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Online Art Degrees: The Best Schools and Programs for 2018

Updated on: 12/26/2017

Though being an artist can look different to each individual, a level of skill and training is involved in many artistic professions. Even those who are self-taught must still learn to master their craft, whether that be an instrument, a brush or a keyboard. However, in order to master artistic abilities like directing a movie, composing an original soundtrack or designing clothing at a professional level, specialized training may be necessary. That’s why there are art degrees offered through postsecondary institutions. Let’s dive into an overview of art degree programs available online.

How Much Do Artists Make?

While “starving artist” may spring to mind for some while thinking about the profession, many art degrees can result in profitable careers. Although it can be difficult to break out as a famous artist, many career options are available to art majors, and with the right formal training and hard work, respectable wages are possible. The exact amount can vary based on the particular type of art and the subjective tastes of society. However, the following guide should provide a ballpark picture of what professionals with art degrees can potentially earn.

Occupation Median Annual Salary: Entry-level Median Annual Salary: Mid-level Median Annual Salary: Late-career
Graphic Artist $32,000 $39,000 $41,000
Interior Designer $41,000 $51,000 $64,000
Web Developer and Designer $48,000 $59,000 $81,000
Photojournalist $30,000 $41,000 $48,000
Sculptor $41,000 $41,000 $47,000

Source: Payscale

Explore Associate’s Degree
Programs for Art

What Online Degree Do I Need to Become an Artist?

Unlike many professions, there are relatively few positions in the art world that absolutely require a specific degree. For example, although many successful movie directors have formal bachelor’s or master’s degrees in film or a related major, it is not necessarily required that an individual have any formal training. That being said, because some careers specific to art may call for a particular degree, students need to consider each degree level and the potential careers that are associated with them. Let’s look at common art degree levels and what a prospective student can expect with respect to coursework and possible careers.

Explore Bachelor’s Degree
Programs for Art

What Are the Steps to Earn an Online Art Degree?

As unique as each art profession is, so is its recipe for success, which can make it difficult for a student who is seeking an art degree to follow one particular formula. Fortunately, there are many factors that are considered universal. Depending on the specific art field, a student can typically expect to spend a few years honing necessary skills. The following steps can provide a solid framework and a starting point for prospective art students to choose a fitting art degree program.

  1. A high school diploma or GED is required to enroll in any college degree program. Time to complete: Four years

  2. Art has many avenues, and no degree program will provide an education in all of them. Individuals must decide what type of art they would like to learn. Time to complete: Varies.

  3. Schooling can be expensive, and since a high salary employment after graduation isn’t guaranteed, students should determine what they can afford. It’s important for prospective art students to look into all available financial resources. Time to complete: Less than a month

  4. Some online programs are entirely online, but many have a blended format with on-campus or in-person curriculum requirements. In addition, programs can be synchronous or asynchronous. Students should decide what online program works best for them. Time to complete: Less than a month

  5. Students should choose a school that is affordable and offers the program they desire. Time to complete: Varies

  6. It is important to value a degree by attending an accredited school. Identify the organization that accredits art programs on your list to make sure all that hard work and tuition are put to good use. Time to complete: Less than a month

  7. An entrance exam, such as the ACT, SAT or GRE, may be necessary for admission. Students should also study and prepare for these exams to get the highest scores possible. Time to complete: Three to six months.

  8. Aside from an application, a transcript and test scores, many art programs will also have special application requirements, such as an on-campus interview or submission of a portfolio. Some of these can take awhile to set up and prepare. Students need to identify these requirements quickly so they have enough time to complete them. Time to complete: Less than a month

  9. Prospective students may need to gather copies or evidence of prior artistic work, line up recommenders to write letters and arrange a trip to a school for an interview. Once these are done, the applicant will then need to submit the application before the deadline. Time to complete: Three or more months

  10. Generally, students will apply for financial aid around the time they apply for admission into a school. The financial aid process usually requires students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Students should also look into the numerous scholarships and grants available. Time to complete: Three or more months

  11. Students lucky enough to receive multiple acceptance letters will need to make a decision. To make this decision, campus visits, calls to alumni and long discussions with parents and family can be expected. Time to complete: Varies

  12. Congrats! Now that you’ve been accepted into a school, begin studying hard to earn good grades, but don’t forget that there’s more to an education than your GPA. Time to complete: Two to four years

  13. Many programs require students to get real-world experience, which allows them to apply their classroom knowledge to the actual profession. Time to complete: Several months

  14. Finding a job is as much about who you know as it is about what you know. Find opportunities to get your name out there in front of potential employers and clients. Time to complete: Varies

  15. The classroom can only teach so much. You may be required to have a certain number of years of experience, so be looking for real-world opportunities. Time to complete: One or more years

  16. Although not required, getting a specific credential or certification can help land new jobs or make an individual much more marketable to clients. Time to complete: Varies

Explore Online Programs
for Art

The 44 Best Art Schools for Online Degrees

Art degrees can range from painting to photography to graphic design and theater. With a profession as broad as art, it can be difficult to narrow down the best accredited online art program. Aside from weeding out the less-than-desirable schools and programs, such as those that aren’t accredited, students may wonder what other elements to consider. Students can use the following list of schools, which considers factors like cost of attendance, type of school (public versus private) and faculty-to-student ratio, to help determine the program that best suits them. Depending on a student’s personal preference, future goals, and financial and time resources, some schools will be more attractive than others. By looking at individual school characteristics in addition to a school’s rank on a list, a student is more effectively able to choose a school that’s right for them.

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)

  • At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

  • *PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA 99.81 $41,632 5 56% 4:197%No Yes Yes
2 Judson College Marion, AL 94.19 $15,774 1 95% 4:137%Yes Yes Yes
3 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus University Park, PA 93.35 $16,572 5 37% 3:186%Yes Yes Yes
4 Valley City State University Valley City, ND 93.24 $5,153 1 96% 4:141%No Yes Yes
5 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 93.22 $6,372 2 79% 3:145%No Yes Yes
6 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ 93.19 $8,400 2 66% 3:149%No Yes Yes
7 National University La Jolla, CA 93.07 $12,744 4 1% 2:123%Yes No Yes
8 The University of Montana Missoula, MT 93.05 $4,603 2 67% 3:149%No Yes Yes
9 University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, NE 92.88 $5,325 2 55% 3:156%No Yes Yes
10 North Carolina Central University Durham, NC 92.86 $3,555 1 81% 3:143%Yes Yes Yes
11 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA 92.49 $14,189 3 78% 3:146%Yes Yes Yes
12 Prescott College Prescott, AZ 92.38 $26,088 2 90% 4:145%Yes No Yes
13 Dickinson State University Dickinson, ND 92.20 $5,013 1 63% 4:135%Yes Yes Yes
14 New Mexico State University-Main Campus Las Cruces, NM 92.13 $4,956 1 39% 3:144%No Yes Yes
15 Lindsey Wilson College Columbia, KY 92.11 $22,920 1 99% 3:132%No Yes Yes
16 Lenoir-Rhyne University Hickory, NC 91.98 $32,140 1 98% 4:149%No Yes Yes
17 University of Florida Gainesville, FL 91.59 $4,477 2 29% 2:185%No Yes Yes
18 Goucher College Baltimore, MD 91.35 $41,400 1 98% 4:166%No Yes Yes
19 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, LA 91.31 $5,180 1 48% 2:136%Yes Yes Yes
20 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY 91.29 $20,640 1 100% 3:145%No No Yes
21 University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, HI 91.27 $10,344 1 61% 3:156%No Yes Yes
22 University of Valley Forge Phoenixville, PA 91.26 $18,644 1 93% 4:147%Yes Yes Yes
23 SUNY Empire State College Saratoga Springs, NY 91.23 $6,470 2 75% 3:117%Yes No Yes
24 Drury University Springfield, MO 91.13 $8,970 2 76% 2:148%No Yes Yes
25 East Carolina University Greenville, NC 91.04 $4,157 1 50% 3:158%No Yes Yes
26 Bellevue University Bellevue, NE 91.01 $6,600 3 51% 1:131%Yes No Yes
27 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL 90.99 $26,910 2 94% 3:142%Yes No Yes
28 Southern Utah University Cedar City, UT 90.98 $5,578 1 63% 3:136%Yes No Yes
29 University of New Orleans New Orleans, LA 90.97 $7,150 1 42% 2:134%Yes Yes Yes
30 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO 90.91 $8,301 1 48% 3:163%No Yes Yes
31 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, NY 90.90 $17,466 1 88% 2:134%Yes Yes Yes
32 Minneapolis College of Art and Design Minneapolis, MN 90.63 $34,876 1 97% 3:161%No Yes Yes
33 Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI 90.50 $10,106 1 49% 3:156%No Yes Yes
34 Roger Williams University Bristol, RI 90.33 $29,976 1 89% 3:161%Yes Yes Yes
35 Regis University Denver, CO 90.22 $33,110 1 95% 3:159%Yes No Yes
36 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH 90.07 $30,006 2 71% 1:159%Yes Yes Yes
37 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN 90.05 $8,009 1 44% 2:144%No Yes Yes
38 Boston University Boston, MA 89.55 $47,422 1 51% 3:184%No Yes Yes
39 Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield, PA 89.25 $7,060 1 30% 3:148%No Yes Yes
40 Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana, PA 88.98 $7,060 1 15% 2:150%Yes Yes Yes
41 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro, PA 88.43 $7,060 1 25% 2:144%Yes No Yes
42 Stevens-Henager College Murray, UT 88.21 $18,021 2 48% 1:158%Yes Yes Yes
43 Independence University Salt Lake City, UT 87.12 $18,021 2 28% 1:1N/AYes Yes Yes
44 Franklin University Columbus, OH 86.73 $11,616 1 N/A 4:113%Yes No Yes

2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS 99.79 $2,400 2 78% 4:127%Yes Yes Yes
2 Allen County Community College Iola, KS 97.15 $2,160 4 68% 2:123%No No Yes
3 Yavapai College Prescott, AZ 96.28 $2,064 2 15% 3:117%Yes No Yes
4 San Antonio College San Antonio, TX 95.28 $5,470 9 9% 2:17%No Yes Yes
5 Odessa College Odessa, TX 94.47 $3,240 1 32% 3:120%No Yes Yes
6 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS 93.69 $2,000 1 37% 3:125%No Yes Yes
7 Columbus State Community College Columbus, OH 92.19 $3,808 2 20% 2:18%Yes Yes Yes
8 Pitt Community College Winterville, NC 92.15 $2,213 2 11% 3:113%Yes Yes Yes
9 Northwest Vista College San Antonio, TX 91.90 $5,470 6 9% 2:111%No Yes Yes
10 Surry Community College Dobson, NC 90.92 $2,072 2 11% 3:124%No Yes Yes
11 St Philip's College San Antonio, TX 90.69 $5,470 3 15% 3:14%No Yes Yes
12 Palo Alto College San Antonio, TX 90.24 $5,470 3 20% 2:113%No Yes Yes
13 Guilford Technical Community College Jamestown, NC 90.20 $2,016 1 5% 2:110%Yes Yes Yes
14 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA 90.00 $1,395 3 6% 1:162%No Yes Yes
15 Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill, CA 89.69 $1,288 1 N/A 1:139%No Yes Yes
16 Cuyahoga Community College Cleveland, OH 88.66 $3,953 2 2% 2:14%Yes Yes Yes
17 Mohave Community College Kingman, AZ 88.18 $2,430 1 9% 3:118%No No Yes
18 Herkimer College Herkimer, NY 87.81 $3,940 2 6% 2:127%No Yes Yes
19 Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, VA 87.02 $4,745 1 10% 2:123%Yes Yes Yes
20 Modesto Junior College Modesto, CA 86.73 $1,104 1 8% 1:117%No No Yes

How Do I Find the Top Accredited Online Art Program

Choosing an art program is a personal choice. However, there are a few things a prospective art student can look for in a program or school that will help make the decision a little easier.

One thing to look for is the online format. While an online program allows students to take classes from almost anywhere, there is a big difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous online learning requires the student to log on at a certain time for a lecture or class discussion. While this provides the structure many students may desire, it doesn’t have the flexibility that some will need, especially those with full-time job and family responsibilities. For these students, asynchronous learning might be best as it allows students to “attend” class and complete assignments on their own schedule.

Prospective students should also look at a school’s career services. Whether it’s a resume critique or getting a graduate in touch with an alumnus who already has a job in the student’s desired field, career services can make a huge difference in making the most of a degree program.

Start your School Search

Are There Scholarships and Grants for Artists?

Art is a rewarding career, but the schooling may not always be the cheapest. To help defray the cost of an art education, financial aid is widely available. The most desired type of financial aid includes gift-based aid, such as scholarships and grants. To learn more about the gift-based financial aid options available, check out the following resources.

Scholarships are the most popular type of financial aid option available and for good reason: They don’t need to be paid back. But to get a scholarship, a student must show they have the merit to warrant the financial assistance. Besides stellar academic performance, students may be eligible for scholarships based on what they plan to study.

  • Fastweb

    This major online resource provides a hefty amount of information on scholarships, including ones specific to art.

  • Unigo

    A popular college resource, Unigo has an extensive scholarship database, including a section for art scholarships.

Grants are similar to scholarships in that they don’t need to be paid back, but unlike scholarships, they are awarded based primarily on financial need. Other factors can be considered as well, such as a student’s chosen field of study.

  • Collegescholarships.org–Grants for Art Students

    Despite its name, collegescholarships.org provides a list of grants available to art students in addition to its list of scholarships.

  • Careeronestop

    In connection with the US Department of Labor, this is a comprehensive resource for those interested in learning about different careers, including a financial aid search tool that can help students obtain grants to help pay for their education.

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