Online Associate Degrees in Design: Program Options

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Graphic designers are often required to have at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although an associate's degree can prepare graduates for entry-level positions or transfer to a baccalaureate program. Web and media designers, on the other hand, can more often find employment with just an associate's degree, though requirements vary by employer. An associate's degree program in design can found fully online. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED.

Most of these professionals need to have a basic understanding of design, as well as some hands-on training, which can often be earned through an online program with the aid of special software, such as design and word processing software. Students may need to purchase this software or the school may provide a free online lab. Students may also need a scanner, drawing tablet, digital camera, and printer.

Associate's Degree in Design

Within the realm of design, there are several fields of study in which students can concentrate. Online associate's degrees are available in subjects such as graphic design. These programs typically result in Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees. Depending on the subject chosen, students can learn to design and create websites, plan layouts for magazines and advertisements, and design packaging for products.

Information and Requirements

Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED by the start of classes. Many programs require students to develop a portfolio before graduation. All required classes can be completed via distance learning in two years.

Classes may require software such as Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and updated antivirus protection. Current Web browsers and operating systems are recommended. Students may also need a scanner, drawing tablet, digital camera or printer. Students and faculty interact via e-mail and Internet chat.

Common Design Courses

Software courses provide in-depth training in Adobe In Design, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. General education courses for the associate's degree include sciences, social sciences, humanities, math and communications. Design classes cover topics such as Web design, visual communication, Web animation, drawing and art history.


This course covers the style and selection of fonts as well as the effective use of type in composition, layout and communication. Students discover the history of typography and experiment with measuring systems for letterforms.

Digital Illustration

Digital artists in this class learn how to use vector-based image illustration software. Students create computer graphics and images for both print and the Web. The class focuses on presentation with discussion of thumbnails, color models and color systems for the computer screen and print.

Color Theory

Color theory explores how people perceive and react to colors. In a design program, students learn about color theory to understand what impact different color schemes will have on the viewer. Lessons explain what color combinations work well together and which colors work best for a given desired effect, such as high visibility or ease of reading.

Career Information

Potential professional positions include graphic designer, web developer or designer, illustrator, marketing specialist and layout designer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, graphic designers had a median annual wage of $50,370 as of May 2018.

Continuing Education Information

Job seekers with higher levels of education may have an advantage in design careers. Employers may require a bachelor's degree for some positions. Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees are available online for a variety of design fields, such as graphic design, web design and interior design. Continuing education classes in design can also help professionals keep up with new technology and software.

Associate's degree programs in design are available fully online. Programs in design focus on training in Adobe In Design, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, along with typography, digital illustration and color theory.

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