Aspiring graphic designers seeking an outstanding post-high school education have plenty of options to choose from.
Whether you’re looking to stay close to home, save some money, or target an Ivy-League superstar, you should be able to find a great school for your particular situation.
Using the following criteria, we’ve put together an updated list of 50 excellent graphic design schools in The United States.
Don’t get too hung up on the specific order of the colleges. Instead, narrow your search to a few schools from this list and investigate further. The right school for you is the school that best fits your needs, location, and budget.
Our Ranking Criteria:
- Graduation rates
- Degree Accreditation
- Average starting salary
- Professor reviews
- Reputation and student feedback
- Transferrable Credits
Because of our varied criteria, this list doesn’t actually rank the top fifty schools chronologically (i.e. The #4 school is not necessarily better than the #44 school on the list).
50 Excellent Graphic Design Schools
University of Pennsylvania
Fine Arts Department
The University of Pennsylvania, located in the city of Philadelphia, is an Ivy League college that has 10,300 undergraduate students. What’s great about UPenn, aside from their high-caliber educational offerings, is their financial aid.
They operate on a “no-loan” policy, meaning that all eligible students receive financial aid grants. Unlike loans included in the financial aid packages of other schools, students do not need to pay back grants.
University of Florida
School of Art and Art History
The University of Florida engages in the valuable practice of building a highly collaborative classroom work environment. Fostering collaboration alongside creativity will set you up for real success as you move forward in your career. Alumni from UF work at places like Microsoft and Walt Disney Imagineering (among many others).
School of Fine Arts
All undergraduate students at BU must attend the foundation program before officially entering into their pursuit of a BFA in Graphic Design. This Foundation program exposes students to all forms of art creation and works to train your mind, hands, and your eye for the tasks to come.
Carnegie Mellon University
School of Graphic Design
What’s great about a degree from Carnegie Mellon University is the customization it affords you. You have a lot of freedom when it comes to designing your degree; You can mix and match courses across disciplines, and even across different design fields (combining elements of graphic design and industrial design, for example).
University of Miami
Department of Art and Art History
To Enroll in the BFA or MFA program, you will need to submit a portfolio in addition to your application. If you’re admitted into the BA program but wanted to be in the BFA program, you can apply to the BFA program.
However, in order to graduate with your BFA degree, you’ll need to be in the BFA program for at least one full year prior to graduation.
Rhode Island School of Design
RISD affords junior and senior level students in its BFA program the opportunity to nab internships during the school year or over the summer. RISD also requires a portfolio submission of 12-20 examples of your current work, and they will also assign you two drawing samples to include in your submission.
The front-end design submissions ensure that you join a class of aspiring graphic designers that have a similar running start in the discipline.
Rochester Institute of Technology
College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences department supplies students with impressive facilities in which they can further their studies and complete their work.
The Vignelli Center for Design Studies is one such place, known the world over. RIT also helps facilitate your acquisition of a co-op or internship, getting you some great real-world experience.
Maryland Institute College of Art
MICA’s focus is on helping you find your personal voice as a graphic designer. This can be a helpful approach, as uniqueness and personal flair will help you stand out against a more generic, white-washed approach to design.
School of Visual Arts
With a tremendous number of studio course offerings, it’s hard to get a more custom-built degree than at the School of Visual Arts. As a student, you can focus on honing your strengths or strengthening your weaknesses to really find your niche.
Online Graphic Design Classes
University of Minnesota
College of Design
The University of Minnesota is a great place for you if you’re looking to really entrench yourself in the college. The University has an abundance of resources to help you locate volunteer and student engagement opportunities. The focus on campus involvement will help you get the most out of your time at the University.
Parsons School of Design at the New School
School of Art, Media, and Technology
Calling New York home means the Parsons School of Design can boast close proximity, and ties, to a lot of big names in the world of design. This means you’ll have some great opportunities to pursue through guest lectures, possible internships, and even job contacts down the line.
The School of Art Graphic Design Program
Yale University offers a highly selective program in which you can earn your Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design. Their MFA program lasts for two years, with the possibility of an extra year on the front end if you choose to try and enroll in their preliminary-year program, which guarantees you a spot in their MFA program.
Only ten students are admitted to the MFA program each year, up to seven of which could be from the preliminary-year program.
Wayne State College
Department of Art and Design
Wayne State College places a primary focus on design elements with the tool of choice being the computer. If you’re looking for a very affordable option, a school like Wayne State College is a good place to start.
Depending on how many credit hours you’re enrolled in, and where you live, your tuition could be between $3500 and $5000 dollars per semester.
Fashion Institute of Technology
School of Art and Design
High-profile internship opportunities, as well as the opportunity to study abroad with your pick of several colleges in England are two big selling points for the Fashion Institute of Technology. FIT only offers a two-year program, which includes a mandatory internship and results in a BFA in Graphic Design.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Department of Art and Design
With a focus on the end-user and user experience, you’ll benefit greatly from a degree from North Carolina State University at Raleigh. The user experience is more important to business now than it’s ever been, and with that focus playing a strong part in your studies, you’ll end up with a very versatile skill set.
Florida State University
Department of Art
As you can see from the link, Florida State University has a wealth of Studio Art offerings. This school where you, as a student and eventual professional, can really find your niche. There are web courses, animation courses, mechatronic art courses–it’s full of interesting disciplines and skills to explore. (Full list of graphic design classes in Florida)
Appalachian State University
Department of Art
Here is another university that lets you focus on your strengths as an individual. Schools with that kind of flexibility will help you separate yourself from the pack. Appalachian State University is a school that will encourage you to come up with your own, personalized methods for creative problem-solving.
In a world where everyone is getting a degree, uniqueness will help you stand out.
School of Design, School of Art
Attending Pratt Institute will cost around $60,000 dollars (includes tuition, room and board, and fees). The institute offers two 2-year Graphic Design Programs, one of which has an illustration focus. The BFA in Communications Design combines advertising, illustration, and graphic design.
The Department of Art and Design
Drake University is a school that focuses on your technical skills as a graphic designer. Your abilities to problem solve or communicate will only take you so far if you’re unable to deliver a fine finished product.
The final project not only requires you to assemble an online portfolio but also requires you to develop “a stationary system and necessary business communication documents.”
Iowa State University
Graphic Design Department
Only 76 students are admitted into the BFA program annually, after completing their first year in the Core Design Program. The price is right for Iowa, too. Residents can expect to pay around $16,000, which includes housing. Those of you looking to attend from outside the state of Iowa will pay closer to $30,000.
California Institute of the Arts
The School of Art
The California Institute of the Arts BFA program has a competitive cap of 15 students. Enrollment alone does not guarantee success, as you will be subjected to faculty reviews at the end of every academic year. Continuing on in the BFA program is contingent upon passing the review. (View all graphic design colleges in California)
Pennsylvania State University
College of Arts and Architecture, Stuckeman School
Despite its size as an overall university, Penn State’s graphic design college program promises classes of 20 students or less. The university has also attracted instructors with widely varying backgrounds. The diversity of faculty, coupled with the newly built state-of-the-art facilities, makes PSU an appealing choice for any student.
For full-time undergraduates, the price of tuition, and room and board, comes in around $40,000 dollars. That’s a lot of money, but it is under the national average for 4-year private universities. And, over 90% of incoming students receive financial aid. Their facilities are decked out with powerful computers and the latest graphic design software.
Ringling College of Art and Design
Art and Design
This Floridian college was originally founded as a college for cartoonists. Now it’s grown to include 11 major degree program offerings from which you can choose. In the Graphic Design program, you’ll have an opportunity to collaborate with local businesses to earn some real-world experience.
Department of Art
Like many universities on the list, American University requires students to complete core classes, with passing grades, before being officially admitted into this graphic design college. A portfolio submission prior to your senior year is required.
These checks and balances ensure that you as a student are applying yourself and growing your skills.
Texas A&M University-Commerce
Texas A&M University-Commerce provides you with three different paths of focus for a degree in fields that overlap with graphic design. Design Communications focuses mostly on print work: packaging, billboards, posters, etc.
New Media focuses on skills like animation and interactive and multimedia design. Art Direction focuses on market targeting and singular ad campaigns in a variety of mediums.
Savannah College of Art and Design
School of Digital Media
Savannah College of Art and Design has a curricular emphasis on the user experience. Appealing to the end-user is more important today than it’s ever been before. SCAD’s focus on that industry shift speaks to its up-to-date curriculum.
Department of Art + Design
Northeastern University has an abundance of major and minor degree programs to choose from, all within the art + design fields. The two degrees listed above are the two most specifically related to graphic design.
However, there are other degrees, like those in interactive design, that deal with similar elements but ultimately hone in on a different niche. If you want to pursue Graphic design or even something like Graphic Design, Northeastern University is a great choice.
University of Denver
School of Art and Art History
The University of Denver, with its more open-ended Studio Art programs, will allow you to focus more on what you want to do, placing your credit hours into amassing wide skills or following or more vertical learning path.
Everything from ceramics to 3D renderings is covered in the Studio Art program. You’ll be able to design in whatever form you’d like.
Michigan State University
Department of Art, Art History, and Design
The design program at Michigan State University has a collaborative relationship with its community; Students attending Michigan State University have the opportunity to work with clients, but within and outside of the university, allowing you to gain professional experience.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Art and Design
In your third year at MCAD, you will be required to score an internship. It might be a daunting task, but having that built into the curriculum will serve you well. Another networking opportunity comes in your senior year of the BFA in Graphic Design Program.
MCAD hosts an Emerging Talent Showcase, allowing students to showcase their work to potential employers.
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
Chapman University offers you, as the student, the opportunity to develop the technical skills, the verbal articulation, and the personal voice you’ll need to succeed as a graphic designer. Chapman University will also challenge you with a project in which you are judged against professional, industry standards.
Having your work hold up to your peers and to your professors in an academic setting is one thing, having your work pass the industry standards test is a completely different animal.
Virginia Commonwealth University
The School of the Arts
If you’re a person who likes to be involved in your community, whether it’s your school, your neighborhood, or your whole city, VCU is worth exploring. They have an overarching theme in their BFA program of ethical development, social awareness, and cultural awareness.
Cranbrook Academy of Art
2D Design Department
Experimentation, creation, and hands-on experience are some characteristics of the CAA Master of Fine Arts Degree Program in Graphic Design. The School only hosts about 150 students at a time, which shakes about to be about 15 grad students across each of the school’s ten program offerings.
Otis College of Art and Design
The Communication Arts Department
The Communication Arts Department offers only three programs, one of which is Graphic Design. You’ll experiment with many forms of visual communication, everything from posters to websites.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
The Graphic Design Department
MassArt offers a graphic design program that will help you develop your communication and idea-articulation skills. In the field of visual communication, it is vitally important that you can communicate with your team, MassArt’s focus on the elements of effective teamwork will help get you where you need to be to succeed.
The Tyler School of Art
Before entering into the BFA program for Graphic and Interactive Design, you must pass a portfolio review in your Sophomore year. In addition to the selective BFA program, Temple offers an even more selective two-year MFA program.
Art Center College of Design
Small classes, and a big focus on social and humanitarian needs, that’s ArtCenter in a nutshell. You can also expect some rewarding interdisciplinary work with other students and teachers from other majors and departments throughout the school.
North Carolina State University
The College of Design’s Department of Art and Design
NCSU’s BA degree program in Graphic Design stresses the importance of the user experience. Targeting your specific audience, designing great user interfaces, and using other elements of graphic design to improve the user experience, problems like these will be yours to solve at NCSU.
Arkansas Tech University
College of Arts and Humanities
This is a bang-for-your-buck kind of school. In-state is around $14,000, and for non-residents it’s only $19,000. While these costs are based on the 2014/15 school year, they are the most up-to-date costs listed on ATU’s site.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Visual Communication Design Department
At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, you will approach graphic design knowing that your work and the work of your peers in the field impact mass culture, both in design and in art.
University at Buffalo
Department of Art
As with many BA programs, the BA program provided by the University at Buffalo takes a more general approach to the study of graphic design. If you are looking to major in another program or take on a double minor, the BA in Graphic Design is a great option for you.
The BFA in Graphic Design is a more technical approach to Graphic Design and doesn’t afford the same broad-study opportunities.
CUNY Queens College
Department of Art
In-state tuition is $6,500 dollars, and out-of-state tuition is over $13,000. Queens College gives you the opportunity to use industry-standard technology as you explore graphic design concepts and learn the art of visual communication.
Once-a-semester meetings with your advisor will ensure you are on track with your Design major’s requirements.
California College of the Arts
Department of Art
Graphic Design is one of the most popular programs at CCA. If you’re a top-performing student, the college will likely provide you with an opportunity to network with local, employed graphic designers.
College of Arts and Sciences
According to Creighton University, 96% of the College of Arts and Sciences are either enrolled in grad school, volunteering in their field or are employed within six months of graduation. Creighton University will help you find internships, freelance opportunities, or get you helping out with on-campus publications.
Texas Christian University
Department of Graphic Design
TCU’s long-term placement record for BFA in Graphic Design graduates is 95%, and they claim that the last few years has seen an increase to 100% placement rate. That placement rate, in addition to the required internship for BFA students, makes the BFA program at TCU a worthwhile option to consider.
State University of New York at New Paltz
School of Fine and Performing Arts
SUNY New Paltz believes that the best way to serve you as an aspiring graphic designer is to give you a broad education. Everything from anthropology to psychology is covered in the BFA program. The focus on graphic design as it applies to many other disciplines will give you a strong base for your visual communication pursuits. (The top New York graphic design colleges)
The University of Texas at El Paso
Department of Art
UTEP takes a formal approach to Graphic Design. This involves intense studies of typography early on, with the shift to expressive techniques occurring later in your academic career.
SUNY at Fredonia
Department of Visual Arts and New Media
SUNY at Fredonia encourages their students to pull in concepts outside of graphic design. This is a university that recognizes the inextricable link between graphic design and other disciplines, and encourages students to foster that early on in the academic process.
Updated Macs and fresh software make SUNY at Fredonia a good option. It runs about $20,800 for in-state residents, and about $31,000 for out-of-state residents.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Art + Design
Laser-cutters, 3D printers, 24-hour access to computer labs, and much more. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides you with plenty of the state-of-the-art tools you need to not only succeed but to thrive.
Entrance into the BFA program hinges upon spring semester portfolio submissions crafted in the fall semester of your Foundation Year.
Getting a bachelor’s in graphic design will open doors into possible design careers, and will show employers that you’re dedicated to the craft.
A Bachelor’s in Graphic Design takes four years to complete. Depending on the institution and level of financial aid, the average tuition rests somewhere around $30,000-$34,000.
Professional Organizations in Graphic Design
- American Institute of Graphic Arts
- Graphic Artists Guild
- Society for Experiential Graphic Design
- Society of Publication Designers
- Society for News Design
Is a graphic design degree worth it?
Absolutely. While it’s true that you can score a design job with an associate’s degree, having a bachelor’s puts you in a great position for upward mobility. It gets you a chance for better pay, and a better job overall. It gives you a comfortable starting position where you can advance both your education and career.
If you already possess a bachelor’s, getting a master’s gives you a better chance for success in the graphic design field and the many career paths available to you. You can take careers that you can acquire with a bachelor’s and take them to the next level. With a master’s you can potentially shoot your way to the top of the company ladder quicker.
The Best Master’s Degrees in Graphic Design
- Graphic Designer
- Growth Rate: 3%
- Median Salary: $52,110 per year
- Graphic designers wear many hats: they create, design, arrange and execute multiple aspects of design for countless projects, ranging from webpage design to software development.
- Art Director
- Growth Rate: 1%
- Median Salary: $94,220 per year
- Art directors are responsible for how art layouts look in whichever medium they’re in charge of.
- Multimedia Artist and Animator
- Growth Rate: 4%
- Median Salary: $75,270 per year
- These are the artists for animated TV shows, games, and movies. They create art, animation principles, and more for our favorite mediums.
- Crafts and Fine Artist
- Growth Rate: 1%
- Median Salary: $48,760 per year
- These are artists who use crafts to create pieces of art for sale or possibly art exhibitions.
- Industrial Designer
- Growth Rate: 3%
- Median Salary: $68,890 per year
- An industrial designer designs products that will eventually be mass-produced. These are products like automobiles, furniture, and houseware.
Master’s in Graphic Design Program Admissions
- Bachelor’s Degree
- In master’s programs, you’re going to need a bachelor’s degree to pursue your studies. They don’t necessarily even need to be in the same field like the arts to apply.
- Professional Experience
- Having valuable experience in the field will serve you better than nearly anything else in graphic design. Showing employers and hiring managers that you’ve got a sweet portfolio will turn more heads than anything.
- Minimum GPA
- Master’s programs usually require a minimum GPA of 3.0 for application.
- Of course, you need to apply to the school of your choice. You’ll fill out all the applicable info and more.
- These are the records of your previous schooling experience, and many schools are going to want to see them.
- Letter of Recommendation
- Letters of recommendation from valued teachers and instructors can be a requirement for some programs, but overall they’re great methods for conveying your skills and dependability.
- Test Scores
- Test scores, like those from the GRE, can be instrumental in acceptance at a top university.
- Application Fee
- Like with any good old college application, there’s that pesky fee for applying. These vary in cost by the institution.
Courses in A Master’s in Graphic Design Program
- History of GD
- This course teaches you about the surprisingly robust and important history of typefaces and the way that type is arranged to create artistic and aesthetically pleasing effects.
- Web and Mixed Media Design
- Publication Design
- Motion Graphics
- Motion graphics has been a mainstay in animation and design for decades. This course teaches you how to properly arrange and splice together animations and design for the best effect.
Nearly all of the programs offered in a Master’s in Graphic Design are around two years, depending on a full-time or part-time schedule. Students of graphic design should be ready to pay upwards of about $70,000 for their master’s degree in graphic design.
Certifications and Licenses
- Basics of Web Dev and Coding
- Adobe Certified Expert
- Animation and Motion Media Certification
- Mobile App Dev Specialist
- Business Communication Certificate
Curriculum for An Online Master’s Degree in Graphic Design
- Art and Design History
- You need to know the background of art design if you hope to capitalize and avoid certain aspects of design principles. Knowing where you come from is just as important as knowing where you’re going.
- Integrated Design Media
- This refers to how all media comes together and works as one.
- Design Theory and Criticism
- Typographic Communication
- User-Centered Strategy
- Created a user-friendly experience for software, entertainment platforms and more is crucial to successful careers in graphic design.
Written by Dustin Tyler Updated November 15, 2021