Combining art and technology, graphic design is one of the most attractive and quickly-growing fields in the country. Graphic design involves creating visual concepts in order to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate the masses.
If you’re interested in turning your passion and creativity for design into a promising career, then a degree in design may be for you. Consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that arts and design occupations paid a median salary of $48,130, which was higher than all other occupations at $39,810. Graphic designers employed by the federal executive branch or aerospace manufacturing agencies can expect to earn over $82,000 per year.
Moreover, industries with the highest demand for designers include advertising and publishing companies. Earning an advanced degree can land you a prestigious executive job at several companies. This is why it has become common for professionals to pursue a master’s degree to secure more rewarding and high-paying jobs.
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In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about each level of education in graphic design. Whether you’re looking to enter the field with an associate degree, or looking to advance your career prospects with a master’s in design, this article is for you. From the best online degree programs to the courses you can expect for each degree in graphic design, CareerKarma has got you covered.
Why Earn a Degree in Design Online?
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc upon the livelihoods of millions of people across the world and education has been affected as well. Since traditional and hands-on learning methods are being postponed until further notice, online learning seems to be the only feasible way for many students to continue their education. This is not bad news since online learning can offer many benefits over its brick-and-mortar counterpart. Let’s explore some of these online learning benefits below.
Online Design Degree Flexibility
Perhaps the most popular benefit of online programs is their convenience. Not only can you access a variety of programs and resources online, you can also study in an asynchronous format. This means you can finish your courses as quickly or as slowly as you’d like. Being able to choose your program based on its quality and affordability rather than its location is a big plus.
Not only will you be able to save money by earning your degree online, you’ll also be able to do it from your home. This will allow you to continue your education whenever and wherever you’re comfortable, instead of sacrificing your leisure or livelihood. Whether you’re working a full-time job or taking care of your loved ones, the flexibility of online classes will surely make your learning stress free.
Online Design Degree Cost
A major issue regarding most college programs is how costly they are. However, online programs and courses are often much less expensive than their traditional counterparts, as you’ll see from the programs listed below.
If you partake in an online master’s program, then you’ll save a fortune; you won’t be paying pesky fees for boarding, meal plans or transportation. Financial aid is also available for online learners, which should never be overlooked.
Online Design Degree Quality
According to a LinkedIn survey, 58 percent of employees prefer self-paced learning over instructor-led learning. Though online degrees previously held a stigma of not being legitimate or thorough enough, that is far from the truth today.
Online, accredited college programs are held to very high standards in terms of curricula and resources, similar to on-the-ground universities. You can utilize video lessons, personal instructor interaction, virtual collaboration with classmates, and several meticulous guides and other information on the Internet to assist your learning.
What Types of Design Degree Programs Are Available Online?
Let’s discuss the three different design degree programs, associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, in more detail below.
Associate Design Degree
According to the BLS, most careers in graphic design require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, individuals who must juggle other responsibilities with classes may benefit from starting with a more flexible associate degree. An Associate Degree in Graphic Design will serve as a stepping stone for students who want to pursue a higher degree later on.
Associate programs allow candidates to develop a strong skillset, build a portfolio, and gain work experience. Furthermore, these programs can help hone marketable skills such as web design or even allow you to work as a freelancer in photography or craftwork.
An Associate Degree in Graphic Design takes approximately two years to complete for full-time students and up to five years for part-time students. However, with relevant prior college credits, students can expect to earn their degree much quicker. Often containing 60 credit hours, this is the right path for anyone looking to bolster their resume or chances of getting into a BA program later on. Even if you plan to achieve higher education in the field, an associate degree will help you reach those goals as well.
Graphic Design Associate Degree Coursework
Here are some courses you can expect to take during an Associate Degree in Graphic Design program:
- Introduction to Adobe Creative Cloud
- Color Theory
- Introduction to Visual Communication
- Graphic Design Fundamentals
- User Experience Design
Associate degree programs in graphic design feature curriculums that discuss the fundamentals of graphic design, such as tools, software applications and quantitative literacy. During their final semester, students usually prepare for careers by exploring professional practices and emerging technologies. Online students can also take advantage of several resources such as guides or other information sites such as message boards.
Best Associate Degree Programs for Design
After combing the web for school rankings resource guides, these programs rank among the best for getting your associate design degree. Factors such as cost, convenience, and student satisfaction primarily influenced these school choices.
- Hagerstown Community College (Hagerstown, MD)
- Gateway Technical College (Kenosha, WI)
- Columbus State Community College (Columbus, OH)
- Foothill College (Los Altos Hills, CA)
- Surry Community College (Dobson, NC)
If you’re interested in any of the programs, you can find detailed information published on each site linked above.
Associate Design Degree Career Paths
Duties: Web developers design and create websites to promote products or services and attract potential clients.
2018 Median Salary: $73,760
Job Growth (2018-2028): 13% (much faster than average)
Craft and Fine Artists
Duties: These artists create enticing art for sale or exhibition using various skills and materials.
2018 Median Salary: $35,110
Job Growth (2018-2028): 1% (little or no change)
Duties: Photographers use their creativity and technical skills to produce images for companies.
2018 Median Salary: $36,280
Job Growth (2018-2028): -6% (decline)
Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design
Most employers have started looking for professionals in graphic design who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, it is a good idea to pursue an online Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design since it prepares students for entry-level positions as graphic designers.
If you possess computer programming expertise, you can also pursue a career as a user experience or user interface designer. Furthermore, a senior position may be available after years of working, though it is better to pursue an advanced degree or license to secure such high roles.
A bachelor’s degree typically takes a minimum of four years to complete and spans 120 to 130 credit hours in total. Attending the right program allows you to network with peers, gain essential experience during a practicum or internship, and develop a robust portfolio to advance your career.
Online undergraduate arts programs typically require admission documents such as a high school diploma/GED, SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. More competitive programs may even require a portfolio from prospective students.
Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design Coursework
Here are some courses you can expect to take during your Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design program:
- The History of Contemporary Graphic Design
- Advanced Typography
- Intermediate Design
- Advanced Digital Graphic Design for the Web
- Organizational Leadership
Online bachelor’s programs feature a major curriculum involving coursework in design basics, fundamentals of web design, and website development. In their final year, students typically develop a professional portfolio as part of a capstone course.
Online learners typically have access to resources such as career planning guides and mock interviews. Program graduates can also take advantage of specialized transition assistance resources, such as job boards.
Best Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Design
After an extensive program and school search, we found these to be the best online bachelor’s degree programs for graphic design:
- California Baptist University (Riverside, CA)
- Midway University (Midway, KY)
- Bellevue University (Bellevue, NE)
- Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
- Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester, NH)
Bachelor’s Degree Career Paths
Multimedia Artists and Animators
Duties: These talented professionals create several kinds of visual effects and images for media and entertainment.
2019 Median Pay: $75,270
Job Growth: 4% (as fast as average)
Duties: Fashion designers create clothing, accessories, and footwear for sale and exhibition.
2019 Median Pay: $73,790
Job Growth: 1% (little or no change)
Duties: Graphic designers create visual images and effects, using computer software or by hand, for marketing, media, or entertainment.
2019 Median Pay: $52,110
Job Growth: 3% (slower than average)
Master’s Degree in Graphic Design
If you have an eye for immense creativity and a mind for management, then a master’s degree may be your best bet. The cross-disciplinary nature of a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design opens up many career paths for graduates.
With the right program and licensure, you will be eligible to serve in a high-level administrative capacity and oversee directive changes to your company. Students who hold a bachelor’s degree and are willing to advance their career prospects should consider pursuing an MS in Graphic Design.
A master’s program typically takes two years to complete, ranging from 32 to 60 credits.
Master’s Degree in Graphic Design Coursework
Here are some courses you can expect to take while completing your Master’s Degree in Graphic Design:
- Web and Mixed Media Design
- History of Graphic Design
- Publication Design
- Web Development and Social Media
- Theories and Practices Regarding UX/UI
The curriculum for master’s programs in this subject typically features more meticulous versions of courses found in bachelor’s degree programs. Most master’s degree programs in graphic design require many hours of field experience, from professional internships to practicums. Students typically finish their degree by completing a research course and thesis/portfolio.
Best Master’s Degree Programs for Graphic Design
We found these to be the best online programs for you to easily get your master’s degree in design:
- Quinnipiac University (Hamden, CT)
- Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
- Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
Master’s Design Degree Career Paths
Duties: Advertising managers design, coordinate, and execute programs to generate interest in products or services.
2020 Median Pay: $135,900
Job Growth (2018-2028): 13% (much faster than average)
Duties: Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions.
2019 Median Pay: $94,220
Job Growth: 1% (little or no change)
Duties: Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to develop concepts for manufactured products.
2020 Median Pay: $68,890
Job Growth (2018-2028): 3% (slower than average)
Things to Know Before Enrolling in an Online Graphic Design Degree Program
Before enrolling in an online graphic design degree program, there are several factors you should consider. Firstly, you should try to pursue an affordable program that doesn’t require arbitrary fees, such as graduation or assessment fees. You should also make sure that you are well-equipped with the resources you’ll need to earn your degree in design administration.
Furthermore, you should research whether your graduate program is asynchronous (self-paced) or not. A self-paced course is preferred by some because you do not have to worry about deadlines.
It is also important to make sure your program is accredited and reputable so that you don’t have issues or regrets later on. You can do so by visiting school websites, checking program reviews, or by contacting schools directly for further information.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which program is right for you. Do you simply want an associate degree or do you want a master’s degree? Are you familiar with the software you’ll be using to pursue your education? Knowing the answers to these questions beforehand will ensure that you get your degree as soon as possible.
Ultimately, you should earn your design degree in whichever way is most comfortable for you. The online process has proven to be effective for many students worldwide, and it is often cheaper and more convenient overall.
All you need is a working laptop, a stable Internet connection and the resources that we’ve provided you. We here at CareerKarma wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.