The Best Online Art Degrees

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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.

Top 10 Online Art Degrees: The Best Schools and Programs

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Best Online Art Programs

Online art degree programs can enhance the talent of students by providing them with the education and training they need to turn their talent into a career in art. Quality online art programs being considered by students should be accredited and affordable while giving art students the tools and knowledge they need for success in the academic world and beyond graduation. We have ranked the top online art degree programs based on our measured and comprehensive methodology to help students interested in studying the arts find the best online art degree programs in the nation. Find out who made the cut here.

  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.

Online Art Degree FAQs

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.

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

Source: Payscale

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.

Associate Degree

An associate degree is commonly available at a community college and usually takes two years or four full semesters to complete. A community college often has significantly cheaper tuition than a four-year college or university; however, the programs offered are almost always more limited than at a four-year institution. Besides general education courses, art students can expect to take some of the following types of courses:

  • Introduction to TheaterStudents will gain a historical background of theater as well as learn terminology, acting techniques and theater production methods.
  • Art HistoryThe history of art and its influence on civilization is analyzed in this course.
  • Painting IAn overview of different painting styles and techniques will be examined in this course.

Art Careers with an Associate Degree

Craft and Fine Artists

Job Outlook: 8 percent growthWeb Developer

Job Outlook: 13 percent growthMedia and Communication Worker

Job Outlook: 9 percent growth

Source: 2016-2026 growth data from BLS


When it comes to the most thorough training and education, a bachelor’s degree is great for art students. Since it is a comprehensive educational approach, the bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete, and because a bachelor’s degree requires so many credits to obtain, it’s often the most expensive one to earn. But with this cost comes the opportunity to take a large number of art-related courses. Students can typically expect to take the following courses:

  • Introduction to Design and ArtIn addition to principles of art, students will learn about architectural principles and how these concepts have changed over time.
  • Drawing IStudents will acquire fundamental drawing skills and learn basic concepts of drawing as an art.
  • Three-Dimensional ArtStudents will learn about creating art in a 3D form, such as with plaster, clay and paper.

Art Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree

Graphic Designer

Job Outlook: 5 percent growthMultimedia Artist

Job Outlook: 10 percent growthFashion Designer

Job Outlook: 3 percent growth

Source: 2016-2026 growth data from BLS


At the master’s level, students can usually choose a Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts. Either one typically takes about two years to complete and provides two primary professional paths. One focuses on learning additional artistic concepts, skills and techniques, while the other provides a more research-related path for those looking for a shift to the education realm. Therefore, the coursework for a master’s degree student will vary widely based on their specialization. However, here’s a sampling of courses available:

  • Historical Interior DesignThe history of interior design with respect to architecture, furniture and various interiors is examined in this class.
  • Artistic CritiqueStudents study major art critics to learn key principles in art interpretation and analysis.
  • Art InternshipStudents step outside the classroom to gain hands-on experience in their field.

Art Careers with a Master’s Degree:

Interior Designer

Job Outlook: 5 percent growthDirector

Job Outlook: 12 percent growthArt Director

Job Outlook: 7 percent growth

Source: 2016-2026 growth data from BLS

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. Finish High School or Obtain a GED

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

  • 2. Figure Out Preferred Artistic Realm

    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. Assess Financial Resources

    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. Choose a Course Delivery Method

    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. Research Schools and Programs

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

  • 6. Check for Accreditation

    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. Take the Necessary Entrance Exams

    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. Identify Unique Application Requirements

    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. Complete the Application Requirements

    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. Apply for Financial Aid

    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. Choose a School to Attend

    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. Begin Classes

    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. Gain Practical Experience

    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. Network

    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. Gain Experience

    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. Obtain Optional Credentials

    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

Specialized Online Art Programs and Resources

Art Careers

Art School Scholarships

Resources for Art Students

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.


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

    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.

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

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

  • Grants

    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.–Grants for Art Students
    Despite its name, provides a list of grants available to art students in addition to its list of scholarships.

    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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