considering majoring in graphic design want to know what can you do with a graphic design degree. Otis College of Art and Design helps students discover their latent artistic and creative talents while preparing them for one of several career paths in design. The curriculum broadly focuses on graphic design and illustration and has several alumni working for organizations such as Apple, Guess, and Capital Records doing web design, branding development, package design, and much more. An upside to graphic design is the amount of practical utility built into the major. Aside from coursework, students spend numerous hours in the lab honing and mastering the very skills they will be doing on the job.

#23 – Art Center College of Design

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Pasadena, California

Website

Art Center College of Design - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Art Center College of Design – an ideal choice for a top graphic design degree.

Undergraduate Tuition: $44,932

Art Center College of Design provides an undergraduate graphic design degree utilizing innovative coursework to foster creativity, critical thinking, and professionalism amongst its students. Art Center’s pedagogical approach focuses on transmedia fluency, which encompasses art and its associated practice as essential tools for communication within several contexts, not just commercial enterprises. The program is designed for generalists who enjoy producing work across a variety of mediums as well as specialists who are passionate about a specific medium. The faculty also help students to identify their personal affinities, strengths, and weaknesses as they relate to design. The program is designed to be completed in four years.

#22 – Cleveland Institute of Art

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Cleveland, Ohio

Website

Cleveland Institute of Art - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Gain practical skills! Cleveland Institute of Art’s bachelor’s in graphic design.

Undergraduate Tuition: $43,305

Cleveland Institute of Art offers undergraduates a graphic design degree with transformative, cutting edge curriculum that is consistently updated to reflect the dramatic changes occurring in the industry. Despite the rapid advancements of the field, coursework also stays true to time tested design principles and concepts. Students engage in radical forms of self-expression through a variety of media that help them discover their artistic style and talents while preparing them for successful careers in graphic design or further schooling. Cleveland Institute of Art prides itself in engaged practice through working with outside institutions and clients on real-world projects with actual stakes.

#21 – Savanna College of Art and Design

Online Bachelor’s in Fine Arts

Savannah, Georgia

Website

Savannah College of Art and Design - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Earn an online BFA at Savanna College of Art and Design.

Undergraduate Tuition: $38,075

Savanna College of Art and Design offers a graphic design online degree resulting in a bachelor’s of fine arts with a major in graphic design. One of the few online BFA degrees, the program is designed for undergraduate students who are unable to take seated courses or who prefer the flexibility and convenience of an online degree. The online degree focuses on developing artistic skills in combination with sound business and professional practices to help advance the graduate’s career opportunities. Graduates are part artist, storyteller, entrepreneur, and tech expert. The resulting confluence of skills makes for a strong candidate sought after by top organizations.

#20 – California Baptist University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design and Digital Media

Riverside, California

Website

California Baptist University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Earn an online graphic design degree at California Baptist University.

Undergraduate Tuition: $34,882

California Baptist University offers an online graphic design degree designed for working individuals seeking a new career or wishing to advance in the graphic design field. The program focuses on helping graduates be competitive for the workforce by teaching skills and concepts in web design, typography, photography, imaging, scripting, and more. In addition, students learn how to solve complex problems using critical thinking through design solutions. Courses may include fundamental design, history of graphic design, and intermediate composition. Admission requirements include 24 transferable credits or a high school diploma or its equivalent along with a 2.0 minimum GPA. The average completion is only 16 months.

#19 – Upper Iowa University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Fayette, Iowa

Website

Upper Iowa University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Ranked by U.S. News and World Report! Upper Iowa University’s online bachelor’s in graphic design.

Undergraduate Tuition: $31,685

Upper Iowa University enjoys a solid regional academic as evidenced by its U.S. News and World Report ranking of #117 in regional universities Midwest and #86 in top performers in social mobility. The institution offers an excellent online graphic design degree for undergraduates seeking to advance in their current graphic design career or break into the field as a competitive candidate. Through the School of Business and Professional Studies, the degree is online and therefore allows students to continue their current obligations in an uninterrupted manner while completing a college degree. Students engage in rigorous coursework learning technical and problem-solving skills within the context of print publications, advertising, web design, multi-media, and more.

#18 – Southern New Hampshire University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Manchester, New Hampshire

Website

Southern New Hampshire University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

A top choice for an online graphic design degree – SNHU!

Undergraduate Tuition: $31,136

The online graphic design degree at Southern New Hampshire University is known for its flexibility and innovative curriculum that helps prepare graduates into the workforce prepared to excel on the job. The institution is ranked in several U.S. News and World Report categories including #92 in regional universities North and #1 in most innovative schools. Students learn advanced technical skills along with fundamental graphic design concepts and critical thinking methods. Students can choose from concentrations in 3D modeling and animation or web design. Graduates can go on to any number of successful careers such as creative director, multimedia designer, production artist, logo design, marketing specialist, and more.

#17 – Columbia College

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Chicago, Illinois

Website

Columbia College - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Ranked by U.S. News! Columbia College’s graphic design degree.

Undergraduate Tuition: $27,756

Many new college students often wonder what can you do with a graphic design degree. The undergraduate program at Columbia College of Chicago answers the question emphatically through its dynamic curriculum taught by professors with an abundance of industry experience. The program is designed to give students the tools to launch a career in visual communication through a variety of mediums. Students can choose from concentrations in publication design or web design. Students get plenty of hands-on work through internships and lab time where they can work on and hone their craft. Columbia College ranks in several U.S. News and World Report categories such as #105 in regional universities Midwest and #13 in most innovative schools.

#16 – Kentucky Wesleyan College

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Owensboro, Kentucky

Website

Kentucky Wesleyan College - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

One of the few online bachelor’s in graphic design programs on our list! Kentucky Wesleyan College.

Undergraduate Tuition: $27,200

Kentucky Wesleyan College’s online graphic design degree prepares students for a fast-paced career in the competitive field of graphic design and visual communications. Students take foundational courses in drawing and design courses before moving on to advanced coursework in typography, branding, publication, web design, and more. The online nature of the program allows students to work towards the degree while maintaining their current obligations such as family and work. In fact, the vast majority of students are working professionals either starting college for the first time or finishing up their degree. Kentucky Wesleyan currently ranks #16 in regional colleges South by U.S. News and World Report.

#15 – Midway University

Online Bachelor’s in Marketing Communication and Graphic Design

Midway, Kentucky

Website

Midway University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

An online graphic design degree! Midway University!

Undergraduate Tuition: $24,850

Founded in 1847, Midway University offers an online graphic design degree that focuses on branding, visual marketing, business, and graphic design. The comprehensive coursework enables graduates to exit the program as competitive candidates with relevant skill sets and knowledge. Courses include animation, brand management, digital storytelling, and social media management. The balance of building conceptual design frameworks with practical skill-building means the graduate will be well rounded and able to solve complex design projects and design initiatives within several different business contexts. Midway currently ranks #73 in regional universities South and #3 in top performers in social mobility by U.S. News and World Report.

#14 – Full Sail University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Winter Park, Florida

Website

Full Sail University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Only 29 months for the online graphic design degree at Full Sail University.

Undergraduate Tuition: $24,513

Full Sail University offers an online graphic design degree intersecting business and design. Graduates learn the creative aspect of design while also learning to navigate the complexities of the industry. Students learn a comprehensive understanding of design – from print to virtual reality and everything in between. Coursework covers the gamut from art history to technical proficiency. The online bachelor’s program is designed to be completed in just 29 months, which saves students time and money and allows them to start their careers quickly. The online format makes it possible for students to continue their non-school commitments uninterrupted while working towards their bachelor’s degree.

#13 – Academy of Art University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

San Francisco, California

Website

Academy of Art University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Robust online curriculum! Academy of Art University’s online bachelor’s in graphic design!

Undergraduate Tuition: $23,412

The Academy of Art University offers a graphic design degree online featuring a robust curriculum taught by highly trained faculty with industry experience. Students are evaluated on four broad categories including critical and creative thinking, conceptual skills, formal skills, and professional readiness. These foci ensure the graduate is a well-rounded practitioner prepared for the workforce. The online nature of the degree means students can complete coursework and projects in an asynchronous fashion with no set times to be online. The flexibility and rigor help students develop self-motivation while acclimating to the concept of meeting deadlines and turning in quality deliverables.

#12 – Liberty University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Lynchburg, Virginia

Website

Liberty University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

100% online graphic design degree – Liberty University.

Undergraduate Tuition: $22,747

Liberty University’s online graphic design degree is a 120-credit program divided into 8-week courses. The curriculum is 100% online for maximum efficiency and flexibility and allows students to transfer in up to 75% of the 120 credits. In addition to online coursework, students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience participating in practicums and supervised internships, which not only develop creative and professional skill sets but also increase the student’s marketability. Featured classes include digital imaging, graphic design, history of art, and introduction to graphic design. Liberty University is a Christian institution and infuses its curriculum with religious principles. U.S. News and World Report ranks Liberty #293 in national universities.

#11 – Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Lakewood, Colorado

Website

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Flexible online graphic design degree – RMCAD!

Undergraduate Tuition: $19,670

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design offers a graphic design degree online designed for individuals seeking a flexible course delivery with challenging coursework taught by trained and experienced faculty. Students exit the program well versed in the latest industry tools along with time-tested design principles. Students learn typography, visual storytelling, and the latest design software while engaging in written and verbal presentations with real-world clients. Applicants are required to submit a portfolio of their work along with official high school or college transfer transcripts. Full financial aid packages and scholarships are available to those who qualify and complete the FAFSA.

#10 – Temple University

Bachelor’s in Graphic and Interactive Design

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Website

Temple University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Affordable and online! Temple University’s graphic design degree program.

Undergraduate Tuition: $16,970

Temple University’s graphic design degree trains students to navigate the entire design process from conceptualization to finished product. The curriculum focuses on professional discipline combined with the right amount of creative thinking for a well-balanced design professional able to deliver quality and unique projects on time and within budget. Students practice their skills on a variety of media from tactile materials to virtual reality, which gives them both breadth and depth to their skillsets and helps them to hone in on their passions. Seniors focus on the completion of a unique portfolio that can be used throughout the graduate’s career.

#9 – Virginia Commonwealth University

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Richmond, Virginia

Website

Virginia Commonwealth University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Multiple rankings with U.S. News! Virginia Commonwealth – a top choice for a graphic design degree.

Undergraduate Tuition: $14,596

Virginia Commonwealth University’s graphic design degree is buoyed by an excellent academic reputation as evidenced by its multiple rankings in U.S. News and World Report. The program takes a scaffold approach where freshman learn the foundational principles of professionalism and design followed by intensive practice beginning their sophomore year. The junior year entails freedom of expression and experimentation with text, images, and materials as well as the underlying socio-political meanings and consequences of various mediums and messages. Students then focus on refining their skills and passions during the senior year as they prepare for graduation and employment as they complete their studies.

#8 – Independence University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Salt Lake City, Utah

Website

Independence University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

In 37 months, earn an online graphic design degree! Independence University.

Undergraduate Tuition: $14,585

Students looking for a graphic design degree online may want to consider the program at Independence University. The curriculum can be completed in just 37 months and prepares the student for a design-related career or further schooling. Graduates most commonly move on to careers as graphic designer, web designer, production artist, multimedia artist, art director, and more. The program is practitioner-based with a focus on practical skills in the latest technologies such as InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and more. In addition, students learn foundational concepts in design while faculty help foster creativity and professionalism. The program can be best described as flexible, employment-focused, and flexible.

#7 – Pennsylvania State University World Campus

Online Bachelor’s in Digital Multimedia Design

University Park, Pennsylvania

Website

Pennsylvania State University World Campus - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

A top choice for a graphic design degree – Pennsylvania State University World Campus.

Undergraduate Tuition: $13,988

The goal of the Penn State World Campus online graphic design degree is to create graduates to become leaders in the various creative industries in which they become part of. The curriculum focuses on the development of a competent and create design professional able to handle the complex and fast-paced environment of design that requires professionalism, creativity, and skill. Graduates go on to careers in various industries including technology, media, production, design, and marketing. The diversity of the degree allows students to choose the field and medium they are most passionate about. Courses include digital multimedia design foundations, introduction to application development, and introduction to digital art and design criticism. And because the entire degree is online, students have maximum flexibility and time to complete their studies.

#6 – University of California

Bachelor’s in Design Media Arts

Los Angeles, California

Website

University of California - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Offering an online bachelor’s in design media arts! University of California.

Undergraduate Tuition: $13,240

UCLA offers a graphic design degree that has featured several graduates who have gone on to national and international acclaim in the industry. The curriculum helps students develop a solid foundation in typography, interactive media, color, form, and space. Students spend innumerable hours in the lab working on their craft and developing their acumen and skill. In addition, students learn critical design concepts and how design impacts culture, politics, race, gender, and more. UCLA enjoys a worldwide reputation as one of the finest institutions in the world backed by multiple U.S. News and World Report rankings such as #20 in national universities, #1 in top public schools, and #27 in most innovative schools.

#5 – University of Georgia

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Athens, Georgia

Website

University of Georgia - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Earn a bachelor’s in graphic design that’s highly affordable at University of Georgia!

Undergraduate Tuition: $12,080

The Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia offers a graphic design degree specializing in design and communication. In particular, skills and concepts such as typography, information hierarchy, concept development, and visual exploration are emphasized in the course and lab work. Students desiring to major in graphic design must enroll in ARGD 2010 to become eligible for the major. Prospective students must also submit a student portfolio. Graduates have gone on to prestigious careers in organizations such as Facebook, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CNN, and Evernote. Faculty bring a wide range of industry and teaching experience and are able to impart their wisdom and skill to the student who is able to exit the program as a skilled professional ready to contribute to the design needs of any firm.

#4 – Arizona State University

Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Tempe, Arizona

Website

Arizona State University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Ranked by U.S. News! ASU’s graphic design degree program!

Undergraduate Tuition: $11,338

Arizona State University answers the question for students wondering what can you do with a graphic design degree. The program is housed in the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts and is committed to helping students develop their artistic skill and professionalism through the completion of its bachelor of arts in graphic design. The program rests on solid design and sustainability principles where students develop their intellectual creativity before unleashing and honing it working on projects in the lab. Upper-division studio courses allow students to work in singular and collaborative environments honing their craft and preparing for the workforce. Arizona State ranks #1 in most innovative schools by U.S. News and World Report.

#3 – Rasmussen College

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Bloomington, Minnesota

Website

Rasmussen College - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

A top online graphic design degree program – Rasmussen College!

Undergraduate Tuition: $10,935

Rasmussen College offers an online graphic design degree with specializations in animation and motion graphics or web and interactive design. The curriculum is constantly updated to reflect the latest industry needs so that graduates are well versed in the concepts, design skills, and technology required to be competitive job candidates upon graduation. In addition to design skills including audio/video editing, interactive design, graphic animation, and more, students learn transferable skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication literacy all within the context of the graphic design industry. Graduates exit the program as comprehensive graphic design professionals able to produce timely deliverables as needed.

#2 – Bellevue University

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design

Bellevue, Nebraska

Website

Bellevue University - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

Bellevue University’s online bachelor’s in graphic design is one of the most affordable on our list.

Undergraduate Tuition: $7,851

Bellevue University’s online graphic design degree focuses on developing students’ skills in print and web design using the latest technology tools combined with sound design principles. The program combines hands-on learning and theory in an online manner that allows students to work towards their bachelor’s degree without interrupting their other obligations such as work and family. The comprehensive curriculum prepares students through transformative experiences resulting in a dedicated graphic design professional with the knowledge and skills needed to excel on the job. The 127-credit program includes courses such as fundamentals of print design, fundamentals of web design, history of contemporary graphic design, and problem-solving and idea generation.

#1 – University of Maryland Global Campus

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Communication

Adelphi, Maryland

Website

University of Maryland Global Campus - Top 30 Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2020

#1 most affordable graphic design degree on our list! University of Maryland Global!

Undergraduate Tuition: $7,560

The University of Maryland Global Campus ranks as our number one online graphic design degree due to its affordable tuition, flexible curriculum, and outstanding faculty. The program is a portfolio-based degree resulting in an innovative set of projects aimed toward client and employment acquisition. Graduates are well prepared for design careers in many industries such as private business, government, education, and more. In addition to design skills and principles, students learn the business side of the industry and occupation while learning to develop comprehensive business plans that include timelines and budgets. Courses may include advanced graphic communication professional branding, digital media, and typography and layout.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the admission requirements for undergraduate graphic design degree programs?

Below we discuss the admission requirements for an undergraduate graphic design degree. While most admission requirements are similar, it is important to note that each institution and department may have its own set of unique provisions.

Admission to a bachelor’s program in graphic design requires a two-step process. The first step is gaining admission to the institution at large. This typically entails submitting an admission application such as the Common Application where students must upload important documents such as high school transcripts, counselor recommendation letters, standardized test scores, and the like.

Upon admission to the university, students will take undergraduate general education requirements in disciplines such as natural sciences, social sciences, mathematics, humanities, and English. In lieu of applying to a four-year institution, students can also apply for admission to a community college to take these courses then transfer them to the baccalaureate institution upon approval. Typically in the sophomore year, students take a survey course in graphic design or art and are ready to apply for the graphic design major. In addition to pre-requisite coursework, which is generally 1-3 courses, students submit a portfolio of their artistic work and are interviewed by faculty within the department before an admission decision is rendered. Along with interviews and prerequisite courses, graphic design departments also require students to have a minimum GPA to apply.

What can you do with a graphic design degree?

Today’s graphic design careers blend art, technology, and business. The vast majority of graphic design careers focus on the digital side of the industry with technology playing an integral, if not the most important, role in terms of gainful employment and upward career mobility. While graphic design programs vary by institution, the majority of them have a substantial portion of their curriculum dedicated to digital design platforms and technology.

The most common career is graphic designer. These professionals work for a variety of industries including public, private, and non-profit entities. A graphic designer’s main function is to develop graphics and layouts for websites, company logos, product illustrations, and organizational messaging. The job duties cover a wide range of tasks across virtually any industry.

Graphic design graduates who possess industry experience can go on to become creative directors who provide the vision for a particular project and organization. They lead teams of designers and other professionals to create deliverables for in-house and external clients. The job involves creative vision, management, leadership, and budgetary skills.

Another popular career for graphic design graduates is the user experience designer. The professionals are tasked with making products and services simple and intuitive for users. This career is a good fit for technically savvy designers who enjoy refining the design and user processes using the latest technology tools.

What is the job outlook for individuals with a graphic design degree?

According to data collected by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is best described as bifurcated by industry. The overall growth is expected to be fairly flat at three percent from 2018 to 2028. For context, the three percent increase lags behind the five percent overall growth for all occupations. When drilling down into the data, it shows an industry with segments that are in severe decline and extreme growth.

When dissecting the industry, the employment of graphic designers in the book, newspaper, and magazine industries is expected to decline a staggering 22 percent during the ten-year period from 2018-2028. The drop is portended by the move away from hard copy products to digital environments. However, to offset the steep decline of hard copy products, graphic design employment is expected to grow 24 percent over the same timeframe. The accretion in demand will be driven by graphic design projects within a digital environment using the latest design technology tools and platforms.

Candidates who focus on the digital aspects of design including digital design principles and skills will be more competitive for job openings as they better match the skills required by today’s organizations. Conversely, those with lagging digital skillsets may choose to take continuing education and professional development courses to increase their employability.

How long does it take to complete a graphic design degree?

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design can take anywhere from 2.5-4 years to complete. The average time to completion varies greatly by institution and delivery method. For on-campus, traditional semester/quarterly programs, the time to complete is generally four years when attending full-time. The first two years consist of general education courses that all students have to take followed by two years of graphic design courses. In terms of maximum timeframes, this varies by institution with the average being ten years.

Some on-campus programs that follow competency-based education models can be completed in as little as two years. These types of programs do not follow a chronological calendar. Rather, they allow the student to accelerate through courses once they have mastered the curriculum, which can be a specific skill, knowledge, or both.

Online bachelor’s programs in graphic design are known for their flexibility. As such, the timelines vary between 2-4 years with the majority taking 3-4 years. They take longer due to the sheer number of credits required compared to master’s degrees. For example, the average master’s degree is 30 credits in contrast to a bachelor’s degree that is 120 credits. Online programs often allow students to transfer in a large number of general education courses taken at a different university, college, or community college. This may shorten the timeframe so it is a good idea for the potential student to check the online program’s transfer policies.

How much money can I earn with a graphic design degree?

Data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows graphic designers earn a median (average) annual salary of $50,370. Compared to the national average of $38,640 for all occupations, which shows graphic designers earning an average salary make over 30% more than the average worker. When looking at the spectrum of graphic design pay, the data shows the top ten percent of earners make $85,760 per year while the lowest ten percent earn an annual wage of $29,610. Several factors determine salary levels including industry, organization, level of experience, and education.

When looking at industry-related pay, graphic designers working in advertising, public relations, and related services earn the highest wages with a median salary of $51,380 followed closely by specialized design service designers that earn $51,320. Low-level graphic design jobs in newspapers, periodicals, and printing earn far less with average salaries of $43,450 and $40,170 respectively.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, geographic location is a salient factor as it relates to salary. States with a high cost of living such as California and New York pay the highest salaries with New York coming in at number one with a median salary of $66,870 followed by California at $63,710.

CVO Staff
April 2020

This concludes our list of top 30 best graphic design degree programs of 2020.

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