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25 Best Graphic Design Schools 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated 4/1/2020

The 25 schools on this list offer the top bachelor's degrees in graphic design, based on median salary one year out of college. Rochester Institute of Technology tops the list with a starting salary of $51,100 for graphic design BFA students. Graphic design majors at Indian River College graduated with a median debt of $9,000, the lowest median student debt on the list. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo ranks at number two with a starting salary of $50,100 and the second lowest median debt, at $16,500.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

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Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 Rochester (NY) Rochester (NY) $54,518 $27,000 $51,100
#2 #2 San Luis Obispo (CA) San Luis Obispo (CA) $28,229 $16,500 $50,100
#3 #3 Provo (UT) Provo (UT) $6,304 Not Reported $45,300
#4 #4 Sarasota (FL) Sarasota (FL) $52,826 $27,000 $44,400
#5 #5 Menomonie (WI) Menomonie (WI) $17,930 $25,337 $40,100
#6 #6 Bristol (RI) Bristol (RI) $40,962 $27,000 $38,200
#7 #7 Waukesha (WI) Waukesha (WI) $36,190 $24,777 $37,900
#8 #8 Normal (IL) Normal (IL) $27,011 $23,000 $37,200
#9 #9 Emeryville (CA) (and 1 other) Emeryville (CA) (and 1 other) $21,650 $32,500 $35,900
#10 #10 Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others) Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others) $30,592 $25,000 $34,600
#12 #12 Big Rapids (MI) Big Rapids (MI) $13,076 $24,375 $32,500
#14 #14 Riverside (CA) Riverside (CA) $38,058 $20,000 $30,800
#15 #15 Bowling Green (OH) Bowling Green (OH) $22,212 $27,000 $30,700
#16 #16 Peoria (IL) Peoria (IL) $37,800 $27,000 $29,800
#17 #17 Oakland (CA) Oakland (CA) $54,706 $27,000 $27,800
#20 #20 Fort Pierce (FL) (and 4 others) Fort Pierce (FL) (and 4 others) $10,201 $9,000 $26,000
#21 #21 Chicago (IL) Chicago (IL) $31,026 $27,250 $25,600
#22 #22 Fairfax (VA) Fairfax (VA) $38,983 $27,000 $25,500
#23 #23 Macomb (IL) Macomb (IL) $14,406 $24,382 $24,400
#24 #24 Brooklyn (NY) Brooklyn (NY) $57,599 $25,000 $21,600
#25 #25 Winter Park (FL) Winter Park (FL) $26,307 $32,500 $21,100

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Learn more about the top colleges for a Bachelor's in Graphic Design degree. You can also read student reviews of each school by clicking on the stars. Although student reviews were not used as a ranking factor in this list, we provide ratings and reviews so students can consider the experience of alumni in their decision-making process.

Median Salary $51,100
Median Debt $27,000
Annual Tuition $54,518
Graduation Rate 71%

Rochester Institute of Technology features a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, which has five concentrations: 3-D Digital Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Interior Design, and New Media Design. The Digital Design option focuses on gaming, augmented reality, data visualization and emerging media. Graphic Design concentrates on effective visual presentations. Industrial Design focuses on products and packaging. Interior Design emphasizes the relationship between people and their structural surroundings. New Media explores the visual aspects of emerging media.

The program integrates design basics and covers text, typography, illustration, and art history, so students are thoroughly familiar with traditional concepts. Emphasis is placed on creative responses to design problems and the ability to conceive and bring to completion visually compelling work.

Courses include History of Western Art: Ancient to Medieval, Typography, Motion Design, and Experiential Graphic Design. A capstone project is also required. Admission to the program requires studio art experience and a portfolio.

The school is located in Rochester, New York.

Visit Rochester Institute of Technology's website.

Median Salary $50,100
Median Debt $16,500
Annual Tuition $28,229
Graduation Rate 85%

Through the Art and Design Department of its College of Liberal Arts, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Admission to this program requires a strong portfolio.

The degree focus is on the growth of student creativity and aesthetics. A strong emphasis is placed on technical skills and flexibility in utilizing rapidly changing computer tools. Students will learn art history, tradition, and design principles, but also product branding, interaction design, spatial design, publication design, typography, book arts, illustration, and advertising. The program is also committed to diversity in its students and projects.

The courses offered include Survey of Western Art, Art Theory and Practice, Computing for Interactive Arts, and Illustration: Techniques and Tools. Hands-on experience and studio experiences are important parts of the program.

Visit California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo's website.

Provo (UT)
Median Salary $45,300
Median Debt Not Reported
Annual Tuition $6,304
Graduation Rate 64%

Brigham Young University features a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Students are first admitted into the university, indicating their interest in the program, and then are admitted into the major at the end of their first year. The program is limited to 40 new students per year.

The BFA program covers art history, illustration, typography, branding, interactive design, and related facets of design and its history. The program's philosophy states that strong design skills can be a “catalyst for positive social change.” Students will learn art history, design history, the principles of design and the needed technical skills. There is also a focus on collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving. Graduates are expected to be able to devise dynamic visual communication strategies and understand the importance of sustainable materials.

Among the courses offered are 3-Dimensional Design, Bookbinding, Letterpress Studio, and Design Theory and Visual Culture.

BYU is located in Provo, Utah, in the Salt Lake City metro region.

Visit Brigham Young University's website.

Median Salary $44,400
Median Debt $27,000
Annual Tuition $52,826
Graduation Rate 77%

The Ringling College of Art and Design offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. The degree program is 120 credits and allows students to shape their degrees through flexibility in requirements and electives. The BFA curriculum covers art history, design history, design elements and the development of student competency in design. A particular focus is on branding, packaging, and interactive design. Another focus is on student research and analysis to more effectively plan visual strategies. The school operates the Ringling College Design Center, which takes on real-world projects for non-profits and gives students hands-on experience.

Courses include Drawing and 2D Design, 3D Problem Solving, Visual Persuasion, and Development of Art and Ideas. Ringling has a colorful history: It grew out of the yearly winter stays of the Ringling Brothers circus in Florida and has gradually become famed as a center for art studies. It is still the home of the world-famous clown college.

The school is located in Sarasota, Florida, on the state’s Gulf Coast.

Visit Ringling College of Art and Design's website.

Median Salary $40,100
Median Debt $25,337
Annual Tuition $17,930
Graduation Rate 52%

The University of Wisconsin—Stout features a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Interactive Media. The degree has two options: Communication Design and Interaction Design. Both have somewhat more of an industrial and commercial orientation than a focus on the traditional fine arts. Communication Design focuses on graphic design, advertising, products and packaging, and motion graphics. Interaction Design focuses on design for interactivity across the web, mobile apps, and emerging media. Students will learn art and design history, as well as studio arts, but will concentrate more on concepts and techniques in contemporary design. UW—Stout also stresses the importance of a liberal arts education.

Courses in the concentrations include Three Dimensional Design Foundations, Typography 1: Letterform, Product and Packaging Graphics, and Contemporary Sculptural Practices. There is an experiential requirement that may be fulfilled by travel abroad, a substantial research project or an internship. There are related BFA degrees in Interior Design, Entertainment Design, and Game Design and Development.

The University of Wisconsin–Stout is located in the northwest part of Wisconsin.

Visit University of Wisconsin–Stout's website.