30 Best Graphic Design Schools (2022)

Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design

An associate’s degree in graphic design is a 2 year undergraduate program that gives students a strong foundation in the profession. Associate’s programs are offered by technical schools, community colleges, universities and more. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required to apply.

One thing to check – if you are considering using this as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree, make sure your credits will be transferable to your chosen 4-year program.

Degree Options

  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Graphic Design: Often aimed at students who wish to go straight into the workforce upon graduation.
  • Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) in Graphic Design: Combines studio courses in art and design with liberal arts courses.
  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes humanities courses.
  • Associate of Science (AS) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes science and math courses.

The AFA, AS and AA are common choices for students who are working towards a bachelor’s degree. You’ll also find plenty of career-based degree programs that focus on a particular skillset (e.g. web design, interactive design, etc.)

Sample Coursework

In addition to general education courses, the curriculum will typically tackle the theory and practice of design. Sample courses might include color theory, illustration and computer graphics.

Your job prospects will live and die on the quality of your professional portfolio, so be sure the school is going to help you create one. In addition, look for courses that cover technical skills and industry tools, such as Adobe Creative Suite.

Career Opportunities

It can be tough to get a conventional entry-level job with an associate’s qualification, but you may be able to find work as a graphic design assistant or freelance designer. If you have outstanding portfolio examples, there’s nothing to stop you from offering your services as an independent contractor.

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Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design is a 4 year undergraduate program that provides comprehensive training in all aspects of graphic design and art. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required to apply. Depending on the program, you may also be asked to submit a high school art portfolio.

This is the baseline qualification for most jobs in the field. To improve your chances of employment, look for programs with internships/job training and great faculty currently working in the field.

Degree Options

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Graphic Design:Combines studio courses in art and design with liberal arts courses.
  • Bachelor of Arts (AA) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes humanities courses.
  • Bachelor of Science (AS) in Graphic Design: Curriculum includes science and math courses.

You don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design to become a graphic designer. Some graduates choose to pursue a related field (e.g. IT) that incorporates core courses on technology, art and design.


Sample Coursework

Your curriculum will depend on the type of degree you’re pursuing. A BFA will often include more studio work than a traditional BA or BS. However, almost all programs will tackle courses such as:

  • Drawing
  • Illustration
  • Color theory
  • Photography
  • Web design
  • Print design
  • 3D design
  • Commercial graphics production
  • Art history/theory
  • Typography

In addition to the standard curriculum, consider taking classes in business, marketing, writing and other useful skills. And be sure your program tackles popular software (e.g. Adobe Creative Suite) and computer programming languages.

Above all, concentrate on creating quality examples for your professional portfolio. You can garner these through classroom tasks, internships and volunteer work. Most students also use their senior year to work on a final portfolio project.

Career Opportunities

A great portfolio and a bachelor’s degree in graphic design will qualify you for entry-level positions in advertising agencies, design studios, web development groups and publishing firms. Or you may decide to start your own business. As we said in our introduction, the digital realm is where the demand will likely be in the future.

It is possible to go down the self-education route, but we don’t recommend it. A bachelor’s degree will reassure employers you know your stuff, increase your starting pay and make you eligible for more jobs. You may not get past the first round of applications without it.

Certificate in Graphic Design

A certificate in graphic design is a non-degree program that may take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete. Academic certificates typically fall into two categories (see below) and are often offered online.

You may wish to earn a certificate in order to explore a new career, develop your portfolio, strengthen an area of graphic design, improve your job prospects or earn course credits for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. If you’re interested in the last goal, be sure your credits will be transferable to your preferred degree program.

Certificate Options

  • Undergraduate Certificate:Available to holders of a high school diploma. Like the associate’s degree, these certificates are often an introduction to graphic design concepts and tools.
  • Graduate/Post-Baccalaureate Certificate: Available to graduates with bachelor’s degree. These certificates may help working professionals explore the graphic design field or improve their existing capabilities.

Sample Coursework

Certificates vary widely in their focus. There are introductory certificates designed for students with no art training and professional certificates that focus on specific areas (e.g. Certificate in the Business of Design). Some programs will have prerequisites for skills (e.g. Adobe Creative, basics in web design, etc.). Check the program website for curriculum details.

Career Opportunities

Talk with your mentors and peers about your career goals. Although a certificate does not have the same reputation as a degree, it might make you eligible for leadership positions or expand your career options. Someone with a BS in IT, for example, may find that a certificate can help him/her break into the design world.

Master’s Degree in Graphic Design

A master’s degree in graphic is a 1-3 year graduate program that focuses on research and advanced skills in graphic design. A bachelor’s degree is required to apply. Most schools will expect to see your undergraduate or professional portfolio as part of your application.

Not all master’s programs are the same:

  • An entry-level master’s is intended for those who hold a bachelor’s degree but don’t have a graphic design background.
  • A more advanced master’s is targeted towards those who already hold a bachelor’s in graphic design or fine arts.

Degree Options

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Graphic Design – A professional degree focused on studio work, although it often includes liberal arts courses.
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Graphic Design – Structured like a traditional liberal arts degree, but incorporating aspects of studio work.

Check with each program to see how much studio work is involved.

Sample Coursework

Classes in a master’s program tend to delve deep into design theory and practice. For example, along with advanced courses in interactive design, branding, illustration and art theory, you might tackle important issues affecting your work (e.g. sustainability).

Most schools offer concentrations (e.g. branding, digital design, etc.) and insist that students complete a capstone project or thesis. Throughout this process, you will be refining and adding work to your portfolio.

Career Opportunities

Graduates with a master’s degree in graphic design run their own design companies, work as art/creative directors or chief designers and/or teach graphic design at the university level. An MFA is still considered a terminal degree in the art world (i.e. the highest qualification needed), although DFA proponents are growing.

Regional Accreditation

Whichever choice you make, we recommend attending a school with regional accreditation. This is a “seal of approval” granted to non-profit and public institutions by one of six regional accrediting bodies (e.g. New England Association of Schools and Colleges).

You can learn more about the difference between national accreditation, regional accreditation and diploma mills inAccreditation: Understanding the Difference Between Real Schools and Diploma Mills.

Benefits of Regional Accreditation

A degree with regional accreditation will make it much easier for you to:

  • Transfer credits (many regionally accredited institutionswill not accept coursecredits from nationally accredited schools)
  • Apply for student loans, scholarships, tuition reimbursement and funding opportunities
  • Be accepted to regionally accreditedgraduate schools
  • Look good in the eyes of headhunters and recruiters

Regional accreditation only applies to the institution. For graphic design programs, you can also look for program accreditation from NASAD.


The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) establishes national standards for undergraduate programs, graduate degrees and related credentials for schools of art and design. It has approximately 323 accredited institutional members.

There are plenty of good graphic design programs that aren’t NASAD-accredited. However, the NASAD symbol will tell you that the program meets a certain number of quality standards.

Search for NASAD-Accredited Institutional Members

(Video) A Day in Life of a Graphic Designer.

IT Certification

Unlike architecture, where certifications run rampant, you won’t find design certification programs from associations like AIGA or the Graphic Artists Guild.

But if you’re looking for IT certification in hardware/software programs, you’ll be spoiled for choice. For example, some graphic designers choose to become an Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) or pursue CIW Web Design Certifications.

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30 Best Graphic Design Schools (1)

(Video) GRAPHIC DESIGN BOOKS to Read instead of going to Design School!

30 Best Graphic Design Schools (5)

Grand Canyon University

Featured Program: B.A. in Advertising and Graphic Design

(Video) You'll want to quit graphic design school after this

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Who is the No 1 graphic designer? ›

1. Milton Glaser. Milton Glaser is the American graphic designer that has left his stamp in his home state of New York — literally.

What is the number 1 design school in America? ›

1. Rhode Island School of Design.

How fast can you get a graphic design degree? ›

Standard graphic design online degrees are designed for completion within four years. Accelerated options may span from three years to as little as 16 months. Students earning their graphic design online degree typically need to complete 120 credits.

Is graphic design good career? ›

Graphic design is a great career for people who are creative thinkers and enjoy art, technology, and communication. There are design needs across every industry, so Graphic Designers have many opportunities to take on a range of new and exciting projects.

Is studying graphic design expensive? ›

Around 25% colleges offering Graphic Design courses in Indiaare expensive with a fee structure of more than Rs 5 lakh.

Where do graphic designers get paid the most? ›

According to PayScale, the average salary for a graphic designer is $40,073 per year, with a reported salary range of $25,698 to $59,010. The highest paid graphic designers are in San Francisco, where the average yearly salary is $52,000 per year.

Where is graphic design most popular? ›

Best Major Cities for Graphic Designers by Location Quotient
CityPopulation 2019
1Minneapolis, MN3,640,043
2New York, NY19,216,182
3San Francisco, CA4,731,803
4Los Angeles, CA13,214,799
6 more rows
Apr 22, 2022

What is the hardest design school to get into? ›

What is the hardest art school to get into? Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the hardest art and design school with the lowest acceptance rate in the world.

Is graphic design school Hard? ›

Is Graphic Design Hard to Learn? Learning graphic design is not hard, but it does require creative thinking, an aptitude towards art and design, and time and dedication. Graphic design requires learning the necessary tools, as well as understanding and applying the principles and theories of design.

Do you need a degree to be a graphic designer? ›

Do You Need a Degree to Be a Graphic Designer? While some graphic designers certainly use a college degree to enter the creative field, it's not a requirement. Many companies hire entry level designers based solely on their portfolio and experience, rather than if they have a degree.

Is it hard to get a job in graphic design? ›

Is it hard to get a graphic design job? Yes, especially if you're a complete beginner. The competition can be very harsh, so you should never stop learning, practicing, and improving yourself.

Can you learn graphic design in 2 months? ›

Yes, you can grasp the basics of graphic design in 2 months, but it takes several years to master it. In fact, you'll learn that even decades later you can keep improving your skills.

Are online graphic design degrees worth it? ›

Is a Graphic Design Degree Worth it? Yes, an online graphic design degree is worth it for many students. Common careers in the arts and design field include creative director, visual designer, senior art director, animator, and digital illustrator.

What is the best graphic design university in the world? ›

27 Best Graphic Design Schools in the World In 2022
  • Royal College of Art. ...
  • Parsons School of Design (The New School) ...
  • Rhode Island School of Design. ...
  • Politecnico di Milano. ...
  • University of the Arts London. ...
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ...
  • Pratt Institute. ...
  • Aalto University.
May 22, 2022

Which country has best graphic design? ›

There is no surprise that USA has the best graphic designers. This is because it is the most technologically advanced country as far as computer companies go. Therefore, there is always huge demand for graphic designers in companies.

Where is graphic design most popular? ›

Best Major Cities for Graphic Designers by Location Quotient
CityPopulation 2019
1Minneapolis, MN3,640,043
2New York, NY19,216,182
3San Francisco, CA4,731,803
4Los Angeles, CA13,214,799
6 more rows
Apr 22, 2022

Where can I study design in Denmark? ›

Copenhagen School of Design and Technology (KEA)
  • Copenhagen School of Design and Technology (KEA) ...
  • Copenhagen Business Academy (Cphbusiness) ...
  • Technical University of Denmark (DTU) ...
  • IT University of Copenhagen.


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