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If you have a passion for creative storytelling, art, and design, an online bachelor’s in graphic design can prepare you for a career as a graphic designer, web designer, or user experience (UX) designer. This degree involves learning about design fundamentals, such as web design, typography, and visual communication, which you can apply across several disciplines, including marketing, advertising, and e-commerce.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 3% for graphic designers from 2021 to 2031, with a median annual salary of about $51,000 in 2021, the most recent year available. Web developers and digital designers have projected job growth of 23%, with a median annual salary of about $78,000.

Bachelor’s degrees generally take about four years to complete, but this can vary depending on the credits you take per semester or academic year. Many schools require 120 to 132 credits to graduate, but some, such as Kentucky Wesleyan College, require 184 credits. As for tuition costs, these range from about $320 per credit to roughly $2,000 per credit, with some variations for in-state and out-of-state students. That comes out to a range of $38,000 to $240,000 for a degree requiring 120 credits.

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

Choose your area of study

A degree in graphic design can prepare graduates to work on everything from logos and product packaging to books and digital media. While learning design fundamentals, you’ll sharpen your skills with technology and various design applications.

Some students gravitate more toward publications, marketing, and advertising, while others find their niche in web development and design. Schools offer different bachelor’s degree programs with different emphases. A bachelor of arts or fine arts is a more liberal arts foundation and prepares students for careers in the arts. A bachelor of science emphasizes more technical training, including motion graphics, interactive design, and 3D modeling.

Some schools offer concentrations in certain design aspects, while others provide internship opportunities so students can create substantial portfolios by graduation.

Research schools and programs

As you consider different schools and programs, check whether each school or program is accredited through the U.S. Department of Education, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, or a regional entity such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Accreditation affects whether the school receives federal financial aid and ensures that the program meets specific educational standards.

Beyond the accreditation status, you’ll also want to note the school’s support services for online students, such as career counseling, mentorship programs, and library services. See if the school has networking opportunities to make industry connections, perhaps through an alumni association. The school’s website, marketing materials, and social media profiles often contain this information. You also can ask program representatives specific questions.

Prepare for tests and applications

Each program varies in its application requirements and process. However, most bachelor’s degree programs in graphic design require:

  • A high school transcript or GED test scores
  • Standardized test scores, such as from the SAT or ACT
  • A personal essay or letter of intent outlining your interest and relevant achievements
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from former teachers or employers

Depending on the program you’re applying to, there might be other prerequisites, such as a minimum GPA or presenting a portfolio of your work. For instance, the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California, requires applicants to submit a portfolio of six to ten projects showing how they communicate ideas through layout, images, and typography.

Select your program

Choosing the best program for you involves weighingeach school’s factorsl against each other and deciding which will make the most sense for you to attend. Some students apply to a single program tailored to their needs and goals, while others submit multiple applications to boost their chances of acceptance. Whatever you decide to do, most schools charge an application fee, a cost that can add up if you apply to several schools. Contact the school for a fee waiver if you’re concerned about these costs.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Every school with an online bachelor’s in graphic design program specifies the financial support students can receive, including work-study, scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and grants. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines federal student loans and need-based institutional aid eligibility.

If you’re already working, your employer may cover some costs through employer tuition assistance benefits, especially if your degree relates to your current job. Talk with your school’s financial aid office for more detailed information about how to pay for your degree.

The Top 26 Online Graphic Design Programs

Best Bachelor's in Graphic Design Programs Badge

Southern New Hampshire University

Liberty University

Bellevue University

Savannah College of Arts and Design

Arizona State University

Penn State World Campus

University of Maryland Global Campus

Kentucky Wesleyan College

Maryville University

Upper Iowa University

Franklin University

Midway University

National University

Regent University

Hodges University

University of Florida

California Baptist University

Northern Vermont University

Southeastern University

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online bachelor’s in graphic design 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. Many of the schools on our list have been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, which assesses the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of design-related programs.

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 online 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 online bachelor’s in graphic design 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.

What Can You Expect from an Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Degree Program?

Online bachelor’s in graphic design programs vary based on the schoo. Still, youu can expect a core curriculum to focus on how art influences visual designs and how visual communication shapes how people reach a target audience. Students work on mastering digital tools to create print and digital advertisements, logos, flyers, websites, digital videos, and other materials for companies and clients.

Those interested in traditional graphic design receive training in using visual elements, such as color and typography, to appeal to consumers and communicate ideas. They’ll gain practice in creating layouts for print and online publications and designing materials for advertising and marketing campaigns.

Those interested in multimedia might learn about designing 3D environments for video games or crafting set designs for films and television. Others might study different software and programming languages to determine the feel, look, and functionality of websites, making them easy to navigate.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online bachelor’s in graphic design degree program

  • History of Graphic Design: Here, students learn about the development of visual communication from its origins through the twentieth century. This course examines the relationships between graphic design and significant social, technological, and industrial influences.
  • Publication Design: Students interested in print and digital publishing learn about page layout and other visual communication aspects. They’ll develop their skills through hands-on projects and discuss how to address common design challenges.
  • Branding: A course like this covers the role of graphic design in branding, analyzing branding strategies, and applying design principles to print and digital projects. Students also learn how to research and address design problems in the branding process.
  • Web Design Fundamentals: Here, students learn the basics of web design, such as user interface design principles, web standards, pattern libraries, and other tools used to create digital products. A course like this typically covers stylesheets and markup languages, such as CSS and HTML.
  • Motion Design: Students in a course like this learn how to design motion graphics for video games, the internet, film, and television. Projects might include opening titles and rolling credit sequences.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Degree?

Graphic designers convey ideas and information through images and design. Therefore these professionals play a key role in communication on both a small and large scale.

Work environments for graphic designers vary. Some work independently as freelancers, while others work for graphic design firms that contract their services to clients. Others  work as in-house graphic designers for magazines, book publishers, film and tv production studios, advertising agencies, or public relations firms. Graphic designers can work in both print and digital media, although some may choose to focus on one or the other.

A bachelor’s degree is typically sufficient to qualify individuals for entry- and mid-level graphic design positions. Those with more experience can work their way up to management positions, like art directors. While a graduate degree in graphic design isn’t usually required for high-level positions, additional education can help individuals polish their skills and stay current with new graphic design software and technology.

Career outlook

  • Graphic designers — Create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers through brochures, advertisements, magazines, and more.
    • Median annual salary: $58,910
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New jobs projected: 22,800 per year
  • Digital designers — Develop, create, and test website or interface layout, functions, and navigation for usability, and are responsible for the look and functionality of the website or interface.
    • Median annual salary: $98,540
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 16%
    • New jobs projected: 19,000 per year
  • Art directors — Oversee the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions by creating the overall design and directing others who develop artwork or layouts.
    • Median annual salary: $106,500
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New jobs projected:  13,800 per year

Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online bachelor’s in graphic design degree program?

Application requirements vary by school. Some schools have an online portal for accepting applications; others might still use traditional mail. Streamlined admissions application systems such as The Common Application, or Common App, enable students to apply to multiple schools through one central hub. If you submit electronically, be sure to have digital or electronic versions of all the required information, such as test scores, college transcripts, work experience, a letter or letters of recommendation, and portfolio examples to demonstrate your graphic design skills. Talk with a school admissions counselor to verify that you have everything the school needs in the correct format and file size.

How much does an online bachelor’s in graphic design degree cost?

Costs range from about $320 to roughly $2,000 per credit, depending on whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. That comes out to about $38,000 to $240,000 for a degree requiring 120 credits, although again, programs vary on the number of credits they need.

By comparison, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says an average undergraduate degree costs just below $26,000 a year from 2020 to 2021 (the most recent statistics available). These costs include tuition and fees for both two-year and four-year programs. These records show the average undergraduate tuition for a public institution is about $19,000 a year compared to nearly $46,000 for a private institution.

Costs also vary depending on fees, the number of credits per course, and other expenses, such as books and course-specific software. You might need to purchase specific design programs or upgrade your home computer to accommodate this software and your coursework.

How long does it take to earn an online bachelor’s in graphic design degree?

While this depends on the curriculum and the school, most schools say their online bachelor’s programs in graphic design take about four years to complete. Attending part-time or full-time affects that timetable, as does the total number of credits involved. However,some schools offerr accelerated learning options and asynchronous learning, where students can meet assignment deadlines at their own pace — a viable option if you’re juggling many responsibilities or you want to move through the program more quickly.

Is an online bachelor's in graphic design worth it?

Studying graphic design at the post-secondary level can help students develop their visual art and design vocabulary and familiarize them with industry-standard software and technologies. They will also create a portfolio of work that they can show to potential employers to demonstrate their capabilities and creativity.

From a financial standpoint, students pursuing a graphic design degree should be mindful that the median annual wage for graphic designers is $58,910, which is slightly above the overall median annual wage for all occupations. While top earners in the field can make over $100,000, choosing an affordable graphic design bachelor’s degree program will likely help set up students for a better return on investment.

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