Why This Matters

  • ACCESS A WIDE VARIETY OF CREATIVE CAREERS

    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.

  • EARN A LIVING FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD

    19% 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.

  • ENJOY WORK IN A BROAD ARRAY OF INDUSTRIES

    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

This list features some of the best graphic design degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on this list are accredited by the National Associate of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), a reputable organization that assesses visual arts programs for educational excellence and commitment to quality education.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for on-campus students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of graphic design degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 35 Graphic Design Degree Programs

Best Graphic Design Degree Programs 2023
01
Intelligent Pick
Rhode Island School of Design
01
Best Design Studio
UF College of the Arts
01
Best Electives
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
01
Best Master's Degree Program
Iowa State University College of Design
01
Best Student Organizations
University of Minnesota at Twin Cities
01
Best in the West
California College of the Arts
01
Most Customizable
State University of New York at Oswego
01
Best Global Focus
Appalachian State University
01
Best Job Placement
Wayne State College
01
Best Business Focus
Ferris State University
01

SUNY New Paltz
01

Maryland Institute College of Art
01

Fashion Institute of Technology
01

NC State College of Design
01

Boston University
01

Michigan State University
01

Northwest Missouri State University
01

Weber State University
01

Northeast Community College
01

Endicott College
01

University of Wisconsin at Stout
01

California State University at Fresno
01

Virginia Commonwealth University
01

Texas Christian University
01

Minnesota State University Moorhead
01

Stonehill College
01

Drexel University
01

West Texas A&M University
01

Pratt Institute
01

University of Houston
01

GW Corcoran School of the Arts & Design
01

John Wood Community College
01

Western Michigan University
01

Chapman University
01

University of Central Oklahoma

What You Should Know About This Degree

Overall employment of graphic designers is projected to grow at a relatively slow pace 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 $50,710, 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.