Five of the best graphic design programs in the U.S.

Graphic design continues to be an in-demand career field. Even as print publications recede, digital outlets are rising up to take their place — all requiring leading-edge design skills to capture new viewers and stand out from the crowd.

Look around you: Design is everywhere. From the Snapchat user interface to the billboards in Times Square, from your favorite restaurant’s menu to the warning signs on the highway, someone has used their mastery of visual language to tell a story, communicate a message, or inspire a response.

Graphic designers make an average of $42,966 (according to the BLS) and can potentially make much more. What does it take to land one of these well-paying, creatively engaging jobs?

“Graphic designers usually need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field,” the BLS says, and the numbers seem to back it up: A Rasmussen College analysis found that 91 percent of employers prefer candidates for graphic design jobs to have college degrees. “Obtaining a degree in graphic design validates your dedication and brings credibility to your occupation,” one CEO told Rasmussen.

Where can you earn the bachelor’s degree that will launch your graphic design career?

You have a few options, to say the least. There are over 350 graphic design programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Here are five of the best:

(All information about these schools comes from their websites. For an expanded selection of graphic design programs, check out these lists from U.S. News and World Report, Graphic Design USA, and the Association for Independent Colleges of Art and Design.)

Rhode Island School of Design

Location: Providence, R.I.

Teaching approach: “The undergraduate program in graphic design allows students to fully absorb an informed design process that provides lifelong support as they go on to engage in real-world design opportunities. Students gain a thorough understanding of the principles of design, theories of communication and strategies for problem-solving.”

Successful grads: Nicholas Felton, Jessica Walsh

California College of the Arts

Location: San Francisco, CA

Teaching approach: “Our graphic design program trains you to translate complex ideas into inspired designs. You’ll make art that matters as you explore current social issues. We teach you to design original and elegant solutions that strategically move audiences to feel, think, and act.”

Successful grads: Katie Barcelona, Maxfield Batt

Maryland Institute College of Art

Location: Baltimore, MD

Teaching approach: “MICA's major in graphic design offers students the creative, technological, and intellectual skills to become design visionaries. Students learn to shape the form and content of media across the spectrum of publishing, from the printed page to the Internet, and emerge from the program with a personal voice as a designer and artist.”

Successful grads: P.J. Richardson, Carlos Florez

Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Teaching approach: “The ability to communicate and shape meaning is one of the most powerful and ubiquitous forms of design in today’s world. Students learn to design effective communications across a wide variety of media that always exist within complex webs of interactions between people, products, and environments. Areas of study include narrative and storytelling, information design, and a variety of analog and digital visualization techniques.”

Successful grads: Burton Morris, Sabrina Majeed

California Institute of the Arts

Location: Valencia, CA

Teaching approach: “The highly rigorous and structured BFA curriculum is centered around a core class covering all aspects of graphic design practice. Each year in residence builds on the experience of the previous as a sequence of additional classes explore image-making, typography, and design history. This coursework is followed by more specialized classes in areas such as web design, motion graphics, and type design.”

Successful grads: Zak Kyes, Jonathan Notaro

What kind of graphic design program are you looking for?

What matters to you as you search for a graphic design program to kickstart your career?

If you’re looking for more tips on how to narrow down your choices for art college, be sure to check out our free step-by-step guide.

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