A masters in graphic design is an interdisciplinary degree that combines technical skills with creative development.
If you are interested in starting or advancing a career in graphic design, art management, or web development, this degree can help you work toward those goals.
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Many graduates who find success in the graphic design industry use their collaboration and artistic skills to communicate with wide audiences, create brand recognition, and inspire people to action.
Online Masters in Graphic Design Programs
Graphic designers are responsible for creating visual content for a number of purposes, including to inform and inspire.
Graphic design graduate programs can teach you foundational concepts and tools of design and visual communication. You’ll also have the opportunity to delve into design theory as well as the history of graphic design as it relates to society and culture.
Common course topics covered in a master degree in graphic design program include:
- Design research and analysis
- History of graphic design
- User experience design
- Visual literacy
At the end of your degree program, you should also have a collection of visual communications work to include in your portfolio. As you apply to jobs in the future, you can use this portfolio to showcase what you are capable of.
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Because graphic designers tend to be gifted in many areas, including visual communication and technology, they can often pursue careers in many fields as a graphic designer.
Common graphic design career paths include:
- Graphic designers
- UX designers
- Art directors
- Creative directors
- Multimedia artists
Many of these positions in visual communications careers allow professionals to combine their creativity and marketing skills. Because so many companies rely on strong visuals to build brand awareness and sell their products, people with solid graphic design skills are in high demand. You might even take your creative and technical skills to an organization whose ideals match your own.
Graphic Design Careers & Salaries
Graphic design graduates often enter careers in which they have the freedom to put their creative abilities to use. Many professional opportunities for graphic designers also require a strong grasp on a range of technical programs and skills, including Adobe InDesign and coding.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following graphic designer career paths may pique the interest of professionals with advanced training in graphic design.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Advertising and Promotions Managers||$127,150|
|Web and Digital Interface Designers||$79,890|
|Special Effects Artists and Animators||$78,790|
|Commercial and Industrial Designers||$77,030|
|Junior College Professors||$76,350|
While these are some of the typical jobs pursued by graphic design program graduates, it is not an exhaustive list. There’s a range of opportunities for people with the communication, collaboration, and creative skills that can be learned in a graphic design program.
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It can be helpful to remember that these positions and their annual median salaries are not set in stone. As with undergraduate degrees, a graduate degree does not guarantee a specific job title or salary. Your position and salary will depend on a number of factors, such as your experience, your specializations, your employer, and your location.
Master of Graphic Design Curriculum & Courses
Graphic design courses mix technological skill with creative prowess. You’ll likely have the opportunity to study successful graphic design campaigns, collaborate with others, and work on independent projects.
Here are examples of courses found in a graphic design graduate program:
- History of Graphic Design: An exploration of the evolution of graphic design, this course covers key moments in design history, such as the development of the printing press and digital photography.
- User Experience Design: In this course, you’ll learn how to design a useful and engaging online experience for consumers.
- Visual Literacy: This class will guide you through the different ways visuals have affected culture and will explore key concepts of visual literacy, like remembering and understanding.
- Typography: You’ll examine the importance behind the different components of typesetting, such as alignment, scale, and balance.
- Publication Design: This course covers the tools and knowledge needed to design layouts for print publications.
- Design Studio: Designed to enhance your graphic design knowledge and skills, this course provides the opportunity to study specific elements and complete independent projects.
- Graphic Design Theory: This course covers the fundamentals of graphic design, so you’ll study the design process and examine what makes a particular concept successful.
- New Media: This course explores the impact that modern technology has on the ways people deliver and understand messages.
- Motion Graphics: In this class, you’ll learn about the different tools and techniques involved in animation.
- Web and Mixed Media Design: You’ll learn how to incorporate exciting graphics into online pages as well as how to use different programming languages, and you can gain hands-on project experience.
Not only can a graduate degree help you become well-versed in the theory and fundamentals of graphic design, but it can also help you advance your technical skills in the industry.
How to Choose an Online Masters in Graphic Design Program
When it comes to choosing a graduate program in graphic design, there are likely personal preferences and circumstances that will be determining factors in your decision. It can be helpful, though, to consider aspects like cost and location.
- Cost and length. Online graphic design programs can range in price depending on the school and the length of the program. The typical length of a masters program is 1 to 2 years, although this can vary between schools. The cost often rises with program length, so it’s strategic to pick a college that offers a timeline and price range that works for you.
- In-person requirements. While many online programs conduct most, or all, of their courses virtually, they may have some in-person requirements. For example, you might be expected to partake in an internship program on location, something that’s beneficial to research beforehand.
At the end of the day, choosing a masters in graphic design or an online MFA in Graphic Design is a personal process. You may want to explore various programs to discover which options are right for you.
As you put together your admissions materials, try to showcase not only your academic gifts but your unique skills outside of the classroom as well.
Many graphic design programs request some, or all, of these items upon application:
- GRE or GMAT scores (only if required)
- Official transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
While most masters programs require an undergraduate degree to apply, this is not always the case. Some schools offer longer programs to those who have not earned their bachelors degree but who are eager to jump into an advanced learning program.
Graphic Design Master’s Programs Accreditation
A school’s accreditation status can impact your job prospects as well as your eligibility for federal financial aid. So, what is accreditation? It is an investigation of a college’s instructional materials conducted by an outside party. Not only is the curriculum assessed, but teachers are observed and facilities are examined.
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All of this ensures that the education you pay for is credible and passes a set of merit checks. You can visit the US Department of Education’s website to learn more about regional accreditation and to utilize their database of schools.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Many students consider applying for financial aid to help cover the costs of a graduate degree. To see how much federal financial aid you can receive, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form compiles information about your financial situation in order to distribute aid fairly between prospective students.
You can also research the scholarship opportunities at your graduate school, which often come with their own set of qualifications and applications.
Should I Get a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design?
Whether you should get a masters degree in graphic design ultimately depends on your personal and professional goals.
Master’s programs with a graphic design concentration often give you the opportunity to delve deep into a specific area of design that you find compelling. If graphic design is your passion, a graduate degree could be a chance for you to develop your skills, expand your portfolio, and grow your network.
While a graphic design master’s program may lead to advanced career opportunities, it is important to note that earning your degree doesn’t guarantee a specific salary or position. The positions available to you as a graphic designer depend on a number of factors, such as where you live and your previous experience in design.
What Can You Do with a Master in Graphic Design?
With the world relying more heavily than ever on visual communication, there’s a wide range of opportunities out there for budding graphic designers.
Graphic design graduates may utilize their technical and creative skills to work as web developers and digital designers or special effects animators and artists. Some graduates also choose to pursue leadership positions, such as art directors or marketing managers.
As with undergraduate degrees in design, because a master’s program in graphic design is an interdisciplinary one, you can choose to take your skills in a more creative direction or to move toward managerial roles in marketing or business.
Some master’s program graduates even continue on to earn an on-campus or online PhD in Graphic Design.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Graphic Design Online?
Masters programs can generally be completed in 1 to 2 years. If you attend a 36 credit hour program with no thesis requirement, you can typically complete it in 1 year with full-time and year-round enrollment. If your program does have a thesis requirement, your program will likely take longer to complete.
Attending graduate school part-time can add additional time to your program as well. Depending on factors like your work schedule, you may choose to apply only to programs that fit your specific timeline.
What’s the Difference Between Digital Design vs. Graphic Design Master Degree?
Both graphic and digital design are concerned with reaching a target audience.
|Digital Design||Graphic Design|
While a master’s program with a graphic design concentration often focuses on static imaging, digital design aims to create user experiences that result in action, like clicking on an advertisement or scrolling through a menu.
Is a Master’s in Graphic Design Degree Worth It?
Yes, a master’s in graphic design degree is worth it for many students. Various careers in the graphic design industry are projected to experience employment growth at a rate faster than the national average.
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For instance, art directors are expected to see 11% job growth over the next ten years, while special effects artists and animators are expected to see 16% job growth (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Additionally, many graphic design careers are creative ones. This means that you might get the opportunity to share ideas with team members while developing creative solutions to questions of communication and marketing.
Universities Offering Online Masters in Graphic Design Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
The Academy of Art University offers a Master’s in Graphic Design and Digital Media. The program is designed to teach students how to harness their design instincts and apply it to creation, entrepreneurship, and innovation. The two year program can be completed online and includes courses in visual literacy, user experience design, and the history of graphic design.
Academy of Art University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Arizona State University offers a Master of Science in Graphic Information Technology. The program is designed to help students gain skills in the creation of visual content and multi-channel distribution. All classes can be attended online. Students must complete 10 courses for a total of 30 credit hours to graduate.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Design at Aurora University covers topics such as marketing management, analytics, media strategy, content creation, and campaign planning. The program is designed to be accessible to students with busy schedules. It features the flexibility of fully online, 8 week classes that can typically be completed in 1 to 2 years.
Aurora University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Ball State University’s Master of Arts in Emerging Media Design and Development is a 36-credit program that balances credits in instruction and creative projects or applied research. Classes are attended primarily online but are complemented by intensive semesterly meetings in person. This design is intended to provide flexibility while still ensuring ample time for networking with peers and professors.
Ball State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Brandeis University offers a Master’s in Digital Marketing and Design. The program includes courses covering customer analytics, search engine marketing, and communication designed to prepare students for professions across a variety of fields. Classes can be completed fully online, and students can choose to attend part-time or full-time. The degree can typically be completed in 1 to 3 years.
Brandeis University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Fort Hays State University’s Master of Fine Arts in Art and Design offers a variety of concentrations to choose from. Options include Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Design, Photography, Printmaking, Ceramics, and Intermedia.
Students must complete 35 credits in their studio major, 12 credits in art history and aesthetics, and 12 hours in studio art outside their concentration to graduate. Courses can be completed online or in a low-residency format.
FHSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Students hoping to transform their passion for art into applicable skills and a fulfilling career may find the Master’s in Fine Arts of Visual Art at Jacksonville University an ideal next step. Courses can be taken in a 2 or 3 year timetable. The curriculum covers topics in critical theory, contextual practice, research and development, and marketcraft.
Jacksonville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The Master of Arts in Art and Design at Kennesaw State University offers concentrations in Digital Animation, Art Education, and Museum Studies. All concentrations are offered in a fully online format. Each concentration consists of 30 credit hours and typically takes about 1 year to complete.
Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Kutztown University offers a Master of Fine Arts in Communication Design. The program is designed for students wishing to pursue studies in graphic design, interactive design, advertising design, and illustration. The curriculum aims to teach students how to solve communication hurdles by identifying issues and audiences, conduct research, and apply effective design rhetoric.
Kutztown University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Liberty University’s MFA in Graphic Design is intended to provide students with the essential skills required to excel in the rapidly expanding graphic design field. On average, the 60 credit, 100% online program can be finished in 2 years. Key courses in the program include Publication Design, Interactive Design, History of Graphic Design, and Visualization Illustration.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Lindenwood University offers a Master of Arts in Art and Design. The program is designed to give students a sturdy foundation in critical theory and current trends as well as an understanding of practical, problem-solving applications in their field. Students in the program may choose an emphasis in Digital Art, Graphic Design, Photography, Project Management, or Web and User Experience.
Lindenwood is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Designed for working adults, the Master of Arts in Graphic and Web Design at Minneapolis College of Art and Design has fully online, asynchronous courses. Course options include Design in Context, Motion Design, User Experience Design, Typography, and Experimental Interaction.
MCAD is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
As professional communication has changed rapidly in recent years, educational formats have changed accordingly. Following this trend, the Master of Arts in Communication Technology program at Point Park University has shifted to an online format. This 2 to 3 year program focuses on graphic design, social media, and search engine optimization to help prepare students for new demands in their fields.
Point Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Quinnipiac University offers a Master of Science in Interactive Media and Communications. The program’s focus is on training students to create and manage their art for a range of mediums and platforms while remaining mindful of their audience and demands of the market. In this online program, students are asked to conduct in-depth research, problem-solve creatively, and learn how to implement successful strategies.
Quinnipiac is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Savannah College of Art and Design’s Master of Arts in Design and Visual Experience takes advantage of online learning for accessibility while maintaining award-winning academics. The curriculum in this two year program covers design research and analysis, visual and typographic narrative, and visual design and culminates in a higher-level elective or a graduate internship.
The Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Stephen F. Austin State University offers a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. The program is designed for aspiring designers hoping to cement their talents with fundamental design knowledge and skills. Graduates of the program often become art or creative directors, digital designers, or graphic designers and illustrators.
Stephen F. Austin State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute offers a Master of Science in Information Design and Technology. The program focuses on providing students with interdisciplinary knowledge that can be applied to diverse fields and careers. It is offered fully online and utilizes theory, practice, and student research to instruct students in the interplay between information, technology, and consumer needs.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Texas State University’s Master of Fine Arts in Communication Design program values diversity and inclusion, creative research, social engagement, and community building above all else. This 60 credit program is offered fully online. The curriculum consists of core lectures, studio design hours, and a thesis.
Texas State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Individuals seeking to gain a deeper understanding of art and its professional applications may find Tiffin University’s Master of Humanities in Art and Visual Media program to be a good fit. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in modern and traditional art media, including film, photography, sculpture, painting, and web design.
Tiffin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Florida offers Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a concentration in Web Design. The program focuses on design skills, communication theory, and coding to provide a well-rounded education that will help set students up for success in diverse fields. Students must complete 37 credits to graduate. The degree can typically be completed in 16 months.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Oklahoma offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Technology. It aims to provide students with a foundation in art history, technological and programming competency, and skills in presenting technical and creative decisions to clients. The curriculum covers key elements in art history, emerging technology, and interactive media.
The University of Oklahoma is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Southern California offers a Master of Science in Integrated Design, Business, and Technology. It aims to help students develop a sense of complex design, cross-business collaboration, and critical decision making. The 38 credit program can typically be completed in 16 to 24 months and features online classes that combine both flexibility and communal learning.
The University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Senior College and University Commission.
The Master of Fine Arts in Design at the University of Wisconsin—Stout consists of 60 credits that can be completed fully online. The program is multidisciplinary. It covers foundational concepts in interactive media, digital cinema and photography, animation, and graphic, game, industrial, interior, and sustainable design.
The University of Wisconsin – Stout is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Washington State University offers a Master’s in Strategic Communication. The program is intended for those looking to gain fundamental skills in communication, advertisement, corporate communications, and public relations. This 30 credit program can be completed fully online. Key courses include Multimedia Content Creation, Ethics, Research Methods, Consumer Behavior, and Professional Marketing Campaigns.
Washington State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Getting Your Graphic Design Masters Degree Online
If you are passionate about design and are ready to focus your studies on a particular area of the field, then earning your master’s in graphic design degree online may be a strategic next step.
Many graphic design graduate students hone their technical skills in areas like digital design and Photoshop while strengthening their abilities in communication and project management.
One way to start your journey toward a masters in graphic design is by researching accredited schools that offer courses and degree concentrations that you find intriguing. Once you have a list of your top graduate school programs, you can begin applying!