Your Guide to Graphic Design Degrees

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Graphic design, communication design, and design programmes focus on visual communications.

 [Featured image] A graphic designer in a green shirt and glasses draws on paper arranged on a drafting table positioned in front of a sunny window.

A graphic design degree signifies in-depth knowledge of visual communication and design. In fact, graphic design programmes are also called communication design or design programmes.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of graphic design degrees and share what you can expect if you pursue your degree in graphic design.

Types of graphic design degrees

You can pursue your graphic design degree at the undergraduate or postgraduate level. Another option, if you haven’t made the grades or want to get workplace experience, is starting with a foundation degree. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of each degree type:

  • Foundation degree: Foundation degree programmes combine workplace skills and study. They take two years to complete, are the equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor's degree, and tend to be in art and technical subjects. Schools have no set entry requirement for a foundation degree, but these degrees can be used as an entry point to complete an undergraduate degree. They are a great option if you don’t get the grades to study for a bachelor’s degree at first. 

  • Bachelor’s degree: Bachelor’s degree programmes are undergraduate degrees and take three years to complete if you attend school full-time. Universities design courses to help you develop theoretical and practical skills, working on live projects to develop technical skills.

  • Master’s degree: Master’s degree programmes usually take one to two years of full-time study. Programmes are postgraduate degrees designed to deepen expertise in visual communication. 

You can also take individual graphic design courses or earn a qualification. These options enable you to learn foundational design skills with less financial and time commitment. If you’ve already gotten your degree in another subject area and hope to work in graphic design, a certificate programme may be a good option as you refocus your career path.

Online graphic design degrees

With the prevalence of digital design, you can find many options to pursue your graphic design degree online. You can expect similar projects but with the flexibility of learning from anywhere with an internet connection. Online courses may also be asynchronous, meaning you can log on to learn at whatever time is convenient for you.

See if online learning is right for you with the Fundamentals of Graphic Design from the California Institute of the Arts on Coursera. This is the first Course of five in the Graphic Design Specialisation, available entirely online.

Bachelor’s degree in graphic design

According to the National Careers Service, employers typically consider a foundation degree the entry-level education for a role as a graphic designer [1], although many will ask for an undergraduate degree as standard. 

A degree isn’t always necessary to work in a design-related field—Practical skills are very important, and a strong portfolio will get you far. You can also work towards an apprenticeship.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect if you decide to pursue a degree in graphic design.

Types of courses

When you pursue your degree, you will have some core modules you must complete, along with a choice of other modules that interest you.

Some graphic design modules may include:

  • Introduction to graphic design

  • Digital communication

  • Design thinking

  • Art history

  • Color theory

  • Typography

  • Studio art courses like drawing, painting, or sculpture

  • Motion design

  • Production design

  • Web design

  • User experience

  • Information design

  • Media management

Tuition and degree length

Earning an undergraduate degree tends to be a sizable financial and time commitment. The cost of your degree will vary depending on where you go to university. The cost of a three-year undergraduate degree in the UK can be as much as £9,250 per year [2].

Many graphic design programmes are designed for you to complete in three years with a full-time commitment. However, several factors can influence the time it takes to earn your degree, including full-time versus part-time status.

What can you do with a graphic design degree?

A degree is a fairly versatile qualification, but you may find it easier to enter some design-related fields with a graphic design degree. A graphic design degree can signal your knowledge to potential employers and, perhaps more importantly, can give you confidence as you approach design-related projects.

People who have earned graphic design degrees work in a range of industries for companies like Google, Meta, Reddit, Disney, Hulu, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Live Nation, and Capital One.

Here are some jobs you may pursue with a graphic design degree, along with their average base salaries in the UK as of February 2023, according to Glassdoor:

  • Graphic designer - £29,467

  • UX designer - £53,356

  • Interaction designer - £34,035

  • Web designer - £29,384

  • Product designer - £46,752

  • Brand marketing specialist - £44,218

  • Brand designer - £38,046

Start learning graphic design

If you enjoy figuring out ways to communicate with people using visual media and want to pursue a creative career path, you may like studying graphic design. Start learning today on Coursera by taking a Professional Certificate in UX Design from Google. This programme can help you explore design processes and become work-ready in six months or less.

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Article sources


National Careers Service. “Graphic Designer,” Accessed February 16, 2023.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.