Top 15 Online Associates in Graphic Design 2020

Earning an online associate degree in graphic design is a great way to boost your earning potential, value, and versatility in a competitive market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 12% growth in employment for graphic designers between 2012-2026. This growth is largely due to the ever-evolving design software, platforms, multimedia production, and other components that require versatility in skill. Graphic design associates prepare students to take entry-level positions or to transfer to higher degree programs.

Below are the top 15 most affordable online associates in graphic design. This list was narrowed from approximately 30 schools that offered an associate degree online in graphic design.

The selected top graphic design degrees were ranked by a specific set of criteria that included:

Tuition rate of the online associate degree in graphic design:

  • Between $0 and $150 per credit-hour – 10 points
  • Between $150 and $350 per credit-hour – 8 points
  • Over $350 per credit-hour – 5 points

The top college’s overall student retention rate:

  • Over 70% – 6 points
  • 60% – 70% 5 points
  • Between 50 and 60%: 4 points

Option for 100% online course delivery:

  • 5 points

1 point was added for any additional factors considered particularly beneficial to students enrolled in online graphic design programs.

In the event of a tie in points, the online bachelors degree with the lower tuition rate was ranked higher.

1. Penn Foster College

Rochester, New York

Online AS in Graphic Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $79 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 65%
Points: 20
Website

Flexible and highly affordable, Penn Foster College’s specialty is quality online degrees. Penn’s low-cost online associates in graphic design covers topic areas most commonly used in the field. Among the courses required for the online associates includes photo image editing, multimedia development, HTML coding, Dreamweaver, and art appreciation. Graduates of Penn’s online graphic design degree enter the workforce prepared for a wide variety of profession settings. The online graphic design degree has no set class times, which leaves students free to complete their degree on their own pace and schedule.

2. Foothill College

Los Altos Hills, California

Online Associate in Graphic and Interactive Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $177 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 63%
Points: 19
Website

Based out of California, Foothill College has a large student body from around the globe. Foothill has an AA in graphic and interactive design; this online graphic design program provides immersive training in web design, UI/UX design, and illustration. There are 58 credit-hours required for the major, and additional courses in math and English communication. Graduates of Foothill’s graphic design program have a well-rounded skill set and have commonly found careers in web and game design, digital art, t-shirt and garment printing, marketing, and advertising.

3. St. Charles Community College

The Woodlands, Texas

Online Associates Degree in Graphic Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $236 per credit-hour (out-of-state)

Retention Rate: 65%
Points: 19
Website
Retention Rate: 65%


Established in 1986, St. Charles Community College has numerous types of associate degrees and certifications. Among St. Charles’ online degrees include an associates in art and graphic design. This 66-credit degree is a combination of liberal arts, technical, and design courses; among these courses include drawing, western art history, digital art studio, 2D design, and algebra. St. Charles’ online associate degree leads to a broad spectrum of career options in the field such as graphic design, production management, and 3D-modeler.

4. Cuyahoga Community College

Cleveland, Ohio

Online Associate of Applied Business degree in Visual Communication & Design: Graphic Design Concentration

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $271 per credit-hour (out of state)

Retention Rate: 56%
Points:18
Website

Founded in 1963, Cuyahoga Community College is Ohio’s oldest community college. This college provides degree and certificate programs for a vast range of academic pursuits. Among this top college’s online degrees is an online associate of applied business degree in visual communication and design; students enrolled in this online degree have the option to add a concentration in graphic design. The online associates in graphic design combines curriculum in topic areas such as design layout, web design, imagery, illustration, and digital publishing. Cuyahoga is a highly affordable degree that ushers excellent tuition value in the workforce.

5. Surry Community College

Dobson, North Carolina

Online MFA in Communication and Graphic Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition: $19,230 total cost of tuition

Retention Rate: 68%
Points: 18
Website

A 2-year public institution in North Carolina, Surry Community Colleges has 48 available courses of study. Among SCC’s distance-learning degrees is an online associate in digital media technology and graphic design. This program prepares students to begin their graphic design career, particularly in entry level digital design roles. Among the curriculum areas covered in this associate degree include hypertext, information architecture, professional practice in digital media, and synthesizing multimedia platforms. Online graphic design students graduate well-prepared for a wide range of promising careers.

6. Hagerstown Community College

Hagerstown, Maryland

Online A.A.S. in Graphic Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $121 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 67%
Points: 17
Website

Founded in 1946, Hagerstown Community College is a two-year school offering over 100 courses of study. HCC has two available online associates in graphic design; one is a graphic design concentration AA, and the other is an AAS in graphic design technology. The AA degree is for students who want to further their graphic design education; the AAS in graphic design degrees prepare students for entry-level roles in the field, or to advance to higher-level degree programs. The AA graphic design concentration includes curriculum in visual arts, western art, photography, sculpture, and computer graphics.

7. Eastern Gateway Community College

Steubenville, Ohio

Online Associate Degree in Interactive Digital Media Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $240 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 59%
Points:17
Website

Eastern Gateway Community College has been a degree-granting institution for over 50 years. Among EGCC’s distance-learning degrees is an online associate of applied business in interactive digital media design. The online degree in digital media design covers key career skills such as digital image editing, developing websites, animation, industry software, games and simulations, and more. Online digital media students complete the program with an impressive portfolio and the ability to work in a vast range of professional capacities. Eastern Gateway is highly affordable, guaranteeing a strong return on investment.

8. Academy of Art University

San Francisco, California

Online Bachelor of Science Web Design and Development

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $870 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 78%
Points: 17
Website

Over 90 years old, Academy of Art University is the largest private design school in the country. Academy of Art’s online associate of arts in graphic design is a two-year program with 66 required credit-hours. This top college’s Learning Management System (LMS) is a dynamic program where online graphic design students access their coursework and shared learning space. Some of the graphic design online AA coursework includes experience design, innovation, packaging, digital photography, color fundamentals, and editorial design. In addition to graphic design online courses, the faculty mentors students with career expertise and guidance.

9. Mohave Community College

Bullhead City, Arizona

Online Associate in Graphics and Web Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $171 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 52%
Points: 16
Website

Based in Arizona, Mohave Community College has been a leader in distance education since the late 1980s. One of Mohave’s online programs is a 65 credit-hour AAS in computer graphics and web design; this online associates degree prepares students to design websites and utilize the graphic software most commonly used in today’s workforce. This degree track provides a well-rounded foundation of general education and graphic design technology curriculum. Online associates graduate ready for higher degrees or entry-level career opportunities. Admissions requires placement tests but no minimum GPA for applicants.

10. Lone Star College

The Woodlands, Texas

Online Bachelor of Science Web Design and Development

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $236 per credit-hour (out-of-state)

Retention Rate: 54%
Points: 16
Website

Based in Texas, Lone Star College consists of seven campuses and over 82,000 students. Lone Star is an open-enrollment school. The online division is home to a visual communication associates degree. For students seeking an online graphic design degree, there is a concentration available in this subject area. The graphic design track includes digital publishing, computer illustration, composition and rhetoric, creative arts, and language. The two-year, 60 credit-hour program is a hybrid online/on-campus format with asynchronous course delivery.

11. Sessions College

Tempe, Arizona

Online Associate Degree in Graphic Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $365 per credit-hour (out-of-state)

Retention Rate: 50%
Points: 16
Website

Sessions College is an entirely online school, welcoming students from over 90 countries. Sessions offers an online associate degree in graphic design; this rigorous, 100% online program is an intensive two-year track that builds skills in software, coding, layout projects, print production, branding, research, and contemporary design practices. The graphic design associate has received high praise from alumni, in particular for stellar course delivery and supportive faculty. Students graduate with a portfolio of graphic design work reflecting a culmination of skills.

12. Western Nevada College

Carson City, Nevada

Online Associate Degree in Graphic Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $171 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 68%
Points: 15
Website

Affordable and reputable, Western Nevada College was established in 1971 in Carson City. This college has small class sizes and a student-centered learning approach. Among WNC’s distance learning programs is an online graphic design associates; this track is particularly for those eager to enter the workforce as print designers, web designers, animators, and graphic design for print and web. Students graduate from the associates being able to apply key design concepts, develop a portfolio, and advance to the next phase of a graphic design career.

13. Gateway Technical College

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Online Associate Degree in Graphic Communications

gateway-technical-college

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $208 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 64%
Points: 15
Website

The country’s first publicly funded technical college Gateway has been working with students since 1911. Among this top college’s 70 academic programs is an online associate degree in graphic communications; this is a hands-on education that advances students in the field and teaches the versatility needed to succeed. Students enrolled in the online graphic design associates complete 60 credits; among the coursework includes illustration media concepts, digital photography, problems in graphic design, and advanced illustration. Additionally, Gateway’s online graphic design students learn how to collaborate with multidisciplinary teams.

14. Community College of Vermont

Montpelier, Vermont

Online Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $536 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 53%
Points: 15
Website

Vermont’s second-largest college, the Community College of Vermont has both campus and online degree options. Among the online associate degrees is in graphic design; this degree provides the arts and technical skills needed currently in the field. The 100% online graphic design degree covers coursework in digital photography, website development, flash animation, digital image manipulation, multimedia design project management, among others. Additionally, students learn to compile an impressive portfolio of work samples, in particular those that show versatility in technical and artistic skills.

15. Columbus State Community College

Columbus, Ohio

Online Associate of Applied Science in Digital Design and Graphics

Regional Accreditation: Yes
NCATE Accreditation: Yes
Payscale.com Salary Ranking: 18th
Tuition Rate: $320 per credit-hour

Retention Rate: 61%
Points: 14
Website

A diverse school based in Ohio, Columbus State Community College has a student body from over 130 countries. Columbus State has an online associate degree in digital design and graphics; this degree integrates publishing, interactive media, photography, package design, and marketing. This graphic design degree well-prepares students to transfer to a four-year college for higher-level degrees. Students in this degree program use industry software Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Corel Painter, Muse, Dreamweaver, and Animate. In order to be admitted into the online digital design degree, students take a math and English proficiency exam.

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