Studying graphic design as a graduate student means you will likely earn a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA). Typically, a master's is the terminal degree available in the field, so you aren't likely to see a Ph.D. in graphic design at a university in California. You will be able to teach with a master's as well.
Schools in California Offering Graduate Programs in Graphic Design
California Institute of the Arts
The California Institute of the Arts has a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, and offers two-year and three-year variations. The former is for previous art and design students who can explore motion graphics, design theory, and web design as part of their curriculum before going through a Thesis Review. For the three-year program, students can earn an MFA degree without any previous study of graphic design at the undergraduate level. Three-year students will go through the same Thesis Review that others in the two-year program experience.
Otis College of Art and Design
You can earn a Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design in 14 months at Otis College. You'll participate in roundtable discussions and studio projects throughout your courses. The program consists of four compressed semesters, allowing you to complete your full load of courses in a rather short amount of time and possibly continue working at the same time. You'll study topics like contemporary graphic design, theory and criticism, and entrepreneurship.
ArtCenter College of Design
Located in Pasadena, ArtCenter offers an MFA in Graduate Graphic Design and has everything you need to become a professional designer. If you don't have an extensive background in graphic design, you can enter the graduate program for three years, devoting the first year to undergraduate courses. Equal emphasis is placed on entrepreneurship and craft during your courses. An internship is recommended for completion before you finish the degree. The two-year program is made up of four terms with courses in typography, 2D form, project writing, and more. A graduate thesis is also required.
California College of the Arts
CCA has several options for aspiring graphic designers. The MFA in Design, with a focus on graphic design, has both two-year and three-year options. If you are new to graphic design, you'll choose the three-year program to give you a solid foundation and introduce you to concepts already familiar to most people in an MFA program. If you're already an art or design student with a degree, the two-year MFA focuses on prototyping and independent research as you work your way toward the degree. For those who plan to run their own business or studio, CCA also offers a three-year dual degree, which combines an MFA in Design and an MBA in Design Strategy.
Admissions Requirements for Graphic Design Graduate Programs in California
Certain graduate programs in California for graphic design might allow those from a non-art background to enter, but these graduate programs usually do require a previous bachelor's degree. Depending on your medium or discipline, you may need to include a portfolio. This could be in the form of video, still images, or some kind of interactive media. Check your school's admissions page to determine exact file size restrictions or requirements. You may have to write a personal essay detailing your experience and your goals inside a graduate program. Your previous GPA should generally be at least a 3.0 from all of your previously attended institutions.
Graphic design graduate programs allow for some creativity in their structure as well as your chosen discipline. You could end up starting a new career as a professional artist, or you become a teacher, yourself, while sharing your knowledge with other aspiring creative minds.