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Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

A master’s in graphic design develops students for management positions in the graphic design field in industries ranging from marketing and advertising to web design, publishing, digital communications, healthcare, and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graphic designers earn a median annual salary of $50,710, and employment in the field will grow by 3% through 2031. Meanwhile, art directors earn a median annual salary of $100,890, and jobs are predicted to increase by 4% in the next decade.

An online master’s in graphic design can take 1-2 years to complete, depending on the total number of credits required by the program. Average tuition for master’s programs at U.S. schools was $12,394 at public schools and $26,621 at private schools during the 2020-21 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Graphic Design Program

Do you prefer designing websites, illustrating books, or creating logos? Identifying what interests you most about graphic design and what type of job opportunities you’re seeking will help you be more purposeful in your search for the right graphic design master’s program.

Students should also consider whether they want a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in graphic design. MFA programs focus on honing students’ artistic abilities and expanding their portfolios. Students who want a broader range of courses in areas relevant to graphic design may want to explore an MA program.

Other parameters to consider when creating your criteria for schools include what type of online program you want (synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid), if you want to complete an internship or other hands-on learning experience, and if you’re seeking a full-time or part-time program.

Research schools and programs

Confirm that the program is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as well as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). These accreditations confirm that the program offers high-quality education and that students will be eligible for financial aid, future post-secondary employment options, and job opportunities.

To learn more about programs, visit the school’s website, contact the admissions office, check online reviews and social media profiles to see its public reputation, and attend virtual open houses and information sessions.

Some of the questions you should get answers to during this research process include:

  • Can you afford the cost of the program? What scholarships and financial aid are available?
  • What networking opportunities are available?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their qualifications?
  • Does the program require hands-on experience, like an internship?
  • What are the program’s retention, graduation, and job placement rates?
  • Does the curriculum match your interests and career goals?

Prepare for tests and applications

Get a headstart on the many other applicants by reviewing the program deadlines and application requirements and staying organized with a checklist.

Many programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher, a resume, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a statement of purpose that explains to admission officers why you desire a master’s in graphic design and your career goals. Your resume should accentuate your graphic design experience and applicable certifications.

Some schools may require GRE scores, although for art degrees it’s more common for students to submit a portfolio of recent graphic design work. Contact the school’s admission office to confirm exactly what materials applicants must submit.

Select your program

Review the information you gathered on potential schools, and eliminate any that don’t meet your needs in terms of curriculum, schedule, or cost. Some students may only apply to one or two programs based on their specific interests or needs, while others submit several applications to increase the odds of acceptance. Students applying to multiple programs should remember that most schools charge application fees and budget accordingly.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for need-based aid like federal work-study, state and federal grants, institutional scholarships, and federal loans. You can also research merit-based scholarships and grants from professional development organizations, non-profits, community and religious groups, and more.

Students who will be working while enrolled in an online master’s in graphic design program should find out if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits. Veterans and active military service members should find out if the school offers military discounts and accepts GI Bill benefits.

Any questions about financial aid, student loans, and tuition should be directed to the school’s financial aid office.

The Top 8 Online Master’s in Graphic Design Programs

Best Online Master's in Graphic Design Degree Programs

Liberty University

Quinnipiac University

Ball State University

Savannah College of Art and Design

Arizona State University

Aurora University

Kutztown University

Brandeis University

Fort Hays State University

Jacksonville University

Kennesaw State University

Lindenwood University

Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Harvard Extension School

Texas State University

University of Florida

University of Wisconsin at Stout

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How We Rank Schools

We focused our research for this list on master’s-level programs in graphic design. The programs we reviewed offer Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees.

These programs are delivered in a variety of formats, including online, on-campus, and low-residency. The schools that we reviewed are all regionally accredited institutions, which guarantees that they meet high standards of quality for secondary education. Several programs also have programmatic accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), which sets standards for quality education in art and design degrees.

Our team reviewed each program on the basis of cost, coursework, reputation, flexibility, and faculty. We then assigned each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

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

Curricula are unique in individual programs with similar skills found in all. Expect a program to require 60 credit hours over two years. If you didn’t major in graphic design in college, some schools offer three-year programs.

The majority of programs concentrating on practical skills training give MFA degrees. M.A. and M.S. degrees are popular at some schools, and you might encounter a Master of Design or MDes. Business administration and MBAs sometimes offer a master’s in design. Decide which degrees will help you achieve your goals. Teaching graphic design at the college level requires a program focusing on writing and research.

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

  • Brand Redevelopment. The course addresses the role of graphic design in advertising products and services. Class activities involve analyzing well-known brand development samples. Students create graphics for new products.
  • Design Integration. Students discover new ways to implement design in projects while critiquing classmates. This is usually a first-year course.
  • Publication Design. Using artwork in book layouts, typography, artwork, magazines, and other periodicals is featured. Students study visual storytelling principles and apply them to their creative work.
  • Design research. Graphic designers learn new technologies and peer collaboration. Research methods and the most current design tools are emphasized.
  • Interactive Design. The focus is on exploring how to improve website performance and applications. Interfaces play a role. Interactive technologies and advanced visual theories are applied to create interactive environments.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Graphic Design?

Career outlook

An online master’s degree in graphic design offers a gateway to a dynamic and creative field that intersects art, technology, and communication. Graphic designers are visual storytellers, shaping the visual aspects of brands, publications, and digital experiences. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a graphic designer earns a median salary of $57,990. The field is expected to grow by about three percent over the coming decade, with the need for nearly 9,000 new professionals to enter the industry to meet demand.

Career paths

The career outlook for graphic designers with a master’s degree is promising, fueled by the increasing demand for innovative and visually appealing content across various industries and in a broad range of media. An online master’s degree in graphic design provides opportunities to specialize in various design areas and assume leadership positions within the industry. Here are a few examples of career paths open to an individual with a master’s degree in graphic design:

  • User experience (UX) designer — optimizes the layout, navigation, and overall usability of digital products and platforms to create satisfying and efficient interactions.
  • Packaging designer — creates the visual elements for product packaging, considering aesthetics, functionality, and the ability to grab consumer attention.
  • Digital illustrator — creates digital artwork for a variety of media, from book covers to animation.
  • Brand identity designer — creates and maintains the visual identity of brands, designing logos, color schemes, and typography to represent a brand’s personality and values.
  • Publication designer — lays out content for magazines, books, and digital publications.

Art Director

Earning Potential: $121,488-$172,066 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in art, illustration, graphic design, or a related field

Art directors shape the visual style and content of various media projects. They oversee the artistic and design aspects of advertisements, publications, films, and marketing campaigns. Art directors work closely with design teams, copywriters, and clients to ensure that the visual elements effectively convey the intended message and align with the brand’s identity. They make decisions on layout, color schemes, typography, and visual elements to create visually appealing and compelling content. Art directors play a pivotal role in establishing and maintaining a consistent and engaging visual identity for brands and media projects, combining artistic creativity with strategic vision.

Creative Director

Earning Potential: $122,496-$171,231 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in art, illustration, graphic design, or a related field

Creative directors are visionary leaders responsible for shaping the overall creative direction and strategy of organizations and projects. They manage and inspire creative teams, including designers, writers, and marketers, to align their work with the organization’s goals and brand identity. Creative directors oversee the development of visual and content elements, ensuring they resonate with the target audience and convey the desired message. They make decisions on design, storytelling, and communication strategies, fostering innovation and excellence in creative work. Creative directors play a pivotal role in setting the tone for branding, advertising, and marketing initiatives, ensuring that they are not only visually striking but also aligned with the overarching creative vision.

Web Designer

Earning Potential: $59,939-$74,962 annually
Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in IT, web design, graphic design, or a related field

Web designers create visually appealing and functional websites. They focus on a site’s aesthetics, layout, and user experience, ensuring it is visually engaging and user-friendly. Web designers use their design skills to craft the look and feel of web pages, incorporating elements like graphics, typography, and color schemes. They also work on site navigation, ensuring a seamless and intuitive user experience. Web designers collaborate with clients and developers to bring web projects to life, translating ideas and requirements into visually stunning and well-structured websites. Their work plays a crucial role in shaping the online presence and branding of businesses and organizations.

Online Master’s in Graphic Design Degree Frequently Asked Questions

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

The first step is to confirm all application requirements and deadlines with the school’s admissions office. They can also advise students on how to submit their application and supplemental materials. Most schools now accept applications through their websites, although some may want hard copies of transcripts.

If you’re applying to multiple schools, stay organized with a spreadsheet or checklist. This can help ensure you submit all required application materials by the deadline.

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

This will vary based on factors unique to the student and the school. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in the 2021-21 school year,  the average tuition for graduate programs was $26,621 at private institutions and $12,394 at public universities.

Students should also consider additional costs like school fees for technical support, online classroom technology, and student support services, as well as upgrades to their own hardware and internet service.

Attending an online program can save students money since they don’t have to pay for gas, parking, or public transportation to campus, and they have more flexibility to live in affordable areas and manage their living expenses.

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

This primarily depends on how many credits the program requires and whether students are enrolled full-time or part-time. For example, a full-time student can usually complete a 30-credit program in one year, while a part-time student might take 18 months to two years to finish. Meanwhile, students who want to finish in as little time as possible could seek out an accelerated program, which condenses coursework into a shorter timetable.

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

An online master’s degree in graphic design enhances your design skills and opens doors to diverse career opportunities within the field. With the growing importance of visual communication in the digital age, graphic designers play a pivotal role in creating impactful and engaging visual content across various industries. Graphic designers with a master’s degree are likely candidates for leadership positions that offer competitive salaries and challenging but satisfying work descriptions. A UX designer, for example, makes a median salary of $104,300, according to data from

Master’s-level education offers advanced coursework and projects that allow for specialization in areas like branding, digital design, or illustration. It also encourages creative exploration and experimentation, expanding design skills and enabling the creation of a robust portfolio of work.

Online programs offer increased flexibility, making them an excellent choice for adult learners who may have other personal or professional commitments. There are also opportunities in an online program to develop a network of peers, faculty, and industry professionals across the country through internships or other networking possibilities.

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