List of Graphic Design Schools

Cynthia Shearer
infographic design

Academic opportunities for a degree in graphic design offer interested students a wealth of choices. There are a number of top-ranked, accredited programs across the country that provide students with a variety of learning options, degree choices and financial assistance. In addition to federal financial aid, many private schools make use of endowed funds to help their students offset some of the cost of their education.

Five Well-Known Graphic Design Schools

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

The main campus of Savannah College of Art and Design is located in historic downtown Savannah, Ga., occupying more than 70 restored buildings in a quaint and quirky urban landscape. Their comprehensive approach to a graphic design education promises students an impressive portfolio and hands-on experience with "industry giants" while they are enrolled. Courses in entrepreneurship, product packaging, user experience and mobile technology go beyond the basic graphic design degree program offerings and ensure that students are ready to secure exiting positions when they graduate. Graphic Design USA ranks them as one of the top design schools in the country on their Highest Honors: 2015 list. The Graphic Design degree is offered at the Savannah, Atlanta and Hong Kong campuses, as well as via e-learning.

SCAD-at-a-Glance

  • Enrollment - More than 11,000 students
  • Tuition - $33,795 undergraduate, $34,605 graduate
  • Housing is available both on and off campus
  • Degrees Offered: B.A., B.F.A., M.A., M.F.A.
  • Admissions Requirements:
    • High School Diploma
    • SAT or ACT scores
    • One to three recommendation letters
    • Statement of purpose
    • Portfolio
    • Resume that highlights awards and accomplishments
    • Interview (phone or in person)

Full Sail University

Full Sail University is committed to providing a real world education to their design students in an online-only learning environment. Full Sail offers an accelerated program so that students can complete a bachelor's degree in 128 weeks, or about two and a half years. The online format allows students to be admitted on a rolling basis throughout the year, and emphasis is placed on the admissions interview, where the committee and the student will determine whether Full Sail is the best fit for meeting the student's career goals. The Best Schools ranks Full Sail at number four in their Top 10 Online Graphic Design Bachelor's Programs list. Full Sail also offers other Bachelor's and Master's programs that are related to graphic design, such as their Media Design M.F.A., that may allow students to craft highly specialized programs to fill unique career niches in the entertainment field.

  • Enrollment - 18,000 students
  • Tuition - $54,000 for the full online program, includes books
  • Housing - not applicable for online program
  • Degrees Offered: B.S.
  • Admissions Requirements:
    • High School Diploma
    • Interview (phone or in person)

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)

Virginia Commonwealth University is a large, urban institution, located in Richmond, Virginia, that offers students an excellent background in liberal and graphic arts. Their Graphic Design Program is competitive and well regarded; placing emphasis on problem-solving, research and social and cultural awareness. VCU ranked number two on Graphic Design Degree Hub's Top 20 Best Affordable Graphic Design Degree Programs 2014.

  • Enrollment - 31,000 students, 24,000 students are undergraduates
  • Tuition - Out-of-state $31,503, in-state $12,812
  • Housing is both on and off campus
  • Degree Offered: B.F.A.
  • Admissions Requirements:
    • Students must be accepted to and complete the Art Foundation Program at VCU prior to applying for admission to the Graphic Arts Program; transfers must show similar academic/arts background to be considered
    • Portfolio
    • Minimum college GPA of 2.5; must maintain to stay enrolled in the program
    • Laptop computer required upon acceptance; may be leased through the school
    • Full liberal arts general education classes are required for all VCU programs, including graphic arts
    • Students are admitted during fall semester only

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

School of Visual Arts is located in New York and provides a multidisciplinary program for students who want to craft their degree program to meet their specific ​interests. Their academic focus is on visual communication problem-solving, which they believe opens the door for a diverse body of career choices. U. S. News & World Report does not provide a specific rank for specialty schools, but the school is routinely featured on their best colleges list. Their Design Program offers an enticing selection of diverse courses like toys and games design and digital ecosystem design.

  • Enrollment - 4,200 students, approximately 3,500 undergraduates
  • Tuition - $17,500 (plus department fees)
  • Housing is on campus - several different options
  • Degrees Offered: B.F.A., M.F.A.
  • Admissions Requirements:
    • High School Diploma
    • SAT or ACT scores
    • Statement of intent
    • Portfolio

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Rhode Island School of Design has consistently been ranked as one of the nation's best academic graphic arts degree programs. The U. S. News & World Report ranked them number 1 in 2012 and 2014 on their list of the best fine arts grad schools. RISD is a small school with an impressive faculty to student ratio of 9:1. They have an extensive art collection as well as a nature lab where students can go to incorporate those images into their designs. Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, is an alumnus.

  • Enrollment - 2,449 students
  • Tuition - $44,284 plus fees
  • Housing is on campus
  • Degrees Offered: B.F.A., M.F.A.
  • Admissions Requirements:
    • High School Diploma
    • SAT or ACT scores
    • Two drawings, subject chosen by admissions committee
    • Two writing samples, topics chosen by admissions committee
    • Portfolio of 12 - 20 art samples
    • Letters of recommendation (not required, but recommended, submit one to three)

State Schools With Graphic Design Programs

Of course, there are many other places where you can pursue a degree in graphic design.

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

University of Illinois at Chicago is an urban graphic design school that offers a Bachelor of Design (BDes) in both graphic and industrial design. The college provides students with a broad array of design courses within the framework of a traditional liberal arts degree. The studio-based instructional program reflects the rapid advancements that occur in the ever-changing design world, and students are challenged to blend design elements from the past, present and future to create their unique design voice.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt)

Massachusetts College of Art and Design promises their students a full, hands-on educational experience in the graphic arts. Their program includes experience with all forms of graphic design in a variety of work environments, including: book and magazine layout, letterpress, interactive communication and the creation of graphic identities. They offer undergraduate students two options in their graphic design program: a B.F.A. and a certificate program for working adults who want to begin a career in the graphic arts.

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)

Pennsylvania State University is an urban campus with over 20 locations throughout the state, but despite its large size, the graphic design program is a small, close-knit community. Class sizes of less than 20 students and a faculty with excellent credentials make this a top choice for many students. They offer both a Bachelor of Design (B.Des.) in the Graphic Design Program and an M.F.A. in collaboration with The School of Visual Arts. The programs prepare students to work as leaders in their field, and they place an emphasis on writing across the curriculum as well as strong liberal arts general education requirements.

Arizona State University (ASU)

Arizona State University offers its students a broad curriculum that prepares them for a variety of careers in communication design. The program focus is on strategic communication that includes research, analysis, planning and realization. Their Bachelor of Science in Design (B.S.D.) in the Graphic (Visual Communication) Design Program is competitive and students are required to pass a portfolio milestone at the end of their freshman year in order to maintain program eligibility.

Private Institutions With Graphic Design Programs

A number of private schools offer graphic design programs as well. A few examples include:

Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD)

Minneapolis College of Art & Design is a small college with a student body of approximately 800 students. Their enrollees gain practical experience in graphic design and create everything from websites to traffic signs. They offer two degrees in their Graphic Design Program: the B.F.A. and a post-baccalaureate, part-time certificate program for employed adults.

Parsons School of Design (Parsons)

Parsons School of Design is one of the few design programs that offers an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Graphic Design; a great option for students who want to start working as soon as possible. Located in Lower Manhattan, they also offer a B.F.A. for students who wish to obtain a baccalaureate degree. The A.A.S. program is offered on campus and online and can be completed from anywhere in the world. Students may also combine the program and do part online and part on campus. Despite their status as a design school, they place significant emphasis on a traditional liberal arts education as well.

Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI)

Kansas City Art Institute provides students with a strong background in the nuts and bolts of design; drawing and artwork, as well as a strong theoretical foundation in communication, visual arts and media. Their B.F.A. in Graphic Design requires four years of typography, from micro to macro, and a broad range of specialized training in graphic design software.

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

Maryland Institute College of Art's goal is to transform their students into creative design visionaries who develop their own voice. The B.F.A. in Graphic Design offers unique fellowship opportunities that allow students to use their skills to implement projects that encourage social change.

Narrow Your Choices

Employment opportunities for graphic designers are quite varied; students may work for large advertising firms, as book or magazine layout artists, for a graphics department in any type of small business or even choose to be self-employed. The educational opportunities are as varied as the types of jobs available in the industry. There are so many options for graphic design programs that it can seem overwhelming.

This overview provides a list of schools that vary slightly in their academic requirements and program emphasis. To narrow down your options, you can eliminate some by criteria such as location, cost and size, as well as other factors, like your ultimate career goals. Success in college begins in choosing an institution that meets your needs and does not necessarily have to be a highly ranked school to provide you an outstanding education. Whether you choose a school from this list or find another school, the key is to choose a graphic design program that meets your needs.

List of Graphic Design Schools