Graphic Design Graduate Certificates

Jan 17, 2019

Graduate certificate programs in graphic design are available in online and on-campus formats and may take 6 to 12 months to complete. Depending on the program, students may be able to study full- or part-time and typically receive hands-on learning in graphic design skills and software. Learn more about these graduate certificate programs to see if a certificate in graphic design may be a better fit for you than a graduate degree.

Information for Graduate Certificate Programs in Graphic Design

The curriculum for graduate certificate programs in graphic design usually includes courses in theory, studio skills and software programs, like Photoshop, Illustrator and/or InDesign, and may require an internship experience for professional practice. Courses for these programs may vary and students can often choose their own electives, but below is a handful of examples of fairly common course topics.

Color Theory

Courses in color theory discuss various aspects of color and teach students how color is utilized by artists and designers. Students learn how to manipulate color and study basic characteristics and theories of color, like the perception of color, color interaction and the use of color and space. These courses also train future graphic designers how to choose color systems for projects based on color harmony and interactions.


Students in typography courses learn about the role and concepts of typography and how they apply to the field of graphic design. Some of these courses may provide an overview of the history of typographic style and how technology has changed designs. Students usually complete various hands-on projects in these courses and may discuss specific topics in readability, the anatomy of letterform, applications of type and legibility.

History of Graphic Design

Many of these certificate programs offer a course in the history or study of graphic design that examines how the field has evolved from the 19th or 20th centuries to present day. Students learn about the various movements during these periods, study specific designers and may discuss how graphic design has been used to promote social change, advertising and more. These programs may include class discussions, design projects and/or research opportunities.

Graphic Design

These certificate programs typically provide a basic, foundational course in graphic design concepts to prepare students for professional work in the field. These courses typically include a wide range of design projects to help train students how to conduct appropriate research for a project, plan a project and create a project, in hopes that these can be included in a professional portfolio. Students in these courses further develop their communication, research and design skills as they study visual communication concepts, the design process, critique and feedback.


As mentioned, these programs train students in current software in the field, often with a popular course being one in the basics of Photoshop. Students learn about the different functions and tools the program offers so that they can select the right techniques for projects as a designer. Specific topics these courses may cover include retouching, image compositing, typography, animation, masking images and more.

Common Entrance Requirements

Admission standards vary for graduate certificate programs in graphic design, as some institutions consider these programs non-degree programs and offer open-enrollment and others group the certificate programs in with graduate admissions. Open-enrollment or admission programs may require students to have a high school diploma or GED and generally have students enroll for classes online. Students applying to graduate certificate programs that require graduate admissions may need to submit their transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, an artistic resume and/or a portfolio of their work with their application. Any student applying to online courses may need to check the technical requirements as online students often need access to a scanner and other specific programs (like Photoshop) for coursework.

Students who are interested in graphic design, but do not wish to earn a degree in the field may pursue a graduate certificate program. Students can complete the program online or on-campus and receive hands-on training in graphic design.

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