A graduate program in graphic design allows students to improve their skills, learn new techniques, and assume leadership roles in the industry. Some programs also equip graphic designers with the necessary skills to start their own graphic design businesses.
According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2019–2020 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
A master’s in graphic design typically takes two years to complete for those with a bachelor’s in graphic design or a related field. Learners with a bachelor’s in another discipline may take longer. An online master’s in graphic design usually requires an onsite internship experience prior to graduation.
Online Degree in Graphic Design Overview
Communication lies at the heart of graphic design. Graphic designers create images that convey a specific message. They use the different elements of design to engage, inform, and inspire an audience.
Some graphic designers still work in traditional areas such as book jacket design and print or billboard advertising. However, many new designers create digital work. The demand for digital graphic designers continues to increase as more clients develop an online presence.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for graphic designers to grow 3% between 2018 and 2028, slower than the 5% projected growth rate for all other occupations. With fewer jobs available, graphic designers face tough competition for work. However, a master’s degree in graphic design increases employment chances.
A master’s degree typically takes two years, or 60 credits, to complete. Admission requirements for online programs in graphic design tend to vary among schools. Some colleges accept work experience for credit, while others do not. Both on-campus and online programs typically require an internship experience. Most schools allow online enrollees to complete their internship experience at a location convenient for them.
Common Graphic Design Courses
The following list offers examples of common courses in graphic design graduate programs. Particular courses vary by program, so make sure to research a prospective program’s course offerings before enrolling.
DESIGN THEORY AND CRITICISM Students examine different graphic design theories and their practical applications. The course familiarizes students with correlational research techniques and the history of design theory. Students also address modern challenges in the field and explore practical solutions.
INTERACTIVE DESIGN Students explore new technologies in interactive web development. They learn to apply advanced visual theories in a variety of emerging media environments and evaluate the effectiveness of interactive design technology. Students typically complete a project that demonstrates an understanding of the principles of graphic design and new technology.
MOTION GRAPHICS This course often attracts students who plan to specialize in web graphic design. Learners explore topics such as creative conceptualization, principles of integrated design, and screenwriting. Students work primarily with Adobe, but also gain exposure to other programs. Assignments allow students to gain familiarity with motion graphics techniques.
PUBLICATION DESIGN This course focuses on design cohesion and teaches students how to integrate the aesthetic and technical aspects of graphic design. Students learn skills that apply to web design, print, and various advertising and marketing collaterals, all while developing a unique and versatile visual style. Degree-seekers gain practical understanding by completing assignments and developing an original body of work.
TYPOGRAPHY AND VISUAL NARRATIVE Students learn to develop compelling visual narratives using elements of typography. Going beyond font types and sizes, the course shows students how to integrate typography and messaging in dynamic graphic design collaterals. Students explore topics such as letterform anatomy and design, alternative execution strategies, and layout and proportion systems. Students typically complete a project or research paper on the topic.
Graphic Design Requirements
Schools offering on-campus and online graphic design degrees usually maintain the same admission requirements for both programs. Specific admission requirements vary among institutions.
Colleges and universities, as well as stand-alone schools specializing in art and design, typically require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field. Most schools consider applications from students who hold an undergraduate degree in a different field, but generally require them to enroll in foundational courses prior to beginning a master’s program.
Many programs require graphic design applicants to submit a portfolio of their work along with a statement of purpose. If possible, demonstrate your versatility by including work for both commercial products and institutional brands, as well as work across different media. Be sure to connect your statement of purpose with your portfolio.
Because of the competitive nature of professional graphic design, most schools prefer to admit students with work experience. Some institutions award credits for extensive experience in specific areas, but this is not always the case. Contact prospective programs directly to inquire about specific policies.
During the admissions process, most schools require a transcript of records, at least two letters of recommendation, and a resume. Applicants must submit transcripts from each school they attended during their undergraduate education. Some programs also require scores from a graduate entrance exam such as the GRE. Keep in mind that GRE scores remain valid for five years.
Graphic Design Software
ADOBE PHOTOSHOP CC (CREATIVE CLOUD) This software offers features that allow designers to apply special effects, work in 3D, and isolate background elements. Graphic designers use Adobe Photoshop CC to create intricate artwork for print materials, websites, and product logos. Adobe Photoshop CC issues frequent updates and gives graphic designers access to exclusive features.
CORELDRAW GRAPHICS SUITE2019 Designers use Corel DRAW to create professional vector illustrations. This software features customization options that help graphic designers work faster without sacrificing quality. Corel DRAW also enables designers to convert sketches into vector graphics. Corel DRAW supports more than 100 file formats and lets graphic designers publish directly to WordPress.
ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR This software allows graphic designers to manipulate vector designs. It includes several templates in addition to an impressive suite of tools and features. Adobe Illustrator Draw, the mobile version of the software, allows graphic designers to create freeform vector images from their mobile phones.
AFFINITY DESIGNER Affinity Designer lets users work in both vector and raster environments and move easily between them. It includes customizable grids, more than 1,000,000% zoom capability, and dynamic precision guides. Affinity Designer includes many of the most popular features of Adobe Illustrator for a lower price.