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Master of Fine Arts (MFA): Graphic Design Degree Overview

A Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design program explores design methodologies, design media and visual communication theories. Students in such programs hone their artistic skills and develop an extensive portfolio of work to show employers.

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Essential Information

In graphic design programs, students learn how color theory, design and drawing affect society, and they delve into learning the applications for graphic imaging and design software. Students might choose to tailor their programs to specific areas of interest, such as print or digital media, through projects and exercises. A field experience is also typically included, and internships are encouraged.

Entry requirements to these programs include a bachelor's degree in any field, letters of recommendation from employers or professors, and a portfolio of work that demonstrates typographic usage, conceptual communication and compositional organization. Sometimes these programs, which last between two and three years, can be studied online. Throughout the program, students will be required to present a portfolio of design projects at the end of each course or academic year.


Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Advertising and Commercial Design
  • Commercial Photography
  • Fashion Design
  • General Visual Communications Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration and Drawing
  • Industrial Design
  • Interior Design and Decorating

Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design

Aspiring artists in an MFA program examine the role of graphic design in contemporary society and investigate original visual expression. The project requirements for the degree are extensive, allowing students to build a personal portfolio of design work. Students interested in teaching often complete a teaching internship in order to gain experience working in a classroom setting. Some topics graduate students might explore include:

  • Art history
  • Art criticism
  • Computer and digital graphics
  • Digital studio
  • Typography

Popular Career Options

Graphic design graduates should have the technical expertise to qualify for advanced-level positions within design and publishing firms. Additionally, master's holders have the teaching and research skills to qualify for supervisory roles or teaching positions within colleges and universities. Career options available to master's holders might include:

  • Graphic design professor
  • Design director
  • Creative manager
  • Creative director

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists that in 2015, post-secondary art, drama and music teachers earned a median salary of $65,340 per year. Design directors in advertising made a median salary of $100,505 annually as of January 2016, PayScale.com reported, while creative services managers brought in a median yearly wage of $63,481 and creative directors made an annual median of $83,429.

A well-rounded portfolio is just one of the end goals of a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, a program intended to give students a thorough understanding of the principles and techniques of graphic design and its place within society. Graduates will have the capability to perform high-level positions in design and publishing, and are also qualified for supervisory and teaching positions.

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