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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree Program in Graphic Design Overview

Majors Overview February 22, 2016

This article talks about Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree programs in Graphic Design and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, and job and wage outlook.

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Programs in Graphic Design

Students enrolled in a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Graphic Design program require 2-3 years to complete the terminal program where they explore design media, design methodologies, and visual communication theories. Schools allow students to customize their programs to particular areas of interest, such as digital or print media, through exercises and projects.

Schools offer both campus-based and online programs. A teaching internship may be completed by students who will gain experience working in a classroom environment. Presentation of a portfolio of design projects is necessary for enrollees in most programs towards the end of each academic or course year. Additionally, programs typically include a field experience.

Apart from the attendance of seminars and courses, completion of a master’s thesis is a requirement.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree – not necessarily in graphic design – and submit letters of recommendation from professors or employers. Other requirements include creating a portfolio of work to showcase conceptual communication, typographic usage, and compositional organization.


Program coursework is devised to teach students about the ways in which society is affected by design, color theory, and drawing; they also learn about applications for design and graphic imaging software. Aspiring artists involve themselves in the examination of the role of graphic design in contemporary society and investigation of original visual expression. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Computer and digital graphics
•Art criticism
•Art history
•Digital Studio

Career Choices

Program graduates can seek careers in advanced-level positions in design and publishing firms. They may also use the teaching and research skills acquired to aim for teaching positions or supervisory roles within universities and colleges. They may choose from possible career options such as:

•Design Director
•Creative Director
•Graphic design professor
•Creative Manager

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, post-secondary teachers, in general, are expected to see a 13% job growth. Over the same period, design directors, creative managers, and creative directors are expected to witness a 2% job growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 2012, post-secondary art professors brought in an average annual wage of $70,790 while design directors in advertising earned a median annual wage of $85,610 (BLS).

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