What are the top online graphic design master's degree programs for 2019?

Top Online Graphic Design Master's Degree Programs - 2019
Academy of Art UniversitySan FranciscoCalifornia
Savannah College of Art and DesignSavannahGeorgia
University of Wisconsin – StoutMenomonieWisconsin

Our list of the best schools with online graphic design master's degree programs. The list is in no particular order and is not intended to be a ranking.

Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

The School of Graphic Design at Academy of Art University works with leading companies, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and other academic departments to provide student artists with unique opportunities to advance their careers. Per the school, in addition to hosting guest speakers and events at the Academy, the school offers the opportunity to collaborate with “artists, designers, and innovators outside of the classroom on engaging and contemporary graphic design projects.”

Two graduate programs are available an MA in Graphic Design & Digital Media and an MFA in Graphic Design. Both degree pathways are available online and on campus.

Students in the online programs “work with the same expert instructors to gain the same hands-on training and real-world design industry expertise” as the on campus students. Online coursework includes original instructional videos, audio-enhanced slideshows, digital documentation, interviews with field experts, and more.

The MA in Graphic Design & Digital Media “emphasizes professional and career development with advanced study of the field and encourages students to extend their design skills into content creation, authorship, entrepreneurialism, and social innovation.” The program, which consists of 36 units of study, highlights courses such as Visual Literacy, Making Ideas Visible, Principles of UX, The Nature of Identity, Digital Design Studio, and Type Experiments.

The MA Portfolio Seminar culminates the Graphic Design MA program. Students in this three-unit course “will develop a comprehensive print and digital visual system that best represents their design skills. Emphasis will be placed on developing a cohesive portfolio and a robust social media presence that effectively promotes the strengths of each student.”

Students in the MFA program will extend their design skills into authorship, content creation, social innovation, and entrepreneurialism. The program emphasizes advanced study of the field and a focused thesis development process, which takes place through at least five courses. Students will complete a portfolio and a Graphic Design Internship as well. 

Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to an award-winning eLearning program that the school says is a “collaborative online environment that empowers students to connect to faculty and programs without disconnecting from their professional and personal lives.” Classes for the online programs are taught by the same “world-class” faculty as the SCAD’s on-campus courses, and students are provided with “the tools and technology they need to be successful academically and in their professional lives.”

Just a sampling of free tools and downloads available to fully enrolled eLearning students include Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Mudbox; Adobe Creative Cloud; Nuke Personal Learning Edition; Microsoft Windows 8, Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft XNA Game Studio, Microsoft Kinect for Windows SDK, Microsoft Expression Studio; Lynda.com and Unity 3D.

Offered for more than 12 years, SCAD’s online degrees have achieved the rank of Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning from the Online Learning Consortium, and the school is the first art and design university to receive the Instructional Technology Council’s award for Outstanding Distance Education Program.

Online graduate degree options for aspiring graphic designers include MA and MFA degrees in Graphic Design and Visual Experience. The 45 credit hour MA is a non-thesis program consisting of courses such as Design Research, Analysis and Discourse, Typographic Voice and Visual Narrative, and Visual Analysis of Static Content.

The 90 credit hour MFA is a terminal degree that requires a Thesis to graduate. The Thesis consists of three courses: Graphic Design and Visual Experience MFA. Thesis I: Research and Discovery, Graphic Design and Visual Experience MFA Thesis II: Synthesis and Insight, and Graphic Design and Visual Experience MFA Thesis III: Validation and Execution. A Graduate Internship is also part of the program.

Students in both programs may complement the graduate degree curriculum with Certificates in Digital Publishing or Interactive Design.

Graduates of all programs are prepared for positions such as Graphic Designer, User Experience (UX) Designer, User Interface (UI), Creative Director, Product Developer, Multimedia Artist, Marketing Specialist, and Production Artist. Some graduates even go on to start their own studios and firms. 

University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Stout

The University of Wisconsin–Stout (UW–Stout or Stout) offers 13 online BS degrees and more than 20 graduate degrees through the schools online division known as UW-Stout Online. Nearly 2,000 students are enrolled in online programs at UW-Stout, including hundreds of students seeking an advanced degree. Among the schools advanced degree options is an MFA in Design. Awarded by the School of Art and Design, this cross-disciplinary graduate program includes coursework from Graphic, Game, Industrial, Entertainment, and Interior Design, as well as Studio Art, Interactive Media, and Art and Design History.

The program consists of 30 credits of required courses and 30 credits from a wide variety of “Selectives” and “Professional Selectives” to support the student’s professional goals. Other program highlights include a collaborative environment, a focus on leadership, sustainability, education, and design practice, polytechnic approach that combines creative work with innovative teaching and applied learning, international study abroad opportunities, and dedicated studio and lab space.

Also part of the program is the opportunity to complete a Graduate Assistantship. The Assistantship allows students to gain valuable professional experience while enjoying paid employment as a graduate student at UW-Stout. The MFA in Design is delivered in a hybrid format and students can expect to complete the program in three years.

Other Online Graphic Design Master's Degree Programs to Consider

University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut
University of Connecticut

University of Connecticut (UConn) has more than 100 undergraduate majors to choose from through 14 colleges and schools. The Graduate School offers a Graduate Certificate in Digital Media and Design (DMD) that may be completed entirely online. The program is comprised of four courses (12 credits total) that may be applied to a full master’s degree program at UConn. Related graduate options include an MA in Digital Media & Design and an MFA in Studio Art.

Per the school, the courses in the Certificate Program are “strategically chosen in a sequence” so students can build their knowledge in a meaningful, useful way.”  Students will “gain a solid foundation in DMD concepts, tools, and analytics; learn how to develop compelling digital content; and understand how to produce effective motion graphics and basic websites.” They will also be introduced to “digital consumer behaviors; strategies for effective website, video, social media, and email campaigns; how to create a digital media marketing plan; and how to employ Google analytics to evaluate results.”

Courses include Creative Digital Fundamentals, Digital Media Analytics, Digital Media Strategies for Business, and Introduction to Web Design. Courses are structured around weekly modules, each with a separate topic. UConn’s online platform, Husky CT/Blackboard, allows students to complete coursework at their own pace and on their own time. The online platform “creates a highly interactive, collaborative experience. Faculty members post questions to a discussion board to which students add their responses—and can respond to each other, providing invaluable feedback and insights.”

Graduates will leave the program with a portfolio of finished work that demonstrates their understanding of DMD. With the DMD Graduate Certificate and portfolio, graduates can secure a new position in the field or seek advancement opportunities in their current careers.