Best Online Bachelor Degree Programs in Web Design

Oct 20, 2021

Online Web Design Degree Overview

Oftentimes, web design degrees are combined with additional topics that help to expand your skillset, such as web development or computer and information systems. Typically, web designers need to be multi-faceted; able to understand a variety of skills such as front- and back-end development, graphic design, and different computer languages and platforms. Online degrees and certificates for web design and web development are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Online Associate Degrees in Web Design

An online associate degree in web design is a two-year program designed to teach the fundamentals of visual and interactive design. Students learn color theory and fundamentals, digital publishing tools, writing composition, and visual design principles. Coding skills like HTML and CSS are also integral to the program curriculum. Most online associate degrees combine web design and web development, allowing students to learn both front-end and back-end development skills. Many of these programs require about 60 credits for completion.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Web Design

Online bachelor's degrees in web design come in many forms. Most programs are combined with web development, providing the student a more holistic learning experience of website creation. Some online programs provide a concentration in web design and development as a part of a more generalized degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems.

Overall, online web design degrees teach students about user interaction, design concepts, coding and development, and graphics. Students have a chance to learn the concepts behind building a digital world from scratch, including a mix of programming and graphic design principles to blend the technical with the creative. Programs may require a final project or work experience as part of the curriculum.

Online Master's Degrees in Web Design

Most online master's degrees in this field offer web design as a concentration for a larger degree or combine it into the coursework of a program with a similar focus. For example, you can find web design blended into a digital design master's degree or combined with online communication. Some schools also offer web design as a concentration to their information technology online programs. These programs typically require 30 to 50 credits for completion and may require a capstone project prior to graduation.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Web Design

Although there are some doctoral degrees in web development (including at least one online), the terminal degree for arts and design is the Master of Fine Arts - the industry equivalent to the doctorate. Most MFAs are in-person programs, although some are offered online or in a hybrid format.

Online MFAs are offered through a variety of closely related subjects in the design field. Program titles include web design and new media, graphic design, experience design, and design thinking. Course topics for these programs are often interdisciplinary, incorporating visual theory and analysis, technology and digital work, user experience, and problem-solving.

Full-time students can complete an online MFA in two years, while it may take up to four years for part-time students. These programs require anywhere from 60 to 90 credits to complete and may require a graduate project or thesis.

Online Certificates in Web Design

Online web design certificates are offered at the undergraduate, professional, and graduate levels. Undergraduate certificates aim to provide an introduction to the field, while professional and graduate certificates help students advance their skills with more in-depth focus. Much like other degree levels, web design certificate programs are often combined with other closely related fields, such as user experience (UX), applications development, or web development. It typically takes 20 to 30 credits to complete a certificate in web design.

Web Design Specializations/Concentrations

Most online programs do not provide a concentration within web design for students to consider. In fact, web design is often used as a concentration of a larger program, such as information systems, communication, or information technology and management. Web design is also combined with web development, building a more holistic program for students to explore. This also helps to create additional career and educational avenues.

Curriculum/Coursework for a Web Design Degree

Web design degrees are primarily built around learning the function and visual design principles in the digital landscape. You will have the opportunity to learn design skills such as color fundamentals, writing and composition, and visual design principles. These skills are then enhanced with coding and web development courses, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Labs and course projects allow student practice for programming languages such as Oracle or SQL labs.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Web Design?

Most online bachelor's degrees in web design consist of about 120 to 130 credits. Typically, a full-time student can complete these credits in about four years. However, some schools offer accelerated programs with year-round schedules that will allow students to complete their degree in as little as two and a half years. Transferred credits from previous college courses may also shorten your program length.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Web Design Degrees

Proper accreditation is a way to increase your chances of getting a quality education. Accreditation is a third-party review process that evaluates the school or program against a set of strict agency standards. Institutions, departments, and even programs can all receive accreditation from a variety of agencies. These agencies can also then be recognized through the Council of Higher Education Association (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education.

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) is a CHEA-recognized agency that accredits postsecondary degree institutions that provide programs from non-degrees up to the professional doctorate level. Regional accreditation agencies also provide institutional accreditation for schools and universities within a given U.S. region. CHEA-recognized regional agencies include the following:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission

Currently, there are no accreditation agencies specific to web design. However, some online degree programs may incorporate their web design degrees into larger departments, such as arts and design or computer science. Accrediting agencies such as the National Association of Schools of Arts and Design (NASAD) accredit programs in these departments.

Web Design Licensure & Certification

Certifications for web design are not a job requirement, although many professionals may obtain some to help advance their careers. There are a variety of web design certifications to choose from. The World Organization of Webmasters (WOW) offers several options for web designers and web developers. These certifications are leveled, ranging from novice all the way to highly experienced professional exams. Some of these certifications include:

  • Certified Web Animator Novice
  • Certified Web and Mobile App Developer Novice
  • Certified Web Designer Apprentice
  • Certified WP Administrator Apprentice
  • Certified Web Designer Associate
  • Certified Web Administrator Associate
  • Certified Professional Webmaster
  • Certified Web Consultant

The International Web Association, or IWA, also provides a variety of certifications for web designers and developers. The entry-level CWP Associate certificate covers foundation skills for Internet professionals and is the starting point for IWA's more advanced certificates. These include CWP Site Design Specialist, CWP Application Developer, CWP Security Analyst, and more. There are also master-level certificates available, such as the Master CWP Designer and Master CWP Web Site Manager.

Web Design Career Information

Web designer job duties might include meeting with clients, writing and testing code, integrating graphics and working with team members responsible for other parts of the development process. Excellent communication and creative skills are highly preferred, as they need to effectively discuss projects with clients and utilize their visual design and coding skills to create the final product.

Educational requirements for web designers and web developers vary, but an associate degree in web design, web development, or similar fields is most common. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median wage reported in May 2019 for web developers was $73,760.

How to Become a Full Stack Developer

A full stack developer is a web developer who combines both front-end and back-end development into one career. They utilize a variety of computer languages such as JavaScript, Python, SQL, HTML5, CSS, and more to complete their projects. Overall, web developer positions commonly require associate degrees, but with the additional knowledge needed for a full stack developer, it may be wise to pursue more education. Full stack developers earn an average salary of $78,347, according to PayScale.com. Entry-level developers with less than 1 year of experience typically earn $64,869 a year, while professionals with 5 to 9 years of experience earn an average of $92,012.

How to Become a UX Designer

A UX (which stands for User Experience) designer combines a variety of skills cultivated through web design and web development to create a fully-immersive experience for their audience. A UX designer creates and enhances a brand's product to improve the user's experience, making it easier and more enjoyable. These products typically include computer applications, software, and websites.

Popular job skills for UX designers include web design, interaction design, user interface research, and user research. Experience or training in computer programming and software tools such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery and Adobe Suite is also necessary. A bachelor's degree in computer-related fields such as graphic design, web design, or web development is highly preferred.

According to PayScale.com, the average salary for a UX designer in 2020 is $74,244 a year. Entry-level positions with less than one year of experience can expect a salary of $62,647, while professionals with five to nine years of experience can earn $83,948 annually. Late-career professionals with over 20 years of experience may earn $97,799 a year.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Web Design Degrees

Web design students have several financial aid options available to them. The U.S. Department of Education offers the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA), an application that lets you know what grants, loans or work-study programs you may qualify for. Basic eligibility requirements include completion of a GED, high school diploma, homeschool program, or equivalent, and demonstration of financial need. Eligible applicants must also not be in default on current student loans.

There are also many scholarships available through nonprofit and private organizations. For web designers, some of these include:

It's important to remember that many local, county, and state organizations also provide a wide variety of scholarships for just about everyone. When searching for scholarships, consider your and your family's association memberships, demographics, social and personal affiliations, sexual and gender identity, and religious affiliations. All of these and more can qualify you for many additional scholarships that can help you pay for your education.

How to Choose a Web Design School & Program

When searching for a web design school or program, there are a few considerations to follow. First, you want to see if the school or program is accredited. You also want to check the school's curriculum to be sure they are offering a complete program for your career needs.

Another question to ask: does this school or program offer credit transfer? Many non-degree programs will not allow credit transfer, which is something to consider if you're looking to advance your career.

There are also several free web design courses and programs available online for those interested in learning more about this career path before committing to a full degree program. It's important to note, however, that many of these do not lead to a degree or offer college credit.

To help search for online schools and programs, check out the DEAC website. There you'll find a search database for accredited distance learning education opportunities. You can search in any chosen state, for any degree, and for whichever program you choose.

Professional Organizations in Web Design

There are a variety of organizations for web design professionals to join. Many of these organizations provide training opportunities, job forums, networking potential, and professional certifications for their members. The following are a few of the professional organizations available to web designers:

  • IEEE Computer Society - for computer science and engineering professionals. Memberships include access to their digital library, professional networking, career and education resources, certifications, job boards, and member discounts.
  • World Organization of Webmasters - open to web professionals of any variety. WOW provides professional certifications, career resources, community events such as contests, online training, insurance programs, and job boards.
  • International Web Association - available for all web professionals. Membership benefits include employment connections, professional networking, education discounts through partner sites, professional development courses, and certifications.
  • Association for Computing Machinery - open to all computing professionals. Members receive access to their digital library and learning center, publication subscriptions, product and service discounts, discounts on periodical subscriptions, job boards, and networking opportunities.
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