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Masters in Graphic Design Online

Masters in Graphic Design Online

Graphic design is a form of design that focuses on communicating through art, images, languages, and basic graphic forms. These visual designs are used to express a message or emotion that cuts across boundaries of age, demography, language, religion, etc. Graphic designers work with clients to create visual representations of messages that are targeted at specific audiences through various media. These specialists assist in creating text and graphics found in periodicals, advertisements, product packaging, company logos, and other forms of mass communication by combining art and technology in equal measure.

From store shelves to billboards to advertisements and websites, graphic designers’ work can be found everywhere. They are the visionaries who help businesses visually communicate their thoughts to their customers in a distinctive fashion across a variety of channels, including print and digital media.

A master’s in graphic design program is, therefore, the best option for those who have artistic leanings or have a creative mind and who also love to use technology as a medium of expressing their art.

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Best Online Masters in Graphic Design Programs

Masters in Graphic Design Online Best seal

The best master’s in graphic design online programs should be backed by excellent and experienced faculty, a well-recognized and accredited institution, excellent infrastructure, and computer labs, and offer good value for money. The program format, structure, and options of coursework and specializations are also vital factors. Based on these and more, here is a list of the best master’s in graphic design online programs:

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College Name & Address Tuition Graduation Rate
#1
Quinnipiac University
Mt Carmel Ave, Hamden, Connecticut 06518
$19,350 76%
#2
Syracuse University
900 South Crouse Ave., Syracuse, New York 13244
$40,392 83%
#3
Harvard University
Massachusetts Hall, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
$49,448 98%
#4
Savannah College of Art and Design
342 Bull St, Savannah, Georgia 31402
$38,475 73%
#5
Ball State University
2000 University Ave, Muncie, Indiana 47306
$9,328 67%
#6
Maryland Institute College of Art
1300 Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21217
$48,510 73%
#7
Arizona State University Campus Immersion
University Drive and Mill Avenue, Tempe, Arizona 85287
$11,720 66%
#8
Kent State University
Executive Office, 2nd Floor Library, Kent, Ohio 44242
$11,766 65%
#9
Radford University
801 East Main St., Radford, Virginia 24142
$8,915 56%
#10
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd, Lynchburg, Virginia 24515
$7,935 54%
#11
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
15200 Kutztown Rd, Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530
$9,288 52%
#12
Academy of Art University
79 New Montgomery, San Francisco, California 94105
$27,288 47%

Source Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Most Affordable Graphic Design Online Master’s

Masters in Graphic Design Online affordable seal

Pursuing a master’s in graphic design is not an inexpensive affair. Programs are known to cost considerable amounts of cash, making it essential to seek a school that offers a well-rounded degree matched with affordability and value. After an exhaustive search, here is a list of some cheap online masters in graphic design programs in the country:

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College Name & Address Tuition Graduation Rate
#1
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd, Lynchburg, Virginia 24515
$7,935 54%
#2
Radford University
801 East Main St., Radford, Virginia 24142
$8,915 56%
#3
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
15200 Kutztown Rd, Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530
$9,288 52%
#4
Ball State University
2000 University Ave, Muncie, Indiana 47306
$9,328 67%
#5
Arizona State University Campus Immersion
University Drive and Mill Avenue, Tempe, Arizona 85287
$11,720 66%
#6
Kent State University
Executive Office, 2nd Floor Library, Kent, Ohio 44242
$11,766 65%
#7
Quinnipiac University
Mt Carmel Ave, Hamden, Connecticut 06518
$19,350 76%
#8
Academy of Art University
79 New Montgomery, San Francisco, California 94105
$27,288 47%
#9
Savannah College of Art and Design
342 Bull St, Savannah, Georgia 31402
$38,475 73%
#10
Syracuse University
900 South Crouse Ave., Syracuse, New York 13244
$40,392 83%
#11
Maryland Institute College of Art
1300 Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21217
$48,510 73%
#12
Harvard University
Massachusetts Hall, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
$49,448 98%

Source Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding Masters in Graphic Design Programs

A master’s in graphic design degree hones both the aesthetic skill and technical expertise of the student so that they can create finished projects from the very first idea. During this master’s degree, students can learn to apply their skills to other industries and mediums as well.

In most cases, the graphic design master’s program requires 30 to 60 credits in two years. Along with graphic and art-related coursework, these master’s programs often cover topics in business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and advertising as well, providing students with a wide range of skills to work in a variety of industries and settings. Graduates can go on to take up successful professions in innovation and industrial design and work as creative professionals and educators, among others.

Masters in Graphic Design Degree Types

Graphic Design degrees at the graduate level come in several forms. Irrespective of the type of degree chosen, students should note that there can be considerable overlap in the topics studied. Depending on the degree type, the program can culminate in a final project or a thesis.

MFA Graphic Design

The Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design (MFA Graphic Design) is a terminal degree in graphic design suitable for students who desire to become educators or researchers.

MA Graphic Design

The Master of Arts in Graphic Design (MA Graphic Design) generally offers students a more balanced study of graphic design and liberal arts. This degree type is better suited for students who wish to advance their careers and qualify for senior positions at their current place of employment.

MS Graphic Design

The Master of Science in Graphic Design (MS Graphic Design) is far more technical in its approach towards graphic design than, say, an MA. This degree focuses more on design tools aid and technology than on the creative process.

M.Des.

The Master of Design or M.Des. program emphasizes art and computer-aided design skills that are heavily applied to the consumer’s interpretation of commercial and technical information. It focuses on complex design principles and the processes that bring them to life.


Specializations in Masters in Graphic Design Programs

Concentrations and specializations are important factors that can influence a student’s academic and career choices. One can either choose the subject of Graphic Design in general or specialize in only a few areas of it that one is most interested in. Choosing a specialization or emphasis provides students with the ability to focus on certain areas within Graphic Design that can suit specific careers or job sectors, giving them a competitive advantage as well. Some options of specializations and concentrations available in a master’s in graphic design are:

  • Packaging Design
  • Web and Mobile Design
  • Sustainable Design
  • Design and Technology
  • Brand Identity and Logo Design
  • Interactive Design
  • 3D Modeling and Animation
  • Layout and Print Design
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Digital Design

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Masters in Graphic Design Programs

In general, coursework in a master’s in graphic design covers several different areas in design for different types of media. General education classes, along with how media is managed and distributed, are also common to the program. Some coursework can also touch upon programming languages and web development as well. Here are some of the typical graphic design degree courses one can come across in a master’s in graphic design degree program:

  • Color theory
  • Introduction to Graphic Design
  • Vector Illustration
  • Issues in Graphic Design
  • Design and Composition
  • Integrated Communications – Message Synthesis
  • Digital Photography
  • Type Composition
  • Perspectives on Visual Art
  • Cross-Media Design Solutions
  • Evolution of Publication Design
  • Internet Multimedia
  • Interactive Media and Design
  • Web Management and e-Commerce
  • Art History
  • Visual Design and Visual Analysis
  • Research Methods in Design
  • Communication Design
  • Data Visualization
  • Emerging Media Design
  • Ideation Models and Visual storytelling
  • Web Design

Students may also have to complete a capstone project or master’s thesis as a part of their degree program.

A master’s in graphic design equips graduates with a host of skills that make them readily employable in various settings. Graphic Designers will, among other things, be able to:

  • create brands identities and logo guidelines;
  • discover the project’s requirements by liaising with clients, art directors, and other stakeholders;
  • design graphics, design layouts, Illustrate, and edit photos using advanced software and tools;
  • conceptualize and create brochures, marketing material, packaging, and advertising material;
  • present design concepts and proposals to clients or superiors;
  • communicate ideas and messages, create logos, layouts, and choose colors and fonts;
  • provide design assistance and create elements and assets for web and app development; and
  • adapt and modify content and graphics to changing scenarios, markets, and sectors.

Accreditation for Masters in Graphic Design Programs

Accreditation is a voluntary process that schools go through to show that their educational programs meet or exceed the industry’s current quality requirements. Students in online graphic design online master’s benefit from attending an accredited school, which testifies that the college’s instruction meets professional standards. Additionally, accreditation ensures access to federal financial aid and facilities the easy transfer of educational credits.

While schools can be regionally accredited by independent accrediting authorities such as New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS), Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC), Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission, masters in graphic design programs are usually accredited (programmatically) by the Nation Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD accredits over 360 postsecondary schools, universities, and independent institutes with art and design programs.

To know more about accreditation and its importance, it is strongly recommended that students read the Accreditation Guide.


Timeline For Graduating From Online Masters in Graphic Design Programs

Most master’s degrees in graphic design necessitate two years of full-time study and 60 credits to complete. Some institutions offer two graduate degree options available for prospective graphic design students. Students who already have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design can opt for a two-year program, while those new to the field have a three-year option. Those who have never formally studied design or have not developed a portfolio before entering the Master of Graphic Design degree program might expect to spend a longer time (two to three years, as opposed to one or two) to obtain their degree.


Admission Requirements For Online Masters in Graphic Design Programs

All master’s degree programs have a set of admission requirements that students need to meet. Along with a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a subject related to Graphic Design, these are generally the admission requirements for a master’s in graphic design:

  • An application to the program and requisite application fee.
  • Official Academic Transcripts.
  • A Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 and above, on a scale of 4
  • A Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement.
  • At least 2 Letters of Recommendation.

While some schools require a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score to be submitted, it is generally waived for students with a good GPA. Additionally, prospective students may sometimes be required to submit an extensive portfolio showcasing their most current artwork/designs/projects for MFA programs. That demonstrates their skill and commitment.

Free Graphic Design Programs

Free graphic design programs are available by the hundreds online. Unfortunately, they generally do not lead to a complete master’s degree. Most free or advertising-supported site offerings are either certificate programs or independent modules that existing students, working professionals, or enthusiasts can take up to gain additional knowledge and skill in graphic design. Here are a few sites that offer free videos and courses that can be of help:

  1. Class Central Class Central offers free online courses in Graphic design and MOOCs from top universities and colleges. Most courses are self-paced and offer three levels of study – basic, intermediate, and advanced.
  2. edX edX offers a plethora of graphic design classes that will teach students core principles such as color theory, design theory, design process, etc. Topics include logo design, design software, brand identity, a design portfolio, interface design, and much more.
  3. Coursera Coursera is a popular destination for graphic design courses. Apart from paid courses, Coursera provides a decent range of free courses as well, many of which are authored by the University of Colorado Boulder, California Institutes of the Arts, Michigan State University, Saint Petersburg University, and other reputable establishments.
  4. Udemy Udemy offers bite-sized learning courses, which it claims enable learning in minutes, as well as in-depth courses from top-rated instructors. Topics range from ‘How to Create Better Graphic Design’ to ‘Vector: Beginner’s Guide to Graphic Design’ to ‘Graphic Design for Entrepreneurs…Who Can’t Draw’, and a whole lot more.

How to Pay for an Online Master in Graphic Design Program

A master’s in graphic design program is often an expensive program. In addition to tuition fees and other student expenses such as food, transport, books, stationery, etc., it is imperative for students to also invest in a relatively high-end desktop or laptop, one which can run the software required by the degree program. All these components add up to thousands of dollars, which is why seeking financial aid from various sources makes tremendous sense for most students. Here are a few sources of financial assistance that can fund a master’s in graphic design online degree:

Masters in Graphic Design Online

Scholarships

Students with an excellent academic track record are eligible for scholarships handed out by universities, institutions, and bursaries. Scholarships are usually merit-based and have specific additional admission requirements to be met.

Masters in Graphic Design Online

Grants

Students whose families cannot afford tuition for a master’s program can apply for a grant.  Unlike scholarships, grants are need-based and can pay for all other educational expenses in addition to the tuition fee.

Masters in Graphic Design Online

Graduate Assistantships

Students can sometimes work as a professor’s assistant, helping them teach and demonstrate for undergraduates or assisting them with a project or workshop. In exchange for such services, known as Teaching Assistantships, the college offers a fee waiver or a stipend that can offset some educational costs.

Masters in Graphic Design Online

Student Loans

In some instances, students may be eligible and can apply for loans from the federal government, banks, or private lenders, which entail interest payments. However, it is essential to note that delayed or missed payments will almost certainly result in a rise in student debt.

Masters in Graphic Design Online

FAFSA

Completing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) provides graduate students with an opportunity to determine whether or not they qualify for any financial assistance, like scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and work-study, offered by the university. In-depth information on FAFSA is available here.

FAQs about Online Masters in Graphic Design Programs

Q: What is a graphic design degree?
A: A graphic design degree prepares students to work with different forms of design that focus on communicating through art, images, languages, and basic expressive forms. These visual designs are used to create text and graphics found in periodicals, advertisements, product packaging, company logos, and other forms of mass communication.
Q: How to be a graphic designer online?
A: To begin with, students must complete their graduate studies in graphic design and build a portfolio along the way to stand out from the competition and be eligible for jobs in various settings.
Q: Can you get a master’s in graphic design online?
A: Yes, it is possible to pursue an online master’s in graphic design. Online learning is fast becoming the new norm, given the present circumstances, and are just as popular and good as their offline counterparts.
Q: Is a masters in graphic design worth it?
A: When comparing the amount of money one would invest in a master’s in graphic design against the high salaries graduates can expect from their careers, yes, a graphic design master is definitely worth it. More so, if the student in question has artistic leanings, loves to use computers and designing software, and enjoys creating iconography, logos, fonts, and other designs, this master’s degree can be very fulfilling and rewarding.
Q: Is graphic design in demand?
A: While the job outlook for graphic designers per se is 3% between 2020 and 2030, which is slower than average, jobs in specific related sectors of core graphic design show a lot of promise. For example, the job outlook for special effects artists and animators in the same period is an astounding 16%, much faster than average. Overall, however, one could indeed say that the outlook for graphic designers is excellent.
Q: What can I do with a graphic design master?
A: Graduates of a master’s in graphic design can take on any job that has to do with creatively designing something using software and computer tools. From ad agencies to animation studios to website development, the options are many.
Q: How long is graphic design school?
A: It generally takes 1 to 3 years to complete a master’s in graphic design degree program. Some colleges offer students who have zero background in graphic design a three-year program, in which the basics are covered in the first year. Other students can complete their programs in anywhere from one to two years.

Careers and Salary Outlook For Masters in Graphic Design Online Graduates

An online master’s degree in graphic design can enable a graphic designer to qualify or start a graphic design company, while graduates can work in research and academics. Graduates of graphics design master’s degrees are also generally employed by ad agencies or design companies, particularly if they have a distinguished portfolio. Multimedia design and animation are two other sectors that require graphic designers. In a nutshell, almost any sector or industry that needs design skills and relies to even a small extent on design are potential employers. Some examples include – packaging firms, marketing agencies, educational institutions, automobile companies, pharmaceutical companies, branding agencies, etc. Possible job titles include but are not limited to:

  • Art Director
  • Instructional Designer
  • Multimedia Artist
  • Website Designer
  • Production Artist
  • Computer Programmer
  • Exhibit Designer
  • Digital Design Manager
  • Environmental Designer
  • Technical Writers
  • Special Effects Artists & Animators

In 2020, the annual median salary of a graphic designer was $53,380, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with jobs set to grow 3% between 2020 and 2030 (slower than average). Here are a few other jobs, their salaries, and outlook:

Certifications and Licensure For Masters in Graphic Design Online Students

A graphic design certificate or graphic art certificate has the potential to open more job opportunities and help candidates stand out from the competition. While certificate programs act like extensions to a master’s degree, certifications endorse a master’s degree along with specialized knowledge. Although they may not be mandated, they can demonstrate a candidate’s skills in one or more areas of the profession. Some firms may also require their staff to carry certifications in their software products and give preference to candidates who have additional certifications when hiring. Here are a few examples of professional certifications for students to consider and add to their master’s degree:

  1. Certified Digital Designer (CDD) by American Design Drafting Association (ADDA)
  2. Autodesk Certified User in Autodesk Maya by Autodesk
  3. Autodesk Certified User in 3ds MAX by Autodesk
  4. Adobe Certified Professional by Adobe

In most cases, there is no special licensure required for graduates of a master’s in graphic design to seek employment. However, a few isolated roles in, say, aerospace or defense, may require specific training and licensure, usually provided by the employer.

Additional Resources For Masters in Graphic Design Online Students

Graphic designers who are up to date with the latest technologies and trends can expect better job prospects and projects to take up. To do so, however, students and professionals should network and connect with peers, seniors in the industry, and design establishments, to know the latest in the world of graphic design and to help them build their professional portfolio. Design, after all, is evolutionary, and therefore its constant change based on different markets and people elicit creative collaboration, an exchange of ideas, design thinking, etc. Here are a few excellent ways for students and professionals of graphic design:

  1. Dribbble
    Dribbble defines itself as the world’s leading community for creatives to share, grow, and get hired. It is the leading destination to find & showcase creative work and is home to some of the world’s best design professionals.
  2. Creative Commons
    Creative Commons is a non-profit organization dedicated to removing legal barriers to information and creativity sharing. It provides licenses and public domain tools that allow anybody and any organization to offer copyright permissions to creative and academic works in a free, straightforward, and standardized manner.
  3. Design Management Institute (DMI)
    Design Management Institute (DMI) promotes events, advocacy, and education in relation to graphic design. The institute also conducts research and workshops and has an active community of members.
  4. AIGA – The Professional Association for Design
    AIGA was founded in 1914 as a small club of graphic artists, printers, publishers, and illustrators in New York City and has since evolved into a nationwide network of professional designers, educators, students, and design enthusiasts served by more than 70 chapters. The organization advocates for industry standards and launches journals and exhibitions, apart from providing various resources for students and professional development.
  5. Graphic Artists Guild
    Graphics Artists Guild is a national association that offers professional development opportunities for graphic designers, animators, and other artists, as well as assists in the establishment of industry standards. The organization provides educational resources, articles & publications, and a host of benefits to its community members.

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