Distance Learning Degree Programs in Computer Graphic Design

Essential Information

Distance learning students studying computer graphic design gain an understanding of aesthetics and design essentials. Online degree programs in computer graphic design are found at conventional colleges and universities and for-profit schools. Degree programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. For online programs, students may be required to own a digital camera, flatbed scanner, CD/DVD burner, and inkjet printer to complete assignments.

Associate Degrees

Students can usually earn an online associate's degree in computer graphic design from an art or a professional school. Associate programs focus on foundational technical skills and include several courses on general education topics, such as composition, art history and psychology. Students may also learn basics of business and marketing. A portfolio may be required to complete the program.

Bachelor's Degrees

The typical online bachelor's program in computer graphic design covers topics in techniques and production and helps students develop an understanding of color, typography and composition. Conceptual development is a focus of the degree programs, along with branding and identity, Web design and motion graphics.

While earning their degrees, students may develop a portfolio of graphic design projects to present to potential employers. Undergraduate degrees earned through distance learning can generally be completed faster than 4-year traditional graphic design programs.

Master's Degrees

Relevant online master's degree programs are not common. These programs are designed to develop students' critical thinking, leadership and research skills. A final thesis project may be required. An online graduate degree program typically targets graphic designers who are already working in the field and who prefer the convenience of an online program when it comes time to update their skills.


In a computer graphic design program, students use scanners and digital cameras to create graphic designs. Computer-based hardware and training in PageMaker, Acrobat, Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator software is common. Typical online courses required for computer graphic design degrees are:

Fundamentals of Graphic Design

The course covers the basic principles, guidelines and terminology of graphic design, including layout composition, content development, scale and pattern.


The time-honored skill of hand-lettered classic and contemporary letterforms is explored, and calligraphy skills are applied to design.


Type specifications, copy fitting, kerning and other skills required for properly setting type are covered in the graphic design class.

Photography for Graphic Design

Students gain visualization skills and become familiar with aspects of photography such as subject matter, composition, cropping and emotional impact.

About Online Learning

Technical Requirements

Software required to complete assignments may be provided to the student; for schools that do not provide software, students may be able to purchase programs through the school's book store at a discounted rate. In addition to a digital camera and color flatbed scanner, students will likely need to have regular access to a CD/DVD burner and color inkjet printer.

Learning Format

Students may learn through the use of textbooks and instructional DVDs and may use online learning platforms to access lectures and communicate with instructors and peers. Courses may be offered in asynchronous and synchronous formats, combining individual studies with required virtual class participation.

Career Information

Graduates of distance-learning programs in computer graphic design could pursue in-house or freelance positions with graphic design firms, advertising agencies or businesses. Depending on education and experience, they may find work as the following:

  • Assistant graphic designers
  • Assistant art directors
  • Production artists
  • Corporate communications coordinators

There are multiple opportunities at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels for students who want to pursue graphic design in online formats. Because of the nature of graphic design programs, several technical requirements may be required of online students to successfully complete assignments.

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