Why This Matters

  • PREPARE FOR MULTIPLE DIVERSE CAREER PATHS

    Graphic designers use their skills and talents in many different capacities, including publishing designer, product development, advertising, user experience, and more.

  • 22% OF GRAPHIC DESIGNERS ARE SELF-EMPLOYED

    In addition to learning advanced design skills, earning a master’s in graphic design will give you networking and opportunities beneficial for freelancers.

  • COMPUTER SYSTEMS DESIGN JOBS RISING BY 24%

    Designers with experience creating websites are in particular demand, as more companies expand their online presence to attract customers and provide services.

Our Research

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 of 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. Our top picks for the best online master’s in graphic design are cost-effective, well-respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 68 hours to write this article
  • 171 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 413 education programs we compared

The Top 10 Online Master’s in Graphic Design Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Graphic design is a bachelor’s-level entry field. Earning a master’s degree can give working graphic designers advanced skills, or help individuals transition into graphic design from other fields. However, in many cases, graphic designers advance their careers through hands-on experience, not education. When considering a master’s in graphic design, it’s important to think about your career goals, educational background, and current experience to determine the best way to move your career forward.

Although employment in areas like computer systems design is growing at a faster-than-average pace, overall job growth in graphic design is expected to be slower than average through 2028. This is partially due to a decline in newspaper, periodical, and book publishing. There will be competition for jobs, which is why earning a degree, building a strong portfolio, and networking through your university will be key to a successful graphic design career.

Creativity is key for graphic designers, but in most cases, you will be designing a product for a client, not for yourself. You must learn how to tailor your artistic vision to the client’s needs and preferences, and sometimes work with tight parameters and difficult people. As part of your education, you will likely get guidance and experience in this area of professional development.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching MHA programs:

  • Are there in-person requirements? Even if coursework is delivered online, some programs may require on-campus attendance for orientations, seminars, or thesis activities. Be sure to look at a program’s curriculum to find out what, if any, in-person requirements they have, and confirm that they will fit into your schedule and budget.
  • Does this program require a portfolio? Many graphic design programs, especially those at the graduate level, want to see that candidates have the foundational skills necessary for advanced study. Applicants usually demonstrate this by submitting a portfolio. Find out what the school’s admissions portfolio requirements are, and be prepared to submit your work either digitally or in person.

You should also look at the other admissions requirements and application deadlines while researching programs. You can typically find this information on the school’s website, or by contacting an admissions representative directly.

Financing your graduate degree is another important consideration. At this stage, you should talk to the school about financial aid options like loans, scholarships, and assistantships. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits.