Top Colleges With Graphic Design Majors

Posted on November 16, 2022 | Updated on November 16, 2022

If you want to enter the graphic design field or ramp up skills for a current job, college is one option to learn more about this exciting field. However, you don’t want to waste time or money. It’s important to find the best colleges with graphic design majors. Not all degrees are equal, but there are still plenty of options available to those wanting to learn. 

College isn’t a small expense, even if you choose something with a lower price point. It’s also a huge time commitment. If you plan to get a bachelor’s degree, for example, many universities require 120 credits hours, with most classes falling in the range of three credit hours. You’ll take dozens of classes, so you want to get the most you can from them. 

Narrowing down your options and finding the best colleges with graphic design majors in your area requires a bit of research. We’ve done a lot of this for you and found the ones we feel are top choices in the United States. 

Which Degree Is Best for Graphic Design?

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college is $35,551 per year in the United States. The number includes, tuition, room and board, books and supplies. If you plan to make that type of financial commitment, you want to get the best degree possible to enhance your career. 

The first choice is an actual graphic design major. However, you could also choose a relevant degree, such as web development, digital arts or industrial design. 

A median income for graphic designers is $53,380 per year. Consider how much your education costs and how long it might take you to pay back student loans or if you’ll recoup your investment quickly.

Some options might include going to colleges with graphic design majors in your hometown. If you can commute and live at home with parents for a few years, your costs will be lower. Local community colleges also tend to have lower fees per credit hour. 

Talk to your favorite colleges with graphic design majors and see if you can complete some basic courses ahead of time and then transfer in as a junior or senior. Some high schools now allow students to take dual credit courses, where you’ll earn both high school and college credits at the same time. Students graduate from high school with 24 or more credit hours already under their belts. 

Our Favorite Colleges With Graphic Design Majors

If you’ve searched for “colleges with graphic design majors,” you found more than six million results. Of course, not all of those listings are actual educational institutions, but it’s a lot of data to sort through. We’ve narrowed the options down to some favorites of ours. These schools have an excellent reputation, and many feature online learning so you don’t have to move to another state to get a respected degree. 

5. Rhode Island School of Design

If you’re interested in a private art school, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has been around since 1877 and focuses almost exclusively on art-related career degrees. You can get a bachelor’s or master’s degree with 19 different majors. 

The school has around 2,000 undergraduate students at any given time. They have a fairly high graduation rate of 89% and an average cost after financial aid of $45,000 per year. 

Out of the colleges with graphic design majors, we really like this one for the flexibility of degree programs. They do offer a graphic design track, but you’ll also find related degrees such as industrial design and drawing. 

4. California Institute of Arts

The California Institute of Arts is another private university, but located on the opposite side of the country in Santa Clarita, California. It’s been around since 1961 and known as being the first institution to grant degrees in both visual and performing arts. You can get a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD. 

The average cost after aid is around $57,000 per year, so this isn’t on the lower end of tuition options. However, if you live close to the school or want one with strong connections in the film industry, this may be the way to go. 

3. University of Michigan

Looking for a school in the upper midwest? The University of Michigan offers an excellent graphic arts program. Expect to pay around $17,832 per year for an education here, making it one of the more affordable options on our list. 

The school has an acceptance rate of only 26%, making it a bit more prestigious than some of the other state colleges. It is known as a research college. The Stamps School of Art & Design offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. 

They also offer something a bit unique with a pre-college program. Taking a program through the university while in 9th through 12th grade, students gain pieces for their portfolios and start to build skills before entering college. 

The undergraduate program offers a BA or BFA in art and design. The school also features an opportunity to earn a dual degree, giving you additional possibilities for work after graduation. 

2. Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University is another public college, situated in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Around 17,000 students attend with a low 17:1 student-teacher ratio. The school was founded in 1899 and has a 71% graduation rate. 

Another thing to look at with Appalachian State University is their high acceptance rate of 80%. If your high school GPA isn’t where you’d like it to be, or your SAT scores are a bit lower, you may still be able to gain acceptance here and at least get started on your graphic design degree. 

The school itself offers around 140 degree programs to choose from and you have some opportunities for dual degrees if you plan your electives wisely. The cost also makes this school attractive at about $14,000 per year.

Their bachelor of fine arts in graphic design the latest equipment and labs in things such as typography, technical processes, visual criticism, packaging and environmental graphics. Some of the courses undergraduate students take include digital images, photographic imaging, printmaking, motion graphics, illustration and communication skills. 

1. Virginia Commonwealth University

One of our favorite colleges with graphic design majors is Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). This public college offers a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design for around $20,000 per year. 

VCU has been around since 1838, originating as a medical college. Over the years, it grew, expanding into other disciplines. Today, the school offers around 217 degree or certificate programs and serves around 31,000 students. 

VCU’s graphic design program is a 122-credit hour BFA with a stress on integrating technology. You’ll take classes in topics such as web design, typeface and book arts. 

Steps Before Entering a Program

You’ll find hundreds of graphic design programs out there. Be aware of topics such as school accreditation. Is the school accredited by a respected institution? If you want to take your bachelors and go elsewhere for your master’s, will another school recognize the degree?

Talk to your dream employers and pay attention to their job listings. What type of degrees do they most desire? Which schools do they hire the most employees from? Do they offer an intern program you can work at during school? Some colleges even offer a winter term where you can participate in internship programs and build connections before graduation. 

Crunch all the numbers and think through whether or not the degree is worth the cost based on what you can make in your area. Even if you’re willing to relocate, you won’t have the support you might have near family and friends. For example, some families let their adult children live at home for a couple years after graduating so they can save money and pay off debt before getting out on their own.

Make a list of pros and cons for each option and choose the one that’s best for you in the long-term. For online schools, look at all costs, accreditation and how well-respected the school is in general. Big name colleges now offer some online degrees, but the cost can be as much as attending in-person classes.

Other Ideas for Colleges With Graphic Design Majors

If you want to attend a local community college but they don’t have a specialization in graphic design, can you get a fine arts degree and add some electives in graphic design topics? Most higher education institutions allow you to transfer credit hours from another institution. Can you take a course or two from that dream school and move the credits over? Talk to both schools to make sure they have reciprocal credits and find out the rules. 

A career in graphic design is rewarding and ever-changing. If you want to spend your days generating new ideas from scratch, this may be your dream job. Finding the right school is your first step toward fulfilling your goals.

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About The Author

Coraline (Cora) Steiner is the Senior Editor of Designerly Magazine, as well as a freelance developer. Coraline particularly enjoys discussing the tech side of design, including IoT and web hosting topics. In her free time, Coraline enjoys creating digital art and is an amateur photographer.

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