Both online graphic arts programs and those found at traditional campuses are equally efficient in teaching what you need to know to succeed. Online graphic design degree programs offer several benefits for working adults and other nontraditional students. They are convenient and allow you to do your classwork on your own schedule. The flexibility they offer allows you to maintain your current job while taking as many online courses as you feel comfortable with. You advance at your own pace and work on your homework while gaining hands-on experience.
Employers will trust an online graphic design degree just like they do one from a traditional campus-based university, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With so many individuals going back to school or starting their education later in life, more and more are choosing the online option. Most accredited graphic design schools are offering online degree programs for the simple fact that many of their students are already employed and looking to advance within their chosen careers.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Graphic Design Degree Programs
To rank the best online graphic design bachelor’s programs, Bachelor’s Degree Center editors focused on accredited, reputable institutions offering fully online and hybrid bachelor’s and bachelor’s completion programs. Institutions are ranked according to five points: Alumni Salary, Graduation Rate, Job Placement, Student Satisfaction, and Tuition Cost.
1. University of Florida
When you are planning to obtain an online graphic design degree at the undergraduate level, the University of Florida is a good option for your goals. The University of Florida’s BA in Digital Arts and Sciences focuses on animation, game design, and digital production to help students learn relevant skills for modern graphic design. It allows students to learn how to use different tools and programs to create digital images as well as methods of unleashing creativity for specific goals.
The University of Florida aims to immerse students in a digital landscape that reflects the modern work environment. It teaches students how to interact with others and to work together to accomplish specific goals through projects and team-oriented goals. By giving students a focus that is based on modern immersion in digital tools as well as teamwork for creative projects, it prepares them to work in a corporate or business setting.
What We Like: The University of Florida allows students to transfer credits into the online program to speed up the process of completing the degree.
Degree: BA in Digital Arts and Sciences
2. Bellevue University
Bellevue University offers an online graphic design bachelor’s degree program that helps students accomplish their goals in a creative field. The BA in Graphic Design emphasizes the value of aesthetically pleasing designs while also conveying a message to the audience. It teaches students the skills they need to use images to give a message in an online format or setting. It prepares students to work on digital content and designs.
Bellevue University gives students hands-on practice through the online system. Students are expected to design a website as well as to engage in print design efforts through the online system. The focus on hands-on design projects and tools ensures that students have the practice they need to work with different companies and organizations. It emphasizes modern design goals through online and traditional sources.
What We Like: Bellevue University offers a discount on tuition for active members of the military and their spouses for the online graphic design program.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design
3. Arizona State University
The online graphic design degree from Arizona State University is one of the best options for students who want to work in graphic design or a creative field. The BS in Graphic Information Technology emphasizes the importance of design and creative content with business and management skills. The degree program emphasizes the use of creativity to accomplish business goals and tell the audience a message that helps them keep up with the goals of the company.
Arizona State University teaches students to use the right technology to develop creative designs that fit in with a modern work environment. It emphasizes web development, computer illustration, digital publishing, and related tools that help students keep up with the changing online landscape for graphic design. It also teaches students how to adapt to different situations that may arise when using new technology or tools.
What We Like: Arizona State University is ranked among the most innovative colleges by U.S. News and World Reports for the online Graphic Information Technology degree.
Degree: BS in Graphic Information Technology
4. Penn State World Campus
Penn State World Campus offers a Bachelor of Design in Digital Multimedia Design that helps students learn the skills they need to work in graphic design roles. The degree program takes an integrated approach to graphic design and emphasizes product design, marketing, technology, and media as vital skills related to the graphic design industry. It ensures that students are prepared to work in a corporate setting or to provide the right services for employers.
Penn State World Campus allows students to develop their portfolios before they graduate from the online degree program. By ensuring that students have a robust portfolio, it prepares students to take on work in a corporate or business setting. It also allows students to showcase their work to potential employers to determine if the student is a good fit for a specific type of company.
What We Like: Penn State World Campus offers scholarships to students in the online program as long as they complete a FAFSA and apply for scholarships that fit their situations.
Degree: Bachelor of Design in Digital Multimedia Design
5. National University
National University offers a BA in Digital Media Design that prepares students for the rigors of working in graphic design fields. The degree program emphasizes skills related to social media, game design, animation, and instructional content to prepare students to work in a variety of different career options. It ensures that students have the skills to work with modern technology and tools while also recognizing the different ways that design and images can influence an audience.
National University is a military-friendly school that allows students to start at any time of the year. Since it allows students to start in a program each month, it does accept applications throughout the entire year. That flexibility works well with active-duty members of the military or students who have complex schedules and may not be able to start courses during traditional semesters or quarters.
What We Like: National University offers four-week classes that allow students to accelerate their degree program.
Degree: BA in Digital Media Design
6. University of Maryland Global Campus
The University of Maryland Global Campus offers one of the best online graphic design bachelor’s degree programs for students who want to work in a modern artistic field. UMGC’s BA in Graphic Communication emphasizes the use of technology and modern tools to keep up with the visual arts and the modern communication environment. It teaches students how to use images to tell a message through social media or related sources.
The University of Maryland Global Campus focuses on graphic design as it applies to business environments. It gives students training in business writing as well as communication to help them keep up with the challenges of working in a corporate setting. It also emphasizes the importance of developing a strong portfolio and encourages students to work on their portfolios before graduation.
What We Like: The University of Maryland Global Campus allows students to transfer up to 90 credits into the online program.
Degree: BA in Graphic Communication
7. Maryville University
Maryville University offers a BFA in Digital Media that focuses on preparing students to keep up with a changing global work environment. It recognizes that business owners and corporate professionals want to maintain a modern aesthetic to appeal to potential customers. The degree program focuses on helping students keep up with company expectations and provides the training they need to use modern tools for artistic endeavors.
Maryville University focuses on providing quality education to students in the online program. Students learn from experienced designers who provide unique perspectives that help students understand the ways they will engage with employers in a business environment. It also focuses on helping students develop their portfolios with feedback from faculty to catch mistakes, identify strengths, and work on weaknesses in a design.
What We Like: Maryville University does not require students to provide an SAT or ACT score when applying for the program.
Degree: BFA in Digital Media
8. California Baptist University
The BA in Graphic Design and Digital Media from California Baptist University helps students focus on accomplishing their goals when they are working in graphic design. The degree program teaches students to use the tools and technology found in professional environments to develop and build designs for projects and related course materials. It gives students the practice they need to work in the graphic design industry.
California Baptist University emphasizes the use of hands-on practice and skill development. It encourages students to practice using graphic design tools and provides a well-rounded education on skills that apply to graphic design. Students learn scripting, photography, typography, and website design as a part of their education in the program.
What We Like: California Baptist University is ranked as the 15th best university for its online graphic design program.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design and Digital Media
9. Upper Iowa University
Upper Iowa University offers a BA in Graphic Design to students who want to work in a creative and technology-heavy field. The degree program emphasizes creative problem solving and technical skills when working on graphic design. It ensures that students have the ability to convey a message to an audience through images and graphics while also keeping up with modern aesthetics for graphic details.
Upper Iowa University stands out by giving students daily assignments and exercises to develop useful skills. Faculty in the program give students feedback through the online system to point out mistakes and help students make improvements as they work through the course material. That focus on practice and feedback prepares students to handle working in a fast-paced environment.
What We Like: Upper Iowa University is a military-friendly school that assists active-duty personnel and veterans of the military with the process of obtaining a degree.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design
10. Academy of Art University
The BFA in Graphic Design for the Academy of Art University gives students the hands-on experience they need to work in the modern graphic design industry. The degree program ensures that students are prepared for the challenges of working in a modern environment while also emphasizing interaction with peers and faculty. Students are able to interact with others and gain advice for projects through the online system.
The Academy of Art University stands apart from other options by emphasizing expert advice. Students are able to learn from interviews with experts, slide presentations, and class materials to gain insights into the industry and the different tools used in graphic design. That focus on expert advice helps students learn at a fast pace and develop their own style to fit the aesthetic expected by employers.
What We Like: The Academy of Art University offers dedicated support to ensure the online system works well for student needs and that students can reach out for assistance when problems arise.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
11. Hodges University
The BA in Digital Design and Graphics from Hodges University prepares students to work in graphic design positions. The degree program emphasizes creativity and artistic talent as it applies to the modern environment. It focuses on teaching students to work with modern tools and technology to develop unique designs and to focus on artistic methods of engaging an audience.
Hodges University stands apart by helping students develop the communication skills they need to work in a modern setting. It emphasizes the use of technology as well as different methods of communication for artistic expression and design elements. That focus on communication prepares students to work in a business or corporate environment.
What We Like: Hodges University offers monthly start dates to help students who cannot start at traditional times of the year.
Degree: BA in Digital Design and Graphics
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12. Southeastern University
Southeastern University offers a BS in Digital Media and Design that teaches students to use modern tools for marketing, design, artistic endeavors, and communication. It prepares students to work in different career environments and gives students the fundamental skills they need to engage with employers to reach a common goal when working on an artistic project.
Southeastern University stands apart by emphasizing the value of communication as part of the online degree program. It recognizes that students must be able to communicate with others when working in graphic design, so it helps students learn different methods of communication. Since graphic design may focus on telling a message with an image, the focus on communication helps students learn to use art to spread an idea or message that fits the goals of an employer.
What We Like: Southeastern University is a faith-based school that considers compassion, empathy, and faith during coursework.
Degree: BS in Digital Media and Design
13. Kentucky Wesleyan College
Kentucky Wesleyan College offers a BA in Graphic Design for students who want to work in an artistic field. The degree program is a fully online program that works around student schedules and helps students keep up with their course material through flexible solutions. It gives students the opportunity to develop fundamental skills while keeping up with personal or professional obligations.
Kentucky Wesleyan emphasizes the use of animation, web design, typography, and related skills to build on artistic skills. While students study the tools and technology associated with graphic design, they also use traditional art skills like drawing as part of the online course materials. The program recognizes that traditional arts also apply to modern and graphic arts.
What We Like: Kentucky Wesleyan offers a variety of grants and scholarships to help with the costs of the online degree.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design
14. Savannah College of Art and Design
Savannah College of Art and Design offers a BA and a BFA in Graphic Design. The undergraduate degree programs are fully online and teach students the skills they need to reach an audience with their message. The program recognizes that graphic designers work as storytellers and artists with the goal of marketing or conveying a message. It provides the skills students need to use imagery for a message.
Savannah College of Art and Design takes a user-centered approach to graphic design education. It recognizes that user-friendly elements play a critical role in modern online aesthetics and it strives to teach students how to create user-friendly web designs and tools that appeal to modern audiences. It helps students focus on accomplishing specific goals for their careers.
What We Like: Savannah College of Art and Design offers one-on-one critiques and mentoring from experts in graphic design.
Degree: BA or BFA in Graphic Design
15. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design offers a BFA in Graphic Design program which is one of the best online options for students who want to work in an artistic field. The degree program recognizes that images are a method of communication without using words. That means students must learn to get a message across through images and pictures in a modern environment. The degree program shows students to use tools and technology to find ways to reach a target audience and communicate an effective message.
The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design stands out by having students work with real-world clients. By gaining experience through real-world situations, students are able to build their portfolios before graduating and learn how to handle clients in different situations. It helps students with their long-term career goals.
What We Like: The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design offers online graphic design events for students in the program.
Degree: BFA in Graphic Design
Should I Choose an Online or Campus Graphic Design Program?
Making a decision between an online graphic design degree program or attending a traditional campus will depend on your situation, your goals, and how much time you want to spend getting your degree. Each has distinct advantages that you must consider when thinking of your own situation. Cost may also be a factor as well.
Online degrees are becoming the best option for many students, both traditional-aged and nontraditional working adults, since they can keep their job and minimize the amount of money they need to borrow in student loans. Employers have learned to trust online graphic design degrees, and they are now becoming the first choice for many employees.
Even high school graduates are choosing online programs so they can go straight into the job market and get the hands-on experience they need. They also know that many companies are offering compensation for educational classes that are taken to better their chances for advancement.
A traditional campus also offers benefits that hold value as well. In a campus setting, you have access to mentors who can assist you as needed. You can meet with them on a regular basis or visit them when you have a problem. Being on campus also provides you with job opportunities that you may not have when taking classes online. While a campus setting may confine you to a classroom setting, you get to work with your instructor face to face and have your questions answered in real-time.
For your bachelor of fine arts, your credit hours will be spent building graphic design skills. Whether you’re online or on-campus, graphic design students should learn about:
- visual communication
- user experience
- color theory
- design software (ie Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Creative Cloud)
- design principles
- motion graphics
- production design
- user interface design
- interactive design
- design theory
- digital photography
- 3D modeling
- digital illustration
- visual design
- publication design and page layout
- media arts
With modern technology, there are many mediums that graphic design majors learn to work with. You will likely have to do a capstone project that incorporates what you have learned into your specialization. Full-time online learners can do it all from home!
Online learning graphic design courses are perfect for working art directors or others who are already working graphic design careers. Consider accreditation, financial aid, enrollment, and other important issues before making your decision. Schools like Liberty University and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) are low-priced and trusted. You can learn graphic design online from an award-winning institution!
Do I Need an Associate’s to Get an Online Bachelor’s in Graphic Design?
In most cases, a college or university that offers an online Bachelor’s graphic design degree will require an Associate’s degree before allowing you to enter into their advanced programs. Receiving your Associate’s degree will provide you with the fundamentals and basics that you will need as you continue to move forward with your education. Completing your Associate’s degree will also enhance your skills and introduce you to more advanced career options.
Many people who have earned an online graphics design certification from an accredited graphic design school may qualify to enroll in an online Bachelor’s degree program. While it’s beneficial to have an actual Associate’s degree, many online programs will accept actual work experience in lieu of the degree. The college or university may be able to tell what classes are needed to enter the online Bachelor’s degree program by having the student complete a placement test. The test will show what the student already has learned through their years of hands-on experience and what they still need to learn before being allowed to enroll in a higher degree program.
Do I Need a Portfolio for an Online Graphic Design Program?
The need for an actual portfolio will be determined by the type of graphic design degree program you are trying to enroll in. While you may not need one in the beginning, putting some of your best work into a digital portfolio is a great idea. Your digital portfolio can include your most basic work as well as your most intricate projects. By providing your future college or university with a portfolio, digital or otherwise, you are giving them a sample of what they will be working with and the level of skill you have already achieved. Do you need a portfolio? Not really. If you truly want to appear professional and dedicated to learning, the answer is a resounding yes!
The benefits of having an actual portfolio will go far beyond trying to get into an online graphic design program. If you start with a basic portfolio when you enter your online degree program and continue to add to it throughout your education, your final portfolio will be impressive. It will also be a valuable tool as you start hunting for the perfect job. When you enter an interview with a well-drafted resume and cover letter, you will professional. When you throw in a portfolio that includes your best work, you appear ready to start work immediately.