Do you need a degree to be a graphic designer? The answer is no, but an affordable graphic design degree can be a big help. If you began your graphic design career with just a certificate or an associate’s degree, completing your bachelor’s degree online can help you make a big career leap. Learning graphic design for beginners can be done online but you will not have anything to back up the time and effort you put into learning your skills. Graphic design is a fairly open-ended field that can lead you into a variety of other industries. Individuals who start out as a graphic designer, often do so by taking online classes to get a head start.
While free classes include a wealth of information, taking actual classes and earning college credits toward a degree can help boost your earnings as well as prepare you for advancement. Earning your degree online allows you to continue to work and get the hands-on experience you will need for the higher-paying jobs. Remember, you don’t need a degree in graphic design, but it is essential if you want to be at the top of the list of candidates when applying for your dream job.
Methodology: Ranking the Most Affordable Graphic Design Degrees
For working professionals who want to complete their bachelor’s degree on the cheap, Bachelor’s Degree Center has ranked the most affordable online graphic design programs. All of the institutions on this ranking are accredited, and reputable, but for our purposes, one criterion is used for ordering the ranking: tuition cost, as reported to IPEDS.
1. Bellevue University
Bellevue University’s online graphic design program emphasizes critical thinking. It acknowledges the fact that graphic designers have to consider a lot of factors, from typography to color theory and everything in between. These designers need a full understanding of how their choices impact the viewer. Bellevue teaches graphic design students how to recognize these factors and make the design choices that will give them the best results. With an excellent ROI, this program is one of the best affordable graphic design choices in the US.
Bellevue University is committed to helping students tap into their full potential and make the most of their skills for a successful future career. This school’s faculty members have high expectations for their students and full confidence that those students can live up to them. Bellevue emphasizes mastery instead of surface-level learning, and it provides opportunities for students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. By the time they graduate, students have an impressive amount of skills and the ability to leverage those skills in the workplace.
What We Like: College Choice named Bellevue as one of the best online graphic design programs.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design
2. Great Basin College
Great Basin College offers a BAS in Graphic Communications. The program focuses on the technology students will need for graphic design work. It shows students how to turn words, colors, and ideas into a measurable design process. It combines science and creativity for a complete balance, so it appeals to students who want more from their education. Great Basin is also a contender for students looking for the cheapest online graphic design degree, especially for those who already live in Nevada.
Great Basin College is heavily student-focused, helping students gain what they need for career success. It’s a rural school, which means that students enjoy small class sizes and plenty of personalization. This school values students from all backgrounds and worldviews, and it encourages students to learn from one another’s experiences.
What We Like: Great Basin College Online is one of the nation’s top affordable online schools.
Degree: BAS in Graphic Communications
3. University of Maryland Global Campus
The University of Maryland Global Campus’ online graphic design program recognizes that technology is changing every day. Students need experience with the latest technologies to succeed in the graphic design world. Furthermore, they need adaptability to evolve as technology continues changing. This program is good for both. It also helps students build their skills and portfolios so that they’re ready to get started in the job market after graduation. Plus, with low tuition rates, it’s one of the most affordable graphic design schools.
UMGC gives working adults and military members the flexibility that they need to earn the degrees they’ve always wanted. This school has challenging classes that prepare students for fast-growing careers. These classes emphasize real-world skills. This way, students have the confidence that they’ll need to succeed when they graduate.
What We Like: UMGC is the largest online public university in the nation. It leads the way in a lot of online educational innovation.
Degree: BA in Graphic Communication
4. Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s BS in IT degree comes with an optional concentration in graphic design. This degree approaches graphic design from three angles: creativity, leadership, and technology. This balanced approach helps students take on a broad range of graphic design work once they graduate. By the time they do graduate, students are comfortable working with all kinds of graphic design media and technology. Plus, this program is one of the more affordable graphic design programs available.
ASU Online provides all of the same rigor and challenge that ASU students get on campus. This school is focused on student success, so it provides plenty of support. Faculty at this highly respected school know that everyone’s learning style is different. Here, students learn how to get the most from their educations based on their own unique needs.
What We Like: US News and World Report ranked ASU among the most innovative schools for 2020.
Degree: BS in Graphic Information Technology
5. University of Florida
The University of Florida offers a BA in Digital Arts and Sciences. This degree combines the best of technical knowledge, creativity, and innovation. Students choose this program to pursue everything from video game design to digital advertising. The program provides plenty of real-world design experience, helping students build portfolios so that they can gain success in the career world. Since this school ranks #1 for affordability, those who want the cheapest online graphic design degree should absolutely check this one out.
UF Online is committed to providing an accessible yet challenging education. Students in these programs find out just how far their potential can reach. This school helps students gain leadership skills and make a difference in their communities. With all of their newfound skills, UF Online students can graduate with confidence.
What We Like: According to US News and World Report, UF ranks #5 among the best online programs.
Degree: BA in Digital Arts and Sciences
6. Rasmussen College
Rasmussen College’s online Graphic Design degree program turns talent into finely-tuned skill. In this program, students direct their passions into tangible work. The program uses up-to-date technologies so that students can see what designers are using in the career world. It’s also one of the most affordable graphic design schools for students in the US.
Rasmussen College is a for-profit school that has several campuses throughout the US. The school provides as much flexibility as possible, with lots of online programs and generous transfer policies. This school has regional accreditation and values innovation in learning.
What We Like: Rasmussen’s online courses don’t have specific login times, so the school maximizes flexibility for busy students.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design
7. Regent University
Regent University offers an online BFA program in Graphic Arts. This program helps students hone their raw skills into leadership, tech competency, and industry knowledge. Students also get a foundation of art history knowledge so that they can see patterns and find out how the past influences the present. Regent University is among the cheapest online graphic design degree options, so it works well for those who need affordability but don’t want to sacrifice quality education.
Regent University is a transfer-friendly Christian school that helps students enrich their skills from all angles. It provides a well-rounded education and nourishes students both academically and spiritually. This school is perfect for those who believe in Regent’s mission: “Christian Leadership to Change the World.”
What We Like: US News and World Report ranked Regent among the Best Online Bachelor programs.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Arts
8. Hodges University
Hodges University’s Digital Design and Graphics degree empowers students for success. It combines creativity with the latest technology, focusing on innovation and support for students. In this program, students learn the skills that they’ll need to compete in the graphic design job market and to gain the attention of potential employers. The graphic design business is expected to grow over the next several years, and Hodges is prepared to help students fill in the gap. Plus, with its relatively low tuition rates, Hodges is one of the most affordable graphic design schools.
Hodges is intently focused on its students. It has a high job placement rate, a commitment to innovation, and all of the support that students need to get the most out of their educations. This school uses a “one course per month” format, which helps students focus and hone their skills. This format may be especially helpful to those who are balancing their education with family and career.
What We Like: Several organizations and publications have ranked Hodges as one of the top online schools in the US.
Degree: BA in Digital Design and Graphics
9. Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University’s online Graphic Design program combines creativity and problem solving for an innovative degree. The program teaches students how to generate marketable ideas. It also instills technical skills and design options so students can turn those ideas into real marketing campaigns. The program helps students get started on their portfolios, and it’s among the cheapest online graphic design degree options.
GCU is a for-profit, accredited Christian university. It encourages spiritual and academic thinking, instilling leadership skills from a Christian worldview. It’s a flexible school that offers lots of support to help students reach their academic and career goals.
What We Like: GCU is the largest Christian university in the world.
Degree: BA in Advertising and Graphic Design
10. Kentucky Wesleyan University
Kentucky Wesleyan University’s online graphic design program provides a core foundation in art. From there, students learn the basics of typography, design, and how to use the technology that they’ll need in the field. This program instills the skills that students need to succeed in this ever-growing field. Plus, as one of the most affordable graphic design schools, it makes a great economic choice.
Kentucky Wesleyan is a United Methodist school with deep roots. It combines a well-rounded education with the pursuit of spiritual growth. This school takes a well-rounded approach to education, providing a strong liberal arts core. This school is challenging, but it provides plenty of support for students, both online and on campus.
What We Like: KWU has a 13:1 student to faculty ratio. Consider this school if you work best with small cohorts.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design
Can I Get an Online Graphic Design Degree Free?
Free graphic design courses are available online to anyone who has an interest in learning about the field. Graphic design short courses that are found online offer a wealth of information but are not designed to replace actual college courses. Many of these courses are free simply to draw people in and show them the basics of what graphic design is and what a graphic design artist is expected to be able to do. The key is to use these courses at a starting point but if you want your education for free, you will need to explore other options.
You can learn many fundamentals of graphic design from free courses, such as:
- digital media
- visual communication
- interactive design
- user experience
- media arts
- digital photography
- web development
- web design
- digital imaging
- motion graphics
- user interface
- social media messaging
- design principles
- media design
- marketing communications
- page layout
Free courses will help your develop your design skills, and some can be quite cutting edge. However, you cannot necessarily put these skills together into a professional portfolio to show employers. That’s the domain of a graphic design bachelor’s degree program. Sometimes these sorts of courses will provide transfer credits toward a full-time online bachelor’s degree, however.
Scholarships and grants are available to individuals who are interested in pursuing graphic design as a long-term career. Companies will sometimes offer scholarship type programs or employee reimbursement options to employees who plan on staying with them for years to come. Individuals who pursue their education and earn their degree are often the first in line when promotions or new opportunities for advancement are offered. Being able to get your degree with as little out of pocket expense as possible is a bonus.
How Much Can I Make with a Graphic Design Degree?
If you were lucky enough to get your graphic design degree for free through scholarships, grants, or employer compensation programs, the money you earn can be used for more enjoyable things. The average graphic design salary was approximately $50,370 in 2018. This salary is for someone with a general degree. Individuals who have a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design or another of the graphic arts programs can expect to earn a much higher salary, especially if they can back it up with experience.
Many people who enter into the graphic design field often do so in entry-level positions and minimal education. Once you have found a job in the field, you need to explore your options if you plan on advancing. Returning to school and enrolling in an affordable, online graphic arts degree program is your first step to reaching the next level. An entry-level position may pay as low as $25,000, but when you add in years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree or higher, you can actually boost your income to approximately $70,000 or higher with an opportunity to continue to advance.
Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth It?
The value of an online certificate program in graphic design is what you make of it. You can continue to work on your certificate, or you can turn that certificate into a starting point for a better future. An online certificate is a great way to get your foot in the door, but it may fall short if you plan on advancing to the next level. Enrolling in an affordable online graphic design degree program is the best way for you to secure your future. With the right degree in place, you can continue to hone your skills and earn the hands-on experience you need to excel and advance on your own terms.
In a graphic design degree online program, a graphic design major can learn to use graphic design software like Adobe Creative Cloud or Photoshop. Coursework for a bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of science, will have different expectations. But those four years of credit hours can be used for graduate degrees at online colleges.
If you have to ask if your graphic design degree is worth it, maybe you should look into an advanced program if that is truly where you want to be. Online certificates are designed to give you the information you need to get started. What you do with that information after you have it is up to you. With concerted effort and dedication, you can turn an online graphic design certification into a Bachelor’s degree simply by looking for reliable scholarships and grants or discussing employment compensation options with your employer. When most people choose a career, they look into all their options, this includes their education. Your graphic design degree can be as valuable as you make it if you continue to pursue your goals and be successful.