Best Online Art Degrees 2021

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The arts and design field includes occupations such as art director, graphic designer, and interior designer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in this field earn a median annual salary of $48,130, approximately 33% higher than the median salary for all occupations.

Although arts and design professionals have higher earning potential than workers in many fields, the BLS projects employment for the arts and design field to decline 4% from 2019-2029. As a result, these professionals need marketable, honed skills to succeed in a competitive job market. Earning an art degree can help individuals improve their employability.

Admission requirements vary by school, degree level, and topic. Typical requirements for bachelor’s-level art programs include a high school or GED diploma. Incoming students interested in institutional financial aid must typically submit standardized test scores.

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Top 10 Online Art Degrees: The Best Schools and Programs

? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
Rank School Avg Net Price ? This represents the average net price of attendance for full-time students as gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Individual costs may vary. Costs per credit hour may also vary by program or degree.
1 Harvard University $41632
2 Judson College $15774
3 Pennsylvania State University $16572
4 Valley City State University $5153
5 University of Northern Colorado $6372
6 Northern Arizona University $8400
7 National University $12744
8 University of Montana $4603
9 University of Nebraska at Kearney $5325
10 North Carolina Central University $3555

Factors to Consider When Pursuing an Art Degree

  • Q. How many years is an art degree?

    Like other bachelor’s programs, a typical art degree requires four years to complete. Students take general education, major, and elective courses.

  • Q. What kinds of jobs can you get with an art degree?

    Although career paths vary by degree and specialization, graduates commonly work for arts councils, interior design departments, advertising agencies, and publishing houses.

  • Q. How do I get a career in art?

    Regardless of artistic medium, aspiring artists often require some formal education. While earning a college degree, learners gain transferable skills they can apply to various occupations.

  • Q. Can you go to art school online?

    Many reputable colleges and universities offer fully online art programs. Some schools allow distance learners to complete coursework synchronously or asynchronously.

Best Online Art Programs 2021

See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA



    At Harvard University, students can earn a bachelor's degree through the university's undergraduate program, Harvard College. Students have the opportunity to individualize their Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, which consist of three parts - concentration, general education and elective. Designed to be flexible, students choose their own concentration, which will be their primary field of study and makes up about 40 percent of a student's overall program. Those who are interested in pursuing an art-related degree can choose a concentration in History of Art and Architecture; Theater, Dance & Media; Music or Visual and Environmental Studies. Those with a very specific goal in mind can choose to create their own art concentration. To graduate, students need to fulfill all requirements for each part of their program - usually a total of about 32 credits.

  2. Judson College

    Marion, AL



    Founded in 1838, Judson College is a private, four-year, Christian college for women. Its Art Department offers concentrations in a variety of areas such as drawing, painting, color and design, and art history. Students have the opportunity to work with different tools, media and equipment, while also focusing on traditional technical skills. At the end of the program, all students showcase their artwork during a senior exhibition, which is held in a professional gallery setting. For those looking for online learning opportunities, Judson offers a hybrid Bachelor of Arts in Music. Some components are available online, but others - such as the 10 hours of applied lessons requirement - aren't. In these cases, the college outlines alternative options for completing the requirement. For instance, students can fulfill the applied lessons requirement by working with a private teacher who has a master's degree. Judson professors will maintain a relationship with the private instructor and at the end of every semester, the student must submit a recording of their lessons with comments from the teacher. The credits will then be transferred to Judson.

  3. Pennsylvania State University

    University Park, PA



    Pennsylvania State University was founded as the commonwealth's only land-grant university in 1855 and today offers programs across 24 campuses and online. Creative and artistic students looking to earn an art degree can pursue a range of options though Penn State's College of Arts and Architecture, which houses the Department of Art History, the Integrative Arts program, the School of Music, the Stuckeman School, the School of Theatre and the School of Visual Arts. Over 1,400 students are enrolled across more than 30 undergraduate and graduate art programs. Examples of available undergraduate degrees are a BA in art history, a Bachelor of Design, a BFA in stage management, a BS in dance, a BFA in acting and an undergraduate degree in digital multimedia design, which is offered online.

  4. Valley City State University

    Valley City, ND



    Founded in 1890, Valley City State University holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. Undergraduate VCSU art students can choose from a BA or BS in Studio Arts, a BS in Art Education (K-12 classroom) or a Digital Design certificate in areas such as graphic design or commercial art. The art major consists of six areas of studio emphasis, including Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Ceramics, Sculpture, and Photography. Students have the opportunity to earn three to 12 credit hours per semester through internships at art institutions such as studios, galleries and museums, including the school's own McCarthy Art Gallery. Students are encouraged to exhibit their work at spaces in Valley City, Fargo and Moorhead. Currently, the only art-related program that's available online is a bachelor's degree in music.

  5. University of Northern Colorado

    Greeley, CO



    Originally named Colorado State Normal School, the University of Northern Colorado opened at Greely in October 1890 to train public school teachers. The school eventually changed its name when it began offering a broader range of degree programs, including art degrees. UNCO's School of Art and Design prepares artists and art educators by integrating in-depth studio time and classroom instruction. Small class sizes provide ample opportunities for personal attention. Art degrees are offered in 12 areas, from art education to sculpture. UNCO's extended campus also offers an online Arts Entrepreneurship Undergraduate Certificate, a 12-credit program featuring valuable studies in marketing, self-promotion and business-planning for working artists. Four online graduate degrees are also available, including a newly online music education master's degree.

  6. Northern Arizona University

    Flagstaff, AZ



    Over the years, Flagstaff's Northern Arizona University has grown in size and stature, adding additional campus locations, an online division and more than 150 academic programs. The NAU School of Art offers three undergraduate degrees - studio art, interior design and art education. The studio art BFA program allows students to choose a concentration in ceramics, painting, printmaking and sculpture. NAU's unique Studio Foundations program allows students to study drawing, two-dimensional and three-dimensional design, and color theory to explore their talents and interests in order to make informed decisions about their major. While there are no art degrees available online, students can enroll in more than 50 individual classes in related topics such as art history, native art and arts & culture.

  7. National University

    La Jolla, CA



    Founded in San Diego in 1971 as a private non-profit institution, National University offers more than 100 on-campus and online degree programs. Online courses are offered in a unique, accelerated four-week schedule. Within the School of Professional Studies, the Department of Journalism, Film and Entertainment Arts offers two unique online bachelor's programs that take advantage of the university's proximity to Southern California's entertainment, broadcast and communications industries. The Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media Design builds a solid foundation in design theory, media production and media project management. Online students must complete 180 quarter units of study, including 72 quarter units in the major. The Bachelor of Arts in Film Arts covers topics like film history, screenplay writing, sound and video editing, cinematography, directing and post-production. Faculty members include journalists, filmmakers, designers and authors.

  8. University of Montana

    Missoula, MT



    More than 13,000 University of Montana students attend courses in Missoula and online. Its School of Art offers undergraduate degrees in six general areas, all of which have dedicated faculty who oversee curriculum. A new online BA art degree is now available. It consists of a total of 120 credits where students take general education and School of Art courses to explore various elements of visual and applied arts. In their final year, online students complete a capstone project that's tailored to their degree and personal interests. For instance, students can put together an art exhibit, books, videos or interactive visualizations. After graduation, students can apply their visual communication and creative problem solving skills to a range of art and non-art related careers.

  9. University of Nebraska at Kearney

    Kearney, NE



    The University of Nebraska at Kearney offers 170 majors and 20 pre-professional programs. Its Department of Art and Design is home to various BA and BFA programs such as studio art, art history, visual communication and design, and art teaching. As an example, the BFA has two 120 credit-hour pathways - studio art comprehensive and visual communication and design comprehensive. Each degree option is designed to prepare students for a professional career in art. With that in mind, all students are required to take and pass the Sophomore Portfolio Review before advancing to junior-level courses. These portfolios must have examples of both artwork and written works. It will be reviewed online and once students pass, they'll be allowed to registered for their third year BFA classes. Currently there are no online undergraduate art degree programs offered through UNK's eCampus, but two online graduate degrees in art education are available.

  10. North Carolina Central University

    Durham, NC



    For over 100 years, North Carolina Central University has served students from around the world through its Durham, NC campus and online. The NCCU Art Museum is home to one of North Carolina's leading collections of works by African-Americans and other artists of the Black experience, including Alex Rivera, Nelson Mandela and Felrath Hines. The Department of Art offers a BA in art, with three areas of concentration - visual communications, studio and art studies. The studio concentration consists of at least 124 credit hours and students are required to maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0. The first and second years focus on completing general education courses, but after that students take a mix of basic art coursework, art history classes and studio concentration requirements. While NCCU doesn't offer any online art degrees at this time, it does have a 100 percent online undergraduate teaching artist certificate program.

What Are the Goals of an Art Degree?

Many schools offer undergraduate art degrees in several fields, such as art design, studio arts, and digital media. Degree-seekers can also study topics related to the film and television industry, such as computer animation and photography. Other learners major in art history to prepare for careers as curators and art historians.

Students earning a bachelor’s in digital media typically take courses in principles of web editing and technology, illustration graphics, and advanced JavaScript. Like all art degree-seekers, digital media students also complete general education courses in the humanities and social sciences.

Why Get an Art Degree?

Although the BLS projects a decrease in employment for arts and design professionals from 2019-2029, an art degree still confers many benefits. Earning a degree in the field can help students turn their passion into a fulfilling career.

Portfolio Development
Artists need a portfolio to impress potential employers and clients. Art students develop relevant skills and curate their best pieces.
Multiple Career Tracks
Nearly all industries hire graphic designers and other artists to create advertising campaigns, interior designs, and architectural blueprints.
Students earning a degree in art pursue their passion while preparing for a career. Additionally, earning a degree often inspires graduates to attempt greater challenges in the future.
Transferable Skills
Art programs typically require general education courses, which emphasize skills in communication, writing, and research. Graduates can apply these skills to positions in nearly any industry.
Higher Salary
Professionals working in the arts earn a median annual salary higher than the median for all occupations, according to the BLS. This financial advantage can help professionals attain a higher quality of life.

What Are the Requirements for an Art Degree?

Art program admission requirements vary by school and major. Applicants must typically submit high school or GED transcripts, provide FAFSA results, and speak with an admissions counselor. Some colleges and universities require or recommend that candidates for art programs submit a portfolio. These schools may also require an application interview.

Students qualify for graduation by passing all courses and maintaining a satisfactory GPA. Requirements specific to art programs include creating a professional portfolio. Seniors often complete a portfolio workshop emphasizing the business skills and knowledge artists need to work for themselves.

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Professional Organizations for Art Students

Joining professional organizations can help art degree-seekers prepare for success in the competitive job market. These organizations often help students search for jobs, hone relevant skills, and build personal brands. Other membership benefits may include networking and scholarship opportunities. Many organizations, such as those below, charge students reduced membership fees.

  • Association of Performing Arts Professionals Full-time college students majoring in the performing arts can join APAP. Membership benefits include online professional development courses, an invitation to the association's conference in New York City, and job-hunting guides. APAP also awards grants to members and organizations with financial need. Prospective and renewing members pay a discounted fee through June 2021.

  • The National Association of Independent Artists Students preparing for careers as self-employed artists often join the NAIA. The organization provides members with an online forum and information about upcoming art shows. All members pay the same low membership fee and receive access to resources on topics such as art show success and artist advocacy. The NAIA also publishes informational articles by experienced independent artists.

  • Professional Association of Visual Artists Florida visual artists can join PAVA to enter exclusive art shows, sell their work online, and attend networking events. Other benefits include discounts on banking services and art supplies. PAVA also sponsors an annual scholarship for high school seniors graduating from Pinellas County public schools. College students save more than 50% on membership fees.

Scholarships for Art Students

Scholarships can make earning a degree in art more affordable, and they often help students avoid long-term debt. Typical scholarship application requirements include a competitive GPA, a portfolio, and a teacher recommendation. The following scholarships accept applications in 2021, and degree-seekers living throughout the United States may qualify. Learners should research each award’s requirements and deadline before applying.

  • Against The Grain Artistic Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: This scholarship from Against the Grain Productions supports Asian American high school seniors and college students who are majoring in the arts. Applicants must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status. Candidates should also demonstrate participation in extracurricular activities or community service.

    Amount: $1,000

    Explore Here

  • CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Visual Arts

    Who Can Apply: Professional artists and degree-seekers studying film, photography, and the media arts can apply for this fellowship. Applicants provide two recommendation letters, work samples, and two brief essays. Individuals may complete the application in English or Spanish.

    Amount: $20,000

    Explore Here

  • Stacey Scholarship Fund

    Who Can Apply: The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum sponsors this award for art students. Applicants must specialize in classical painting styles. Recipients can apply scholarship funds toward tuition and other education-related expenses. Scholarship recipients submit a quarterly report demonstrating their artistic development.

    Amount: $500-$5,000

    Explore Here

Portrait of Reese Lopez

Reese Lopez

Reese Lopez is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the education field. After earning his BA in English from Evergreen State College, he worked as an English language instructor and tutor before joining Affordable Colleges Online. Reese lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also writes fiction and performs in the local music scene.

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