Going for a bachelor’s degree in graphic design is a practical career decision. There are employers who hire more on work ethics and years of hands-on experience, instead of a degree. A few employers may require only up to an associate’s degree in graphic design. But earning a full four-year degree can offer more career opportunity. Increasingly, students today do tend to go on to the four-year college option, due to the ability to earn more graphic design instruction, and have a better chance of making a higher pay rate salary.
That means that working professionals in graphic design who don’t have the degree find themselves competing with graphic designers with better credentials. Those who complete a BFA or BS degree in graphic design may acquire job offers more readily than individuals without college instruction. For that reason, many working adults are choosing online graphic design degree programs that will allow them to finish their bachelor’s without leaving their job or having to take on a full-time courseload. For students who want to advance in their career, Value Colleges has ranked the Top 15 Best Value Online Graphic Design Bachelor’s for 2019.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Online Graphic Design Degree Programs.
To rank the Top 25 Best Value Online Graphic Design Bachelor’s degrees, Value Colleges editors sought out fully online and hybrid programs from institutions known for their art and design schools. From there, we ranked selected programs according to the tried-and-true Value Colleges method, equally weighting three factors:
- Alumni Salary
- Student Reviews
Data was drawn from College Scorecard IPEDS, and Niche, respectively. These three criteria tell students they’re getting a program with quality, affordability, and real-world job market results with a return on investment. That’s what makes a Value Colleges best value.
Penn State World Campus
Penn State’s Bachelor of Design in Digital Multimedia Design curriculum is designed to provide a solid foundation that allows students to explore potential careers in fields such as product design, marketing and digital technology. The university takes an interdisciplinary approach so that graduates finish as well rounded professionals with experience solving real world design issues. Coursework includes design, technology and information sciences. Electives are used to tailor the program to the student’s professional needs. Students also learn programming languages and multimedia applications adding value to this online graphic design bachelors.
At Penn State World Campus, courses are taught by distinguished faculty members from the College of Arts and Architecture, College of Information Sciences and Technology and the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. The World Campus is the second largest institution in the Penn State University System. Since 1988, the faculty have worked to provide an up to date, quality educational experience. They continually seek to engage students in active, collaborative projects that drive research and expand the industry knowledge. In the 2017 US News & World Report’s listing of “Best Online Programs”, Penn State World Campus ranked in the top 10 in six different categories. This demonstrates the quality of the programs the university offers.
In National University’s BA in Digital Media Design through their online program students use the most current tools and access the latest technology to understand their broad uses. This allows them to fully engaged with the current techniques and methodologies being used for visual communication in business, marketing, education and entertainment today. The program’s goal is for student to develop an understanding of the foundation of the current industry and the skills and experience to become leading professionals in their chosen fields such as social media, gaming, animation and the delivery of instructional content. As an affordable graphic design program, students have the added benefit of hands on experience.
National University was founded in 1971 by veterans to provide accessible education for adult learners. While there are 20 campus locations, many students find it more convenient to use their 100% online classes. To heighten the convenience for working students, every class is four weeks long. This allows students to focus on one course at a time and earn their degree faster. Enrollment is open throughout the year. The faculty are all accomplished in their respective fields and extremely experienced. Veterans also benefit from additional discounts
California Baptist University
California Baptist University’s online graphic design bachelor’s degree program helps each student discover their voice through the use of current tools and technologies used by working professionals. Students become proficient in software and design concepts including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, as well as fundamentals such as compositing, presentation, photography, lighting and idea conception. Instruction in design history, color theory and typography provide a foundation. For an affordable graphic design degree, this program produces well rounded professionals.
Per the rankings created by US News & World Report, California Baptist University is recognized as a best value and a top regional institution. These rankings are a clear indication of the quality of the school’s instructional value, as well as, economic value to working students. Regardless of the program, alumni continue to bestow high marks on the university, its faculty and programs. As a Christian university, courses are taught with a global perspective but underpinned with an ethical viewpoint. This produces well rounded professionals who are equipped to make decisions in the real world.
As the demand for qualified graphic artists has grown, Liberty University’s 100% online BFA in Graphic Design for working adults wanting to transition into this field. One thing that sets this program apart is that students are provided with an overview of art history along with instruction in modern visual arts. Hands on projects reinforce classroom learning. Beyond the foundational coursework that equips students with the knowledge of tools and the skill development needed in today’s workforce, students have a selection of electives to tailor their degree plan toward their professional goals. For students looking to learn 2D and 3D design, digital photography and design of publications, the program at Liberty University is an online graphic design bachelors worth looking into.
In 2017, Niche.com ranked Liberty University has the Best Online College in America. Courses are designed on an eight week format to allow working students to balance their daily responsibilities with their educational goals. Students are supported by exceptional faculty who are experienced and well known within their fields. During admissions, each student’s prior experiences are factored in for potential college credit. This can shorter the length of a degree program. Liberty University offers quality educational experiences that are worth their time and money.
Upper Iowa University
At Upper Iowa University’s BA in Graphic Design online degree, students are responsible for personally maintaining a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud to complete their coursework. Through their studies, students create a portfolio which is useful when securing work following graduation. The portfolio documents each students progress as they develop their individual style, create original works and resolve complex design problems. Software mastery is reinforced while students engage in work that develops conceptual abilities and critical thinking skills. These ‘soft’ skills are more stressed by the university over technical abilities. Students undergo the same challenging coursework as those in face to face locations. Ongoing assignments encourage students to explore and experiment in an environment where it is safe to make some mistakes. This encourages overall learning. This is an affordable graphic design program that prepares students for the real world.
In 2019, US News & World Report ranked the programs at Upper Iowa University as being among the top online bachelors degree programs in the world. They also ranked them as being a top online bachelors university program for veterans. This evaluation is drawn from an assessment of student engagement, support services, technology, faculty and the judgement among highly qualified academic peers. The flexibility of the programs combined with their professional and financial value make them worth looking into.
Within an online environment, students can pursue a BS in Digital Media and Design at Southeastern University using a unique faith-based driven curriculum. Coursework is designed to give students a solid foundation in creative design and communication methods. Courses covers digital design theory, marketing analytics and web design. Beyond theory, students develop proficiency with a number of graphic design software and digital design principles. In-depth research and writing skills are a central focus of the program. Students can build on their foundational courses with electives such as advanced illustration (vector graphics, infographics) and advanced photography/photojournalism used in international reporting.
Southeastern University is the only online private Christian university in Florida. Students engage with experienced faulty who bring their industry experience to the classroom. Southeastern’s connections throughout Florida also provide students the option to complete an internship with a qualified corporation. A solid foundation in theory and technique coupled with real world experience make this online graphic design degree worthwhile and good value for the financial investment.
Full Sail University
Full Sail University’s BS in Graphic Design program provides a foundation in the design field including print publishing and interface design. Beyond the required courses, students can expand their education into the areas of media integration, branding and advertising. These technical and creative skills are in high demand in the corporate world. Students engage in design and color theory from both their historical usage to their modern sociological and psychological impacts. Digital publishing, typography and page layout skills are also development. In this online graphic design bachelor’s program, students get a firm footing in digital design and its application in the modern industry.
Located just minutes away from Orlando, FL or on the student’s desktop, Full Sail University works with new students and working adults returning to school to further their careers. Flexible scheduling and degree programs that can be tailored to meet each students needs make this a valuable educational experience. Ranked as one of the most diverse colleges in the nation, Full Sail has built its mission around reaching out to nontraditional students.
Southern New Hampshire University
The Southern New Hampshire University BA in Graphic Design & Media Studies program is designed to develop each students aesthetics and critical thinking skills to enable them to solve design problems creatively. Historical studies give students a cultural and social context for design work. A sound grounding in digital design technology is part of the study plan. Students learn to use and master advanced graphic design hardware and software including Adobe Creative Suite. Classes are conducted in six eight-week terms, giving students flexibility to schedule courses based on their own daily schedules and professional needs. Students are given ongoing support from career counselors and faculty who specialize in their particular area of study. This affordable graphic design degree program is a good choice for anyone wishes to pursue a career in graphic design and media.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution. Their stated mission is to develop each student’s critical thinking skills and enhance their technical knowledge to help them succeed in today’s workforce. The faculty is composed of award winning professors who have in-depth industry knowledge and experience. The university also encourages involvement between students and alumni to expand the learning experience. The university allows students to transfer in up to 90 credits from another university. Programs are designed to be flexible for working students and affordable, and SNHU has been named the most innovative regional university in the North by U.S. News & World Report.
Kentucky Wesleyan University
Kentucky Wesleyan University’s online BA in Graphic Design is intended as a bachelor’s completion program, giving working adults the opportunity to build on an associate’s degree to a full bachelor’s. Students work through foundational art courses in areas like drawing, then move on to design courses ranging from typography to animation. While the online graphic design degree program is fully online, students are also required to complete two internships, helping build their industry connections and contribute to hands-on experiential learning.
Kentucky Wesleyan University is a small liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about KWU. In fact, Kentucky Wesleyan has been making its name in recent years with its fully online degree programs, providing degree completion opportunities for nontraditional students in a variety of majors. KWU has also made a reputation as a military-friendly Yellow-Ribbon College, providing opportunities for veterans to complete their degree online and enter a civilian career.
LA Film School
Students can earn a BS in Graphic Design from the LA Film School through their online platform. The program is 100% online so that working students can study and complete coursework at times that are convenient for their schedule. To complete their studies, students receive a professional grade DSLR camera with multiple lenses and accessories. They also are given a MacBook laptop that is equipped with Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud software. This includes Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and other design software. A standard drawing kit is also included. These tools help students start their program full ready to go. To develop creative and technical skills, classes focus on photography, experiential design, print and motion graphics. Web design and brand development are also taught. Students are led through portfolio develop for use after graduation.
As an online program, 39% of LA Film School’s students are over 25 years of age. This denotes the schools ease of access and flexibility for working adults seeking to further or change their career. Another plus for this school is its smaller working classes of 25:1. Students have close access to accomplished faculty members so that they can develop their skill while learning from professionals with real world experience. Niche gave the school’s academic programs a “C” but gave it a “B+” for diversity. Consideration should be given to balancing a student’s academic needs with their creative and design needs. For some, the access to experienced film makers, animation and music professionals will be worth the experience.
Midway University’s BS in Marketing Communications includes a Graphic Design specialization made for the world of modern marketing. Midway’s program isn’t just an online graphic design degree – it’s explicitly a marketing degree, fully focused on harnessing the power of graphic design for advertising, branding, and communications. Students combine technical skills in Photoshop and animation with a thorough understanding of areas like social media management and digital storytelling. Accelerated 8-week terms create a more working adult-friendly, flexible schedule.
Midway University has been different from the very beginning, when it was founded to provide orphaned young women with a liberal arts education that would allow them to make their own way in the world. Radical in its time, Midway remains committed to educational opportunity for nontraditional students, and has become particularly known as one of the best, most affordable online educators in the nation.
Rasmussen College’s BA in Graphic Design is designed to be one of the most flexible online graphic design degree programs available. Students get a fully-rounded education in traditional graphic design principles, contemporary technology, and multimedia presentation. What has really made the Rasmussen name, though, is its commitment to working professionals, with FlexChoice assessments giving students credit for experience. Industry certifications help students get a leg up on the competition, and Rasmussen helps students build a portfolio that will wow any employer in the job market.
Rasmussen College is a private, regionally-accredited for-profit institution based in Minnesota. Growing out of a business school founded in 1900, Rasmussen began offering fully online programs a century later, and today has earned a reputation as a top online educator. With their generous credits and accelerated formats, students can complete their bachelor’s in as little as 36 months.
Independence University (Stevens-Henager)
The BA in Graphic Arts at Independence University is a fully online graphic design bachelor’s degree built on career-first principles. Every course students take at Independence is intended to prepare them for the job market and help them move forward in their occupation. Students in the online graphic design program learn the most current technology, including InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, but more importantly, they learn to put technology to use and adapt to new technology. Students can complete their degree in just three years.
Independence University is the online division of Stevens-Henager, one of Utah’s oldest colleges. Independence has its roots in distance education, having begun in the 1970s, well before online courses, and has become a leading provider of online education throughout the US. Independence is a fully online, non-profit educator, and is well-known for its military-friendliness.
Savannah College of Art and Design
The Savannah College of Art and Design’s online graphic design degree program offers students several routes to a career-making credential. Students may choose a BA in Graphic Design, with more general education and freer elective opportunities; a BFA, with more intensive art and design instruction; or the [email protected], which gives students the chance to earn a BFA and MFA at once in an accelerated format. Coming from one of the world’s most innovative and influential design schools, any choice is sure to make a career impact.
The Savannah College of Art and Design – better known as SCAD – has been transforming art and design education since 1978, when it was founded to bring opportunities that students in the South had never had. SCAD is well-known for innovation, not only teaching students the current standards and technology, but actively pushing the field into new directions.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
The BFA in Graphic Design at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is focused on one main principle: communicating with imagery, design, and text. RMCAD’s fully online graphic design degree program is built on storytelling, with courses emphasizing communication, current technology, and user interface. Most importantly, students practice their learning on real projects for real clients, gaining hands-on experience and putting together a portfolio of successful examples they can take to the job market with confidence.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design was founded in 1963 on Renaissance principles of excellence, insight, and innovation, and the college has never faltered in combining the highest standards of quality with a spirit of transformation and growth. Today, RMCAD is known for their growing online program, providing working professionals in advertising, marketing, and design with the opportunity to enhance their careers with flexible, cutting-edge learning.
Will Employers Trust an Online Graphic Design Degree?
Millions of students across the globe are enrolling in online courses to begin or finish their degrees at accredited graphic design schools. Decades ago, students would have to attend brick and mortar university to receive their degree from accredited graphic design schools, but today, the graphic design accreditation process has caught up to the real world. Now, as long as they’re attending a school with graphic design accreditation, their degree holds just as much clout as a traditional program. The main reason is that because more and more respected colleges and universities are offering online degrees as part of their standard programs. Therefore, employers can trust an online graphic design degree just like any other.
Why do students elect to pursue their degree from online accredited graphic design schools? More often than not, it’s because they need to participate in a program that offers flexibility. These students may be advancing their careers or degrees while simultaneously raising a family or working another job. Therefore, the need for a flexible course schedule becomes a priority. When they select a school with graphic design accreditation, they can be sure they’re receiving the same high-quality education as if they had chosen to attend face-to-face classroom experiences. The main reason is that the graphic design accreditation process places just as much attention on the online curriculum and professor’s performance as they do any other coursework.
Is an Online Graphic Design School Better than a Local School?
When students opt to research graphic design schools online as opposed to searching for the phrase, “graphic design schools near me,” they’ll find there are pros and cons for each choice. For example, if they decide to go with the search results, they find under, “graphic design colleges near me,” they’ll find local on-campus programs they can visit in person. These same search results for “graphic design degree near me,” also offer opportunities for students to receive mentorship, as well as receive job opportunities while taking courses. In comparison to online graphic design degree programs, searching for the phrase, “graphic design schools near me,” is optimal for those who are looking for hands-on experiences in a brick-and-mortar atmosphere.
However, graphic design schools online are a better choice in comparison to searching for “graphic design schools near me,” for those who need flexibility. Students will receive the same rigorous coursework and high-quality education when selecting graphic design schools online, but they can work on their studies at their pace and their schedule. These opportunities are best for students who need convenience, the ability to continue working while attending school, and managing other activities in their life.
Will an Online Graphic Design Program Help Me Build My Portfolio?
One of the most important things a student can have when graduating with their online graphic design degree is a strong portfolio. That way, when entering the career world, they have materials that showcase their skills – package design, user experience, and everything else that makes a solid graphic designer for modern industry. These portfolios are necessary to show prospective employers when applicants are interviewing for jobs. Therefore, students will learn how to make a design portfolio that presents their best work. Students will see a broad range of graphic design portfolio ideas, and learn how to work with a graphic design portfolio layout. That way, when it comes time to build their online graphic design portfolio, it won’t look amateur.
Teaching students how to make a design portfolio is just as much of a priority during an online graphic design program as any other. The main reason is that the main objective is, using this online graphic design portfolio, the college or university wants to see students succeed. Therefore, professors and other administrators are going to provide the tools and resources students need, as well as graphic design portfolio ideas to ensure they’re achieving the best graphic design portfolio layout. The best online graphic design degree programs will give students the same kind of guidance they would get from an on-campus program.