Why This Matters


    Graphic design is a flexible degree that can lead to a broad range of careers in the creative industry, such as art direction, commercial illustration, product development, and user experience (UX) design.


    More than 20% of graphic designers are self-employed. Freelancers have the freedom to work from anywhere with Wi-Fi, set their own rates, and select their own clients and projects.


    Graphic designers work in a range of industries, from computer systems design to manufacturing. Those in the top industries, such as advertising, can earn among the highest wages in their field.

Our Research

Students can obtain an education in graphic design at multiple levels. Our list includes associate and bachelor’s degrees in graphic design, as well as certificate programs. The type of degree you select will be based on your current level of education and professional goals.

The schools on our list hold both regional and national accreditation. Several have also been awarded accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). This organization sets standards of quality for design and art degrees. We reviewed programs that are offered online, in person, and in blended formats.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 76 hours to write this article
  • 188 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 394 education programs we compared

The Top 51 Graphic Design Degree Programs

Best Graphic Design Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

Overall employment of graphic designers is projected to decline slightly over the next decade because of a decline in newspaper, periodical, and book publishing as companies increase their digital presence. But certain industries are expected to grow faster than average, such as computer systems design and related services. There will be competition for graphic design jobs, which is why earning a degree and building a strong portfolio will be important to establishing a successful graphic design career.

The median salary for graphic designers is $52,110, but experienced graphic designers may advance to much higher-paying roles, such as art director. Other occupations that are adjacent to graphic design include animator, drafter, industrial designer, multimedia artist, and web developer. A graphic design degree will typically provide you with hands-on training and experience with cutting-edge computer and software technologies needed to start in many related occupations.

Creativity is key for graphic designers, but in most cases, you’ll be conceptualizing and producing creative assets for clients. You’ll have to tailor your artistic vision to their needs and preferences to help deliver the clients’ message. As part of your education, you’ll likely receive guidance in this area of professional development.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching graphic design degree programs:

  • How long does it take to complete this degree? The amount of time it takes to earn a graphic design degree depends on several variables. It typically takes four years for a full-time student to earn a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Associate’s programs in graphic design usually take two years to complete. Check the program’s education requirements and suggested course plan to confirm the length of the program.
  • What licensing or certifications are required? Most graphic designers have some kind of formal training, whether it’s a vocational certificate or undergraduate degree, but no other licensing or certifications are typically required. Graphic designers are generally expected to be proficient in Adobe Creative Suite, including InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Adobe XD. Some employers seek graphic designers who also have digital design capabilities, such as knowledge of HTML/CSS.

As you research programs, keep track of application deadlines and materials you must submit for each program. You can usually find this information on the school’s website or by contacting the admissions department.

Financing your education is another important consideration. Be sure to submit financial aid applications on time, and research other sources of funding, including scholarships, grants, and tuition reimbursement benefits from your employer.