Graphic design has undergone revolutionary changes since the expansion of digital, for better and worse. On the one hand, easy-to-use technologies like Adobe have acted as democratizing force, lowering the barrier-to-entry and popularizing design on an unprecedented level. While this has spotlighted perhaps a previously overlooked profession, it’s also created an inflationary effect: if everyone has the tools to be an amateur graphic designer, then demand for professional graphic designers inevitably sinks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently about 260,000 working graphic designers, and the sector is only expected to add 3,600 through 2024.
But those number don’t tell the whole story. For example, sectors that traditionally employ graphic designers are expected to see significant growth: advertising, marketing, and PR are forecasted to hire 20,000 upper-level positions through 2024; media and communications will add another 27,000. What graphic designers need to do, it seems, is expand their horizons and develop more broad-based, multidisciplinary skillsets to meet changing economic demands.
Conveniently enough, most bachelor’s programs in graphic design are beginning to reflect that need, combining in-depth technical training with business-savvy course work. Below, we’ve compiled our top 10 online programs, which cover all the above and add flexibility, affordability, and customization. Continue reading to find the program that suits your needs!
1) Southern New Hampshire University
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is one of the worldwide leaders in distance education, with over 70,000 online students. US News ranks it 1st in the country for innovation, and all 200+ degrees emphasize practical, professional-oriented learning. Top-ranked faculty bring years of experience , and the 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures an intimate, tight-knit community, despite the university’s size; more than of classes contain less than 20 students. For students interested in financial aid opportunities, 70% receive some form of financial aid.
SNHU’s online bachelor’s in Graphic Design and Media Arts features a variety of career-intensive classes, including Language and Practice of Media Arts, Graphics and Layout in Print Media, Desktop Publishing, Intro to Digital Imaging, Typography, and Digital Graphic Design for Web. Students also complete a capstone portfolio to demonstrate proficiency and have something to show potential employers. All courses are designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate students’ unique schedules, and a customizable track allows graduates to pursue work as a freelance designer, at a major agency, or open their own shop. For those interested, concentrations are available in Web Design and 3D Modeling & Animation.
- Tuition Per Credit: $320
2) California College San Diego
Founded in 1978, California College San Diego is a private school with a total enrollment of about 1,300 students, offering associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. The 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio helps to create an atmosphere that’s both vibrant and intimate, combining the collaborative feel of a larger university with the small classes and personalized instruction of a small liberal arts school. Student services include academic counseling, career assistance, and placement services. It is accredited by Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
CCSD offers a bachelor’s in Graphic Arts that can be completed in as little 30-36 months. Among the diverse required course work includes Print Production and Color Theory, Portfolio Design, Branding and Identity, Animation Scripting, Graphic Design Business Management, Entrepreneurship, and more. The program is built for flexibility, and customization options allow students to concentrate in print or web design (or both). Further, thanks to the broad-based curriculum, graduates will be prepared for a number of potential entry- and mid-level career tracks at design firms, advertising agencies, in-house corporate creative departments, or as a freelance designer. GardaWorld, Robert Half, Randstad, Local Marketing Suite are among CCSD’s employers and partners.
- Tuition Per Credit: $147
3) Rasmussen College
Rasmussen College, founded in 1900, offers associate’s, applied associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s certificates, and diplomas across 22 campuses in Minnesota, Illinois, North Dakota, Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, and online. In particular, the school specializes in online higher education designed for adult learners and working professionals; all programs are built for maximum flexibility, with accelerated track opportunities and tuition-saving strategies incorporated via flex path options, scholarships, discounts, and transfer credits. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Rasmussen combines individualized, one-on-one instruction opportunities with a dynamic and collaborative learning environment. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Rasmussen offers an online bachelor’s in Graphic Design with available specializations in Animation and Motion Graphics or Web and Interactive Design, covering traditional print design, typography, color theory, photography, audio and video editing, interactive media, and user experience design. Online courses deliver via a dynamic web platform, or students can opt to complete the track on a blended delivery, combining the intimacy of traditional on-campus classes and convenience of online course work. In addition to classes, students will complete a comprehensive digital portfolio to be presented before graduation, highlighting talent and acting as a showcase for potential employers. Graduates of the program have gone on to careers in architecture, media, tech, education, and more.
- Tuition Per Credit: $260
4) Full Sail University
Founded in 1979, Full Sail University has an enrollment of 19,400, offering nearly 80 certificate, associate, bachelor, and master programs. To match industry demands in entertainment, media, art, and technology, Full Sail’s programs emphasize an immersive learning approach, with a focus on experiential, hands-on education to prepare students for their professions. In recent years, the university has begun to expand its online programs to promote flexible, affordable, and personalized tracks, including many with offering accelerated to hyper-accelerated options. With a 23:1 student-to-faculty, Full Sail balances a vibrant, collaborative creative community with individualized instruction and critique. Full Sail is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Full Sail’s BS in Graphic Design features a wide-ranging curriculum, with studies Graphic Principles, Digital Audio and Video, Color Theory, Logos and Symbols, Interactive Editorial Design, Typography and Page Layout, Digital Studio, and Concepts in Advertising, among others, including an impressive array of more general humanities and art classes like Art History and Psychology of Play. From there, students complete seven portfolio courses to develop and hone their design skills. Courses are designed to accommodate students unique schedules, and the accelerated track allows students to finish the degree in as little as 29 months.
- Tuition Per Credit: $475
5) Liberty University
A leader in distance education since 1985, Liberty University is a private Christian school with 100,000 students enrolled in online classes, plus 14,000 more on campus in Lynchburg, Virignia. With over 250 online programs, degrees are built for maximum flexibility, accommodating working professionals and adult learners with convenient scheduling benefits and intensive, on-campus summer semesters to accelerate course work. Further, the Liberty’s generous transfer policy allows students with previous academic credits, work/life experience, military service, MOOC certifications, examinations, or portfolio work to skip redundant course work and general ed requirements. The low student-to-faculty ratio is an added boon: a third of classes have less than 20 students and just 5% have 50.
Liberty offers an online BFA in Graphic Design that features 73 major credits: Intro to 2D and 3D Design, Publication Design, Digital Imaging, Digital Photography, Interactive Design, Introduction to 3D Graphics, and Interactive Publication. In addition to these skill-based classes, the BFA incorporates a variety of liberal arts studies to support a broad-based, interdisciplinary curriculum, including History of Art, 20th-21st Century Art, and Art, Culture & Technology, among others. A practicum and 180-hour internship are required to demonstrate proficiency and gain hands-on experience. Graduates are prepared to pursue a range of creative roles, from art director to editorial positions.
- Tuition Per Credit: $390
6) Los Angeles Film School
Established in 1999, The Los Angeles Film School is a private proprietary institution with a total enrollment of about 2,500, offering associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in a range of entertainment-related disciplines. In addition to having award-winning alumni, LAFS has hosted a variety of award shows and film festivals, including the BAFTA Student Film Awards, 3D Film Festival, Evolution International Film Festival, and more. It is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. LAFS is also accredited with the Directors Guild of America and is an Avid Pro Tools curriculum partner.
Los Angeles Film School’s online BS in Graphic Design includes courses in a number of skill-based, career-oriented subjects like Digital Image Making, Digital Color Theory, Layout Design, Rapid Visualization, Print and Digital Production, Photography in Design, Website Design, Storytelling and Video, and many more. With 100% online delivery, the program is built for maximum convenience to working professionals and adult learners. All course work is available 24/7 through a secure web-based multimedia platform, which features group discussion boards, live chat rooms, tech support, and live and recorded class sessions. Alumni of the program have gone on to work at Marvel, Activision, ABC, Dreamworks, NBC, and Disney.
- Tuition Per Credit: $390
7) Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Founded in 1963, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design has an enrollment just under 1,000 students, most of which consists of undergraduates. As a dedicated tight-knit creative community, RMC places an emphasis on tailored instruction to give students personalized feedback on their work. The 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio further promotes individualized attention and a collaborative atmosphere. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Admissions are rolling.
Rocky Mountain offers an online BFA in Graphic Design composed of 51 core major requirements: among them, 3D Packaging, Design Systems, Experience Design, Information Visualization, Photography for Graphic Designers, User Prototyping, Typographic Design, Web Design, and more. From there, students customize the track through 4 studio electives and receive helpful critiques through multiple portfolio reviews. With a major integration of more traditionally liberal arts subjects into the curriculum, the RMCAD BFA avoids the restrictions of a purely technical degree. Instead, the program builds on an interdisciplinary, dynamic curriculum that places equal weight on practical, career-focused classes and a more holistic educational approach. Courses deliver in a flexible learning platform that streamlines communication and encourages peer-to-peer workshopping.
- Tuition Per Credit: $464
8) Art Institute of Pittsburgh
Founded in 1921, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh is a professional-focused creative school with on-campus and online associate’s, bachelor’s, and certificates. Recently, AIP has greatly expanded its online offerings to meet the growing demand for flexible, affordable, and tailored tracks in creative disciplines. The 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports personalized, one-on-one feedback from experienced instructors, and the institute goes out of its way to foster a vibrant, healthy artistic community. It is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
AIP’s online BS in Graphic Design totals 180 quarter credits, which can be completed in as little as 15 quarters. Core requirements include Color & Design Fundamentals, Image Manipulation, Traditional Typography, Layout & Concept Design, Web Page Scripting, and Interactive Motion Graphics; graphic design concentration classes include Advertising Concepts, Package Design, Business of Graphic Design, Publication Design, and Art Direction, among others. All courses are 100% online to guarantee maximum convenience and flexibility, with 24/7 access to course materials. (Online demos are available, as well.) Student services include admissions assistance, student finance counseling, and academic advising. For those interested, several associate, applied associate, and diploma tracks are offered, too.
- Tuition Per Credit: $487
9) Southeastern University
Founded in 1935, Southeastern University, in Lakeland, FL, is a private Christian institution with a total enrollment of 4,500 and ranked on US News‘s Tier 2 list. The 20:1 combines the atmosphere of a larger research university with the intimate, small class sizes of a typical liberal arts school. Over half of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 4% have 50. As an indicator of student satisfaction, Southeastern’s freshman retention rate is 70%. For those interested in financial aid opportunities, the university has a solid record: more than 80% of full-time undergraduates receive form of tuition assistance, and the average need met is 60%.
Southeastern offers a BS in Digital Media & Design that totals 40 major credits in areas like Photography, Digital Marketing and Analytics, Mass Communication Law, Digital Layout and Design, Magazine Design and Production, Web Page Design, and Advertising Design. As the only university of its kind in the state offering the degree fully online, the program is built to accommodate a variety of learners and busy schedules; on an accelerated track, which may include transfer credits, students can complete the degree in as little as two years. Upon graduation, students will have learned the foundational concepts of communication; be proficient in digital design software; understand and use digital design practices and principles; and be able to identify and apply professional networking skills through diverse media forms.
- Tuition Per Credit: $390
10) Midway University
Midway University, founded in 1847, is a private Christian institution in Kentucky with a total enrollment of over 1,000. Formerly a women’s college, Midway began admitting male students in the Fall of 2016. US News ranks the university among the top 70 in the region, Washington Monthly placed it in the top 20 for regional “Best Bang For Your Buck,” and USA Today places the university among Kentucky’s 10 best schools. Its 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports the liberal arts tradition of small, intimate classes taught in a tight-knit learning community.
Midway offers a BS in Marketing Communications with a concentration in Graphic Design that offers 100% online coursework and individualized instruction. Core requirements include Photoshop, Writing for Marketing Communications, Advertising Principles, Graphic Design, Consumer/Audience Analysis, Global Brand Management, and Digital and Social Media; the concentration module focuses on skill-based areas like Digital Storytelling, Digital Animation, Applied Graphic Design, and essential software proficiencies, i.e., Photoshop, etc. From there, students can customize the degree through a range of elective options and take a comprehensive capstone. For students able to demonstrate prior learning, up to 21 credits can be transferred into the program to accelerate completion time; evidence may be academic credits, military credits, exam credits, portfolio work, or credit from a workshop or program approved by the American Council of Education.
- Tuition Per Credit: $415