Best Master’s in Graphic Design Programs 2021

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Graphic designers combine creativity and technical skills to create advertisements, logos, product packaging, and other visual designs. A master’s in graphic design prepares graduates for specialized roles in the field.

Graduates with a master’s degree in graphic design can work as senior graphic designers, art directors, and multimedia artists. Many of these roles offer above-average salaries. For example, art directors make a median annual salary of over $94,000.

Our list ranks the best master’s in graphic design programs for 2021. Prospective graduate students can use the rankings to find the right fit for their career goals. This article also introduces career and salary data for graphic design careers and graphic design scholarship opportunities.

Leveraging Questions on a Master's in Graphic Design

  • Q. Should I get a master's degree in graphic design?

    A master’s in graphic design provides advanced training in areas like UX design, interactive design, and design software. The degree helps professionals move into specialized roles.

  • Q. How much do graphic designers make with a master's degree?

    Graduates with a master’s in graphic design earn an average salary of $67,620 per year, according to March 2021 PayScale data. Some jobs, such as art director, offer higher salaries.

  • Q. What can I do with a master's in graphic design?

    Professionals with a master’s in graphic design can work as lead graphic designers, senior graphic designers, art directors, and multimedia artists.

  • Q. What certifications do I need to become a graphic designer?

    Graphic designers typically do not need certifications. However, earning certifications can help professionals demonstrate specialized skills.

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Best Master’s in Graphic Design Programs 2021

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Why Pursue a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design?

Earning a master’s degree in graphic design offers several personal and professional benefits, such as increased earning potential and career advancement.

Career Advancement
A bachelor’s degree represents the entry-level educational requirement for graphic design careers. With a master’s degree, graphic designers can move into leadership roles in the field.
Master’s students can pursue specialized training in areas like animation, 3D design, interactive design, and UX design. These specializations prepare students for specific career paths.
Increased Earning Potential
A master’s degree often leads to higher earning potential. On average, professionals with a master’s degree make around $13,000 more each year than those with just a bachelor’s degree.
An online graphic design degree gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.
Networking Opportunities
During a master’s program, graphic design students expand their professional network. These networking opportunities help graduates advance their careers.

Master’s in Graphic Design Program Requirements

At the graduate level, graphic design programs look for applicants with graphic design experience and a bachelor’s degree. An undergraduate major in art, graphic design, or a similar field helps candidates receive admission. Some programs prefer candidates with professional experience in design or a related field. In addition to submitting transcripts, applicants may need to submit a portfolio of their work, recommendation letters, a statement of purpose, and/or a resume.

After gaining admission, graphic design graduate students complete coursework requirements. Most programs include a master’s project that allow students to showcase their knowledge and skills.

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Career and Salary Outlook for Graphic Design

Graphic design degrees train graduates for various career paths. Graduates can pursue careers in areas like UX design, web design, print design, and interactive design. They may also work as multimedia artists, animators, and art directors.

This section outlines common careers for graduates with a master’s in graphic design.

  • Graphic Designer

    Graphic designers build visual layouts that communicate ideas and messages. They use software programs to create illustrations, edit photos, and place graphics and text in a layout. They also coordinate with clients and art directors to determine the look for a project.

  • Art Directors

    Art directors determine the visual style of advertisements, product packaging, and media. They oversee a team of graphic designers working on design elements, including artwork and layouts. Art directors also coordinate with clients, creative directors, and artists to develop a look for the project and complete their work on time and within the budget.

  • Multimedia Artists and Animators

    Multimedia artists and animators create special and visual effects for TV, movies, and video games. They build models, effects, and sequences for movies and other forms of media. Multimedia artists and animators also work with directors to create a finished product.

Occupation Lowest 10% Median Annual Salary Highest 10%
Graphic Designers Less than $30,810 $52,110 More than $89,210
Art Directors Less than $53,240 $94,220 More than $188,750
Multimedia Artists and Animators Less than $40,250 $75,270 More than $139,940

Source: Burea of Labor Statistics

Courses in a Master’s in Graphic Design Program

A master’s degree in graphic design builds advanced creative skills. Master’s students also strengthen their computing and technical skills by learning new software programs and experimenting with technologies like 3D printing. Graphic design students can specialize their skills by taking courses in areas like interactive design or UX design.

Many programs require students to present a portfolio of their work prior to graduation. Courses vary by program, but this section outlines courses commonly found in master’s in graphic design programs.

During this course, learners create prototypes, provide feedback in workshops, and complete group projects. Hands-on projects hone students’ creative and technical skills. Master’s students may workshop their thesis project in a design studio course.

Graphic designers increasingly work with interactive design technologies. In this course, master’s students examine topics like fabrication, prototyping, and design for interactive spaces. Students learn to use 3D design software, including CAD, CAM, and Rhinoceros. The course also covers algorithmic design and physical computing.

Courses in user experience design train graduate students to create digital interfaces that provide a positive experience for users. Learners examine visual and textual communication strategies, human-computer interaction, and interfacing technology. The course also covers design approaches, UX design evaluation, and interface design.

Graphic Design Certification

A graphic design certification can help professionals demonstrate mastery of certain industry-relevant programs. For example, Adobe offers multiple certifications in their products, including Illustrator.

Certifications can also help professionals demonstrate their expertise in a specialization. For example, web designers can earn CIW web design certifications, and 3D designers can pursue Autodesk certification. Typically, certification candidates must pass an exam. Some certifications also set minimum education and/or professional experience requirements.

While many graphic design roles do not require certification, professional certifications can give candidates a competitive advantage in the job market.

Scholarships for Graphic Design Students

Professional associations, private foundations, and universities all support master’s students with scholarship and grant opportunities. In addition to the following scholarships, students should research financial aid opportunities based on factors like their state, school, and career goals.

  • AIGA Worldstudio Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: A professional association for design, AIGA awards scholarships to graduate students pursuing a graphic design degree. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA and submit a portfolio and a statement of purpose.

    Amount: Up to $5,000

    Explore Here

  • Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation

    Who Can Apply: PGSF awards multiple scholarships to students pursuing a graphic design degree. Applicants must submit two recommendations and official transcripts showing a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also demonstrate a commitment to pursuing a career in printing technology, graphic communication, printing management, or publishing.

    Amount: Varies

    Explore Here

  • Graphic Design Degree Hub Creativity Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: offers a creativity scholarship to graphic design students. Applicants must submit a cover letter, a resume, two recommendation letters, an essay, and sample artwork.

    Amount: $1,500

    Explore Here

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