Graphic Design Trade School
Graphic designers create layouts and concepts for print and digital sources. They use special software programs to design illustrations and create images that communicate a client's message.
A bachelor's degree in graphic design meets the education requirement for most entry-level careers in graphic design. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers earn a median annual salary of over $53,000.
Online graphic design programs train students in design fundamentals, layout, typography, and design software. Learning online makes earning a graphic design degree more accessible to many students, including learners who work full time. An online program also helps prospective graphic design students identify the most affordable graphic design programs.
Our rankings introduce the best online graphic design schools for 2022. This article also covers common courses, career and salary outlook data, and scholarships for graphic design students.
FAQ About Graphic Design Schools
What is graphic design?
The graphic design field communicates messages in visual formats. Advertisements, product packaging, and websites all rely on graphic design to create their visual look.
How long does it take to earn a graphic design degree?
Full-time enrollees typically need four years to earn a bachelor's degree in graphic design. Transfer students and those who choose an accelerated program may graduate sooner.
What kind of graphic design degree can I get?
Many graphic design schools offer degrees at the associate, bachelor's, and master's level. Each degree provides specialized training in graphic design and design software.
Can I study graphic design online?
Yes. Online graphic design programs educate students in a virtual format. In these programs, distance learners complete coursework requirements online.
What is the difference between graphic design and fine art?
Graphic design and fine art professionals both work in visual mediums. However, graphic design professionals typically create visual communications for brands or companies. Fine art professionals express individual creativity.
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Best Graphic Design Schools and Colleges 2022
What are the best graphic design programs for 2022? Our list ranks the top programs to help prospective graphic designers find the right fit for their interests and career goals. We draw on reliable data sources to provide practical guidance on the most affordable graphic design programs.
#1 Best Online Graphic Design Programs 2022
University of Florida-Online
- 4 years
A public institution, University of Florida-Online operates a main campus in Gainesville. Students seeking robust study in the graphic design field will benefit from the college's bachelor's in graphic design. The program features a supportive learning community, customizable study, and a 67-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Enrollees can often take advantage of online and hybrid offerings, which add flexibility for working students. Of all programs offered through the college, 100% can be completed fully online. In-person and remote students can access campus resources while enrolled, including career services and academic advising.
University of Florida-Online at a Glance:
Total Academic Programs: 22
Number of Online Programs: 22
Admission Rate: 32%
Graduation Rate: Data not available
Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 90%
Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $7,670
Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 22%
Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,888
Average Price After Aid: $9,755
#2 Best Online Graphic Design Programs 2022
Brigham Young University-Provo
- 4 years
Located in Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University-Provo offers a variety of academic programs in person and online. The school's bachelor's in graphic design program builds theoretical and practical knowledge, preparing candidates for many career paths. Degree candidates benefit from a supportive learning community, customizable study, and a 20-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Learners can enroll full time or part time. Enrollees seeking academic and career guidance can benefit from the college's many resources, such as career services and academic advising.
Brigham Young University-Provo at a Glance:
Total Academic Programs: 310
Number of Online Programs: Data not available
Admission Rate: 67%
Graduation Rate: 78%
Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 71%
Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available
Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 14%
Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,743
Average Price After Aid: Data not available
#3 Best Online Graphic Design Programs 2022
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
North Carolina State University at Raleigh reaches learners worldwide through its flexible academic programs, available in person and online. Students seeking robust study in the graphic design field may find the bachelor's in graphic design appealing. While completing coursework, enrollees can also pursue experiential learning opportunities such as faculty-driven research projects and internships.
With the college supporting in-person and online study, degree candidates can pursue their studies at their own pace. Of all its programs, 18% are online. Enrollees benefit from academic and professional guidance through academic advising, career services, and other campus resources.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh at a Glance:
Total Academic Programs: 294
Number of Online Programs: 54
Admission Rate: 45%
Graduation Rate: 82%
Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 68%
Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $8,938
Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 39%
Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,963
Average Price After Aid: $14,958
#4 Best Online Graphic Design Programs 2022
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a public college based in Champaign, provides competitive educational opportunities to learners from all walks of life. The school's BFA in graphic design builds theoretical and practical knowledge, preparing candidates for many careers. The college boasts a 20-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling personalized study and close collaboration through faculty-driven research projects.
Graphic design students benefit from flexible study, with the option to pursue in-person or online learning. Degree-seekers can enroll full time or part time. Of all the college's programs, 9% can be completed fully online. Regardless of enrollment format, participants can access campus resources including academic advising, library services, and tutoring.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at a Glance:
Total Academic Programs: 372
Number of Online Programs: 33
Admission Rate: 59%
Graduation Rate: 85%
Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 64%
Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $15,442
Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 35%
Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,737
Average Price After Aid: $14,660
#5 Best Online Graphic Design Programs 2022
State University of New York at New Paltz
New Paltz, NY
- 4 years
State University of New York at New Paltz supports numerous programs from its main campus in New Paltz, New York. Students seeking flexible study in graphic design will benefit from the college's BFA program. Learners benefit from rigorous coursework and opportunities to collaborate with faculty through research.
Graphic design students can pursue online and in-person study, depending on their scheduling needs. Regardless of enrollment format, students can access campus resources, including academic advising, library services, and tutoring.
State University of New York at New Paltz at a Glance:
Total Academic Programs: 104
Number of Online Programs: Data not available
Admission Rate: 45%
Graduation Rate: 77%
Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 82%
Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,513
Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 52%
Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,362
Average Price After Aid: $15,496
Career and Salary Outlook for Graphic Design
Graphic designers earn a median salary of $53,380 per year. The highest-paid graphic designers earn over $93,000 annually. The BLS projects a slower than average increase in graphic design jobs between 2020-2030. However, the field will still add a projected 7,300 jobs during this time.
Graphic designers select text and images and work with art directors to bring concepts to life. They also create layouts in Adobe InDesign or Illustrator. Some graphic designers specialize in areas like product packaging or publishing. They often work in advertising, media, and public relations.
A graphic design degree also prepares graduates for careers as web designers, UX/UI designers, or multimedia artists. In these fields, graphic design graduates apply their creative and technical training to create the visual look of websites. They also have the skills to design 3D animations and build user-friendly platforms.
Graphic designers also advance their career by moving into art director positions. Art directors create visual concepts and oversee teams of graphic designers. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $97,270.
|Lowest 10%||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10%|
|Less than $31,720||$53,380||More than $93,440|
Accreditation for Graphic Design
Prospective graphic design students should always choose an accredited school. Accredited institutions follow the best practices for educating students and granting degrees. Students at accredited schools also qualify for federal financial aid programs.
Applicants should look for institutional accreditation when researching a graphic design school or program. The National Association of Schools of Art & Design grants accreditation to graphic design schools. Learn more about why accreditation matters in our accreditation guide.
Courses in a Graphic Design Program
Graphic design programs train students to create visually engaging material that communicates a message. At a graphic design school, undergraduates take courses in typography, print design, and digital design. Many programs also offer specializations like web design or UX/UI design.
Many bachelor's programs in graphic design also include general education requirements. These courses strengthen communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Graphic design majors may complete an internship or senior project to strengthen their career-ready skills.
This section includes a sample curriculum for a graphic design program. While the course requirements and descriptions vary by school, most programs include these classes.
Introductory courses examine the graphic design field and the role of visual communication in different industries. Students learn about advertising, web design, and print design. The course also introduces learners to key software programs such as Photoshop and InDesign.
Introduction to Graphic Design
Typography is a core part of visual communication. In typography courses, students examine the history of type, text-based communication, and selecting typographic elements. Learners may also design their own typeface and evaluate typographic designs based on their readability and user experience. The course prepares print and web graphic designers to incorporate text in their designs.
Graphic design students learn to design visual content for websites. The course introduces programming languages like HTML and CSS. Learners strengthen their technical skills while creating prototypes and using software programs to create websites. Topics such as user-focused design, web design testing, and design critiquing strengthen the skills necessary for careers in web design.
User experience and user interface design examines the contact between consumers and products. Learners study how to identify user needs and apply data to improve user experience. The course also covers content strategies, design concepts, and usability metrics. Students may create a final project that applies their UX/UI design knowledge.
In packaging design courses, graphic design majors learn to create commercial packaging. The course covers the development of a concept, layout and prototyping, and form choices that consider user experience. Students also consider sustainability and brand messaging in package design. These skills prepare graduates for careers in advertising and marketing.