Simplified Guide for Finding the Best Online Graphic Design Degree

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So, you like graphic designing? You think you should get a certification? Perhaps an online graphic design degree? Why not, online education is convenient, cheap, even free? What’s there to lose, right? WRONG!

You can lose a lot, but we’ll get to that in a bit. At the moment, let me introduce what this article is about.
This article is a guide for the students and learners of graphic designing. This a guide for people who want a recognition for their design skills, and for that recognition they’d like to prefer the online medium.

This article describes in detail where can you get an accredited online graphic design degree and how can you get it. But before we find out the best place to get your degree, there is a bitter truth about graphic designing that you should know. And that’s where we’ll start our article from.

This article contains:

Bitter Truth of Graphic Designing

Why have you chosen graphic designing? Are you passionate about it or is it just because you think it pays good and this is something you can do?

You need to understand one thing about graphic designing. It’s not a job for the dispassionate. You need to do it for the love of it.

Graphic design is industry with a high drop out ratio profession. A majority of people don’t pursue it even after they have chosen it.

graphic designers leave the industry soon

With time, I have learned that the scarcest of commodities is not money, not food, it’s time itself. And the best of times is youth.

When you are at that young age, you must try to avoid as many bad decision as you can. And, selecting a wrong profession is one of the worst decisions one can make.
If you choose a wrong profession which you’ll eventually leave, you will just waste the most important, most potent years of your life. And that’s why, I urge you to think it over. Do not choose graphic design (or any other profession for that matter) that you don’t love. You’re going to do this for the rest of your life, better choose something you love.

This is the thing I mentioned in the beginning of this article, this is what you have to lose, not money but your golden age, your time.

Don’t Give Up

Now the question is, why do so many people leave this industry? What’s wrong with it??

There’s nothing wrong with it. The only thing is that it’s a slow-start career. Usually, when designers graduate, they work freelance as well as working on a regular job. This helps designers to start two streams of income but the problem is that in both cases, designers usually have to directly deal with clients. That’s where the problem occurs.

Not all clients are encouraging and polite. If you don’t understand what I mean, check out these horror stories of clients.

Designers have to work clients of every kind because they need to build a portfolio before they can start working with the big clients. And it takes time to build that portfolio.

Designing is not like other kinds of industry where you just graduate and everybody starts to treat you as a professional, such as doctors or lawyers. In designing, you only become a pro when you have an impressive clientele, and that takes time. It takes at least a couple of years build a portfolio that speaks for itself. Usually, not everyone has that patience.

The good thing is that once you pass this stage, once you do get a few big clients, designing becomes very rewarding. You can go completely freelance and you’ll still make really good money. You will work on your own terms, and you will earn better than most of the people in your family… but that will happen after 10-15 years after your graduation.

Designing is for the people who are in it for the long haul, not for the impatient.

Do You Really Need a Degree?

Mark Twain Quote

Theoretically, you don’t need degrees to succeed. Advocates of talent say that Shakespeare didn’t have a masters in English language nor did Michelangelo had an art degree. Even many of the modern masters such as Steve Jobs didn’t have a presentable degree… so if you truly have great talent, and will power, nothing can stop you.

But let’s face it. Not all of us can become a Shakespeare or Steve Jobs. We are only looking for a career with a respectable income. And for that, we need degrees. HR managers evaluate us on previous experience and degrees and certifications. And this is why we need degrees.

Why (or Why Not) Choose an Online Degree

Online education industry was already growing rapidly but then hit mobile learning and the graph that was going upwards steadily, started rocketing towards the skies. And, it seems the trend is here to stay.

Online Learning Trends

What I conclude is that online degrees will keep on gaining more recognition and more respect as the time goes on. Many highly respected colleges and universities have already joined the online education market and they are offering high quality graphic design courses. So you are in luck.

Now let’s come to the not-so-good part.
Why do you wanna take an online degree instead of a regular one? A survey found out that the US citizens chose online education for its convenience.

Why choose an online graphic design degree

But let me tell you, this convenience thing could be one huge illusion. That’s because while you’re at home, you might as well do some household work. Or, you might wanna play a few games, watch a little TV or just browse Facebook. It’s difficult to focus when you are at home. There are distractions, and lots of them. I work from home, I know about this stuff.

If you have never tried distance learning or never worked at a home-based job, I want you to seriously think whether you’d be able to bully yourself into studying? That’s what I have to do. I have to bully myself into working. I know my 3 year old son is in the next room, I can go play with him but I don’t… I bully myself. Will you be able to do it?

Understandings:

  • Since graphic design is closely related to IT, online degrees are worth almost as much as conventional college degrees in this industry. That is because IT personnel understand that online education does not equal substandard education.
  • Online education is convenient. You can study on your desired schedule, from the comfort of your home. Great… is it? You’ll really have to discipline yourself. When you are in the environment of an educational institute, it’s easier to focus on studies, but it gets difficult when you are at home. Make sure you can study from home before you enroll in an online graphic design degree.

Various Types of Online Graphic Design Degree Programs

Non Accredited Certifications

Also called Nanodegrees, this is the stuff that is not verified. These courses are also called MOOC and they do teach you pretty good stuff, and they’re free, but since they cannot be verified, they don’t have that much value.

You can find such courses on websites such as Udemy, Udacity, Iversity and of course, Coursera.

Coursera

Coursera is offering 5 courses related to graphic designing.

If you have some free time, I suggest you should take these courses because they do teach a lot. And if you take a lot of these courses, they will decorate your resume because the hiring manager will realize that you are a really committed person and you have learned a lot of stuff.

By the way, we published a showcase of professionally designed resume templates that can help you create a resume that makes you shine out. Do compare your resume against these templates.

Getting back to the topic, here’s the next type of certification available.

Accredited Certifications

This is when accredited universities and colleges offer courses that have credit hours and that can be verified from the educational institution.

Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University in San Francisco offers accredited online graphic design courses.

I personally don’t like this option because if you want a degree, you should go for a specialization degree such as BFA or MFA. If you’re not going for such a degree, then what’s wrong with MOOCs?

Accredited Online Degree Programs

These are the certifications that you call “degrees.” The bachelors and masters of graphic design. This is the stuff this next section is all about, so let’s skip ahead.

Accredited Online Graphic Design Degree Programs

SCAD Online Degree Programs

Image courtesy of Savannah College of Art and Design

BS in Graphic Information Technology

Offered by: Arizona State University

This one of the most solid bachelors programs out there. A highly respected organization, up-to-date course with great teachers. If you want learning and degree value, then this is the course for you. But, it is a costly program ($523 per credit hour).

Official Description:

As a graphic information technology student, you’ll learn web development and interactive technologies, computer illustration and digital publishing, photography for online delivery, and other technologies relevant to the cross-media nature of the graphic information industry.

Bachelors in Fine Arts

Offered by: Savannah College of Art and Design

I love this college, with campuses all around the world and also offering online degrees, I feel this has to be one of the best (if not the best) option for us to get a degree in graphic design.

Official Description:

Our holistic graphic design degree program doesn’t just cover the fundamentals of design, it delves into product packaging, entrepreneurship, mobile technology, interface design and user experience. The result? An award-winning professional portfolio, real experience working for industry giants, and the opportunity to make a lasting mark on the ever-changing global visual landscape — all before you graduate.

BFA in Graphic Design

Offered by: Academy of Art University

This is another highly respected name among art colleges. This college specializes on the “art” part of designing so I suggest this university if you are rather focused on creating art than generating conversion rates.

Official Description:

Our Graphic Design program integrates practice, theory, and inquiry, while refining and encouraging innovation, critical thinking, visual literacy and conceptual problem solving.

Masters in Fine Arts

Offered by: Savannah College of Art and Design

Once again, its my favorite institution. They also offer BA and MA in graphic design. But I suggest that if you are going to acquire a degree, you must go for a fine arts degree because that’s what design is essentially. Everything else must be your second priority.

Official Description:

“As a graphic design student at SCAD, you’ll become fluent in the visual language that defines today’s powerhouse brands and top-flight organizations.”

MFA in Graphic Design

Offered by: Academy of Art University

Another course by the acclaimed institute from San Francisco. If you wanna really understand that theories, the methodology that works behind graphic designing then you can choose this course.

Official Description:

Students learn to influence marketing strategies, raise awareness of critical issues, and facilitate cultural change.

MSTech in Graphic Information Technology

Offered by: Arizona State University

Since it’s ASU, it’s high quality and high price at $492/-.

Official Description:

ASU’s master of science in graphic information technology is ideal for military personnel, government employees, and graphics or technology educators. Students come to the online program with expertise in digital photography, web design and development, print technology, multimedia, informational graphics, graphic sales and management, technical and scientific visualization, or other creative or technical backgrounds.

Cliff Notes

  • Talent doesn’t need degrees but they do certainly help.
  • Graphic Design industry has a high drop out ratio, so choose it only if you are sure you wanna do this for the rest of your life.
  • Online degrees these days have just as much value as conventional degrees, especially in the IT field.
  • Before you enroll in a degree program, make sure you can study from home. It can be difficult because there are loads of distractions.
  • If you want to become a designer, you must be patient and self motivated.

And with that, I bid you best of luck. Keep studying, keep succeeding.

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