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Earning your graphic design degree online seems like a win-win situation. You’re honing your technical skills (e.g. multimedia and web design) at the same time as you’re getting comfy with online communication. For someone intending to run their own graphic design company, this sounds like a dream come true.
But before you sign on the dotted line, read the fine print. Graphic design classes often require a lot of expensive software and computer power. You won’t be able to use the university’s labs, so who pays for these resources? You or the school?
Remember, too, that you will be judged on your work samples. Your key goal is to build a stunning portfolio, so make sure you have plenty of hands-on support (even if it’s virtual).
Look for programs that have:
Students interested in earning a degree in graphic design have four online options at SCAD. The college offers a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, and Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design through its eLearning program. The B.A. and B.F.A. programs both require 180 credits, with B.F.A. students taking significantly more credits in foundational and major classes. The M.A. program requires 45 credits, including a portfolio, while the M.F.A. program requires 90 credits, including both a thesis and a visual thesis. SCAD's online classes are open 24/7, and students also attend group online meetings for discussions and critiques of work.
Wake Tech Community College has an online program for an Associate of Applied Sciences in Advertising and Graphic Design. The program requires students to earn 71 credits, in a combination of classroom and lab credits. Some of the required courses cover topics such as typography, drawing fundamentals, the basics of computer design, web design, web development tools, photography, and multimedia design. Students also take courses in client relations, advertising copywriting and portfiolio design. Wake Tech also offers several related certificates that can be earned online, including a 16-credit certificate in graphic arts, a 15-credit certificate in web and graphic design, and a 16-credit certificate in advanced graphic design.
Pitt Community College in Greenville, North Carolina, offers an 18-credit Certificate in Advertising and Graphic Design that is available to online students. The certificate program is designed for students who want to acquire the skills needed for a career in graphic design. Coursework covers design, illustration, advertising, and digital and multimedia methods of preparing promotional materials, whether they will be printed or distributed electronically. Students can complete the six courses needed for the certificate in two semesters of part-time study.
Surry Community College has online options for students interested in a career in graphic design. The college, in Dobson, North Carolina, offers both a certificate and an associate degree in advertising and graphic design. The associate degree requires students to earn 67 credits, which can be completed in five semesters. Some of the required courses include fundamentals of drawing, typography, computer graphics, digital photography, illustration, and graphic design. Students have the opportunity to earn academic credit for a work experience if they want to. The 18-credit certificate program can be completed in two semesters. The seven required classes include two-dimensional design, computer graphics, graphic design, and typography.
Students in the digital arts program offered by Southern New Hampshire University can earn a general Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Media Arts or they can select a concentration in web design or in 3D modeling and animation. Required courses cover topics such as design and color theory, graphics in print media, digital imaging, typography, and graphic design for the web. Students in the 3D modeling program also learn to use industry-standard software for modeling and animation, and web design students take four courses specifically on web design. To earn the B.A. from SNHU, students must complete 180 credits, including general studies requirements.
Students interested in game design can earn an online associate degree or certificate through Yavapai College. The Associate of Applied Science in Video Game Development is designed to give students the skills they need to enter the world of game development for commercial, educational, and recreational games running on a variety of devices. The 60-credit program can be completed 100 percent online. Students will take courses in topics such as game engines, 3D modeling and animation, game theory and design principles, game design, and game documentation and marketing. Students also take part in a team project to create a game. Yavapai also offers a video game developer certificate, which requires six courses and focuses on high-level object oriented programming.
The Community College of Vermont has an Associate of Arts in Graphic Design that can be completed entirely online. The program is intended for students who want to begin a career in commercial art or who want to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor's degree in graphic design. To earn the degree, students must complete at least 60 credits, including required general studies credits that will transfer to a college or university. Graphic art students learn to use industry-standard software and take classes covering topics such as graphic design, drawing, typography, web design, and digital photography. As a capstone project, students will work on a real-world project and also develop a professional portfolio.
Foothills Community College offers an online program for students who want to earn an Associate of Arts in Graphic and Interactive Design. Students in the program must complete 90 units, including 54 units in the major. Required courses for the major include fundamentals of drawing, 2D design, several graphic art studio classes, website design, typography, and photography. Classes within the major are typically offered online at least once every two years. Students must also meet general education requirements. Foothills Community College also offers online programs leading to a certificate of achievement in Graphic & Interactive Design and a career certificate in Web Design and Development.
Franklin University offers an online program for students who want a Bachelor of Science in Interactive Media Design. To earn a bachelor's degree from Franklin, students must complete 124 credits, including 50 credits in general education classes. Interactive media design majors take at least 24 credits in technical courses where they learn the basics of web design, graphic design and interactive design. They also take 36 credits in the major, with courses covering topics such as human-computer interaction, technical communication, and interactive media design for training and education, entertainment, and advertising. Students also take part in a practicum where they form teams and help a real client. Students complete the program with a capstone project.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell has an entirely online program leading to a certificate in graphic design and digital imaging. The program is designed for students who would like to enter the graphic design field, and the curriculum includes classes in graphic design, desktop publishing, typography, and photographic imagery. In addition to five required courses, students choose three electives. Students in the program develop a professional portfolio to exhibit their skills. Students may take the program on a part-time basis, and classes are offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Online classes are typically asynchronous. Students who earn the certificate may use the credits to form a concentration in the online Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree program.
Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Art and Design, Commission on Accreditation
CAG Score 93.2
Students interested in graphics and game design have several online options at Mohave Community College. The Associate of Applied Science in Computer Graphics and Web Design prepares students for careers designing web pages or working with graphic software. To earn the degree, students must complete 60 to 65 credits, which can all be taken online. Mohave also offers two online certificates of proficiency in the field. The certificate in computer graphics and web design is an 18-credit program covering computer graphics, desktop publishing, and web design. Students who earn the certificate can apply many of the credits to the A.A.S. program. The certificate in programming and game development prepares students to work on a game development team.
Riverland Community College has an online program leading to a web developer game design certificate that gives students skills in creating web games and computer animation, and in designing websites. Students in the 19-credit online program gain skills in the software most commonly used in the industry today. They also compile a digital portfolio that will demonstrate their skills to potential employers. To complete the certificate, students are required to design a video game and to design and create websites using HTML and CSS. Students can earn the certificate in one year.
CAG Score 93.4
The University of Maryland University College has an online program for students who want to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Communication. Classes in the major cover topics such as graphic art and design, computer graphics, publication, and writing for business. Students work primarily on the Adobe Suite of software in their graphic communication courses. To earn the degree, students must complete 120 credits, including 34 credits in general education courses, 30 credits in the major, and 15 credits in a minor. Graphic communication majors can choose minors such as digital media and web technology, art, or marketing. Students also take a capstone class where they compile a portfolio of their work to demonstrate their abilities to potential employers.
Students interested in a career in web design, game design, multimedia or graphic arts can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media Design through an online program offered by National University. To earn the degree, students must complete 180 quarter units, including 72 quarter units within the major. Some of the required classes for the major include graphic design, media storytelling, motion graphics, digital audio creation, game scripting, and digital video editing. In a final capstone course, students will polish work completed for other courses and compile a portfolio of their digital media design work to show to prospective employers or clients. Students in the program receive hands-on training in the top software used by the industry.
Lindsey Wilson College has undergraduate and graduate options for student who want to earn an online degree in interactive media design. The Bachelor of Arts in User Experience Design is an interdisciplinary program that combines classes in art and computer graphics with 16 credits in interactive design studio work, including a capstone project. Students choose an area to focus on for projects that will be used in the final portfolio. The Master of Arts in Interactive Design requires students to complete 30 to 34 credits. Required courses cover topics such as user experience prototyping, information and interface designs, and dynamic programming for interactivity. Students can complete the program in about four semesters.