The minimum educational requirement for graphic designers is a bachelor's degree, but there are also graduate level degree and certificate programs offered in the field. Programs are available at four-year universities and dedicated art institutions.
Graphic Design Schools
The following list includes a number of public and private schools that offer graphic design programs.
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Degrees Offered||Tuition (2015-2016)*|
|Rhode Island School of Design||Providence, RI||4-year, Private||Bachelor's, Master's||Undergraduate $45,840; Graduate $45,530|
|Yale University||New Haven, CT||4-year, Private||Master's||Graduate $38,700|
|Maryland Institute College of Art||Baltimore, MD||4-year, Private||Bachelor's, Master's, Graduate Certificate||Undergraduate $43,870; Graduate $42,280|
|Cranbrook Academy of Art||Bloomfield Hills, MI||4-year, Private||Master's||Graduate $33,406|
|California Institute of the Arts||Valencia, CA||4-year, Private||Bachelor's, Master's||Undergraduate $43,986; Graduate $43,400|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh, PA||4-year, Private||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||Undergraduate $50,665; Graduate $40,625|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond, VA||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's||Undergraduate (In-state) $12,772; Graduate (In-state) $10,710|
|School of the Art Institute of Chicago||Chicago, IL||4-year, Private||Certificate||Undergraduate $43,960|
|Alfred University||Alfred, NY||4-year, Private||Bachelor's||Undergraduate $26,261|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
School Selection Criteria
Here are some considerations for students who are choosing between graphic design programs:
- Students should make sure that the program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
- Students should look into the school's art studio and computer lab facilities in order to ensure that they will have access to high quality design materials and industry-standard software applications and computer equipment.
- It can be helpful for students to look into the internship opportunities offered through the school to see if there are opportunities in settings where they would be interested in pursuing a career.
- Students who have particular interest areas within the field may want to look for programs that offer formal concentrations.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Bachelor's degree programs in graphic arts provide an introduction to formal design concepts and communications. Students are typically exposed to a variety of media, including illustration, photography, animation and film, through both classroom coursework and studio experience. Based on their interests, they may also be able to specialize in a particular subfield, such as 3D modeling and animation or web design. Over the course of these programs, students typically build a portfolio of design work that can be used to demonstrate their skills to potential employers or graduate admissions officers.
Master's Degree Programs
At the master's level, aspiring graphic artists can earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or Master of Arts (MA) degree in graphic design. These programs include advanced courses in topics such as integrated design media and visual analysis. Students may be required to participate in an internship, and they must submit a final thesis prior to graduation.
Doctoral Degree Programs
Graphic arts-focused doctoral degree programs are rare, but there are a few schools that offer PhD in Design programs. In these programs, students have the opportunity to conduct advanced research in a design-related subject. The curriculum is typically highly flexible and interdisciplinary, so students who are interested in graphic arts may be able to write their doctoral dissertation on a relevant subject in the field.
Graduate-level certificate programs are available for both experienced professionals and those who want to redirect their careers toward graphic design. Certificates for bachelor's degree-holders without previous experience provide a comprehensive overview of design techniques and technologies. Designers who want to advance their skills without enrolling in a full master's degree program can also find relevant certificate programs. Certificate programs typically take one year or less to complete.
Aspiring graphic artists can gain relevant education through undergraduate and graduate-level degree and certificate programs. It is important to select a program that is accredited and to ensure that the school has top-notch facilities.