Online graphic design master's degree programs most often lead to a Master of Fine Arts or Master of Arts. Many colleges, universities and art schools offer these 2-year programs. Programs may be available totally online, but many require short on-campus residencies or fieldwork.
Prospective students must have a bachelor's degree and a background in graphic design. They must also submit a portfolio and a written statement detailing their academic and professional goals. GRE scores are not commonly required for admission to these programs. Students must have the ability and equipment to run specialized design software.
Online graphic design students work asynchronously, but they typically must complete coursework by stipulated due dates and attend scheduled online sessions in order to engage with professors and classmates in critiques and discussions. Lectures, course materials and assignments or projects are available in a virtual classroom environment. Students will need to ensure that they can get access to necessary design software and that their personal computers are capable of running it.
Graphic design spans various media and fine arts fields, and coursework is therefore interdisciplinary. In contrast to undergraduate graphic design programs, master's programs in the field possess a heavier research dimension, emphasizing visual communication concepts and theories in addition to practical experimentation. Students take courses in the following:
- Digital production
- Graphic design methodologies
- Art and criticism
- 3-D effects
- Sociology and graphic design
- Design systems
- Motion graphics
Master's programs tend to include a culminating experience of some kind. Online graphic design students may have to develop a professional portfolio in addition to completing a final project or thesis. A teaching experience or field internship may be required as well.
Completion of an online master's degree program in graphic design prepares graduates for both professional and academic practice. Master's degree-holders may enter the following fields:
- Design or art directing
- Production art
- Multimedia design
- Product packaging
- Environmental graphics
- Retail branding
- Graphic design education and research
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of working graphic designers is expected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). During this time, job opportunities may be strongest in the computer systems design sector, and designers with both website and print media expertise could have an advantage over other job applicants. As of May 2015, the median salary for graphic designers was $46,900, reports the BLS.
Online master's degree programs in graphic design combine advanced coursework and research in design and technology to prepare graduates for multimedia-related careers. Students can take advantage of the scheduling flexibility of these distance learning programs as they seek to improve their job prospects in an increasingly competitive field.