Online Master’s Programs in Visual Communications

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According to World Education Services, average lifetime income for professionals with a master’s in visual arts surpasses average income for professionals with only a bachelor’s by more than $260,000. In addition to more pay, a master’s qualifies graduates for more advanced careers. Organizations may insist on a master of visual communications for art director positions, and colleges typically only hire educators with a master’s or doctorate. Master’s courses explore visual communications in more depth than bachelor’s courses, giving those with a master’s degree a competitive advantage in the job market.

The following sections examine career options, common traits of a master’s program, financial aid paths, and visual communications professional organizations.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Visual Communications Program?

While pursuing a master’s in visual communications online, learners develop skills for building print and digital products. Programs may cover motion graphics, digital imaging, and photography.

The design process involves an understanding of technology and software, but also requires knowledge of aesthetic elements such as color and typography. Individuals must consider these elements in order to create user-friendly and effective products. Designers address higher-order concerns such as the fluidity of motion graphics and smaller details such as font choice. The top master’s programs cover topics in both appearance and functionality.

Degree-seekers may also explore specific types of visual products, such as book design and photojournalism. This focused coursework is more frequently available in departments that offer concentrations in those fields.

Online learners gain familiarity with technology that can help with visual communications careers. Master’s curricula may also emphasize research for exploring new technology and building efficient products, particularly through master’s projects and theses.

What Courses Are Offered in a Master’s in Visual Communications Program?

An MS/MA in visual communications explores all stages of designing visual products, from brainstorming to bringing projects to life through technology. While each school requires unique classes, programs often address the following topics.

Typography: These classes train learners to determine which fonts and formats are appropriate for various projects. Courses address the history of typography and aesthetic concepts such as spacing and grids. Students build organizational and design skills for developing projects, as well as assessment skills for inferring consumer preferences. Candidates can use this information for any career that includes graphic design.

Problems and Trends in Visual Design: These courses cover concerns for developing visual communications products such as films and games. Learners study innovative approaches to visual projects, as well as the impact of new technology and globalization on field concepts and techniques. Classes build problem-solving and technological skills that prove useful for graphic designers and multimedia artists.

Web Design: Degree-seekers learn to construct functional and aesthetically effective websites. Classes cover background imaging, incorporated images, and information security for a variety of websites, including business and educational pages. Students develop technological and organizational skills, along with an understanding of aesthetics. This information helps designers prepare for a career building websites for companies.

Ideation: These courses prepare learners to brainstorm plans and prototypes for visual communications projects. Departments prioritize research to ensure creations connect with audiences and deliver intended messages. Ideation includes assessment, research, organizational, and technological skills. Graduates can use these skills in any career that involves building visual design projects.

Three-Dimensional Design: Students explore aspects and possibilities for 3D visual communications projects. Candidates create models of 3D images with consideration to factors such as spacing, rhythm, and lighting. Classes introduce degree-seekers to software for creating and editing these projects. These technological and analytical skills relate to any design profession that includes 3D graphics, including animation and rendering.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Students who pursue a master’s in visual communications online often complete a thesis or research project. These assignments explore visual communications topics and examine questions or ideas chosen by the student. For instance, degree-seekers may address a modern issue in visual communications or make logical predictions concerning the field’s future. Learners may need to submit proposals and abstracts for these capstones and/or defend their ideas in front of a committee. This process may extend over the entire program.

Other projects for visual communications master’s programs may include internships or participation in graduate exhibitions.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Visual Communications?

The following table explores three master’s in visual communications jobs. Students should note that master’s in visual communications salaries vary based on factors such as position, experience, and location. For instance, graphic designers earn an average of $54,680. However, in the District of Columbia, New York, Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut, these professionals earn more. Industry also influences salary expectations, with graphic designers in the federal executive branch averaging more than $83,000 per year.


  • Graphic Designers

    Graphic designers develop visual projects that reflect company needs and consumer wants. This process often integrates relevant software for building logos and publications. Designers make decisions on layout, color, and space and deliver finished products to companies. While organizations may hire individuals with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s in visual communications indicates further expertise in design concepts.

    Median Annual Salary: $50,370

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 3%


  • Art Directors

    Art directors oversee design processes by instructing graphic artists and making decisions on layouts and visual aids. Professionals must base products on client expectations and determine project budgets and deadlines. Individuals may perform these tasks for newspapers, movies, or advertisements. A master’s in visual communications may allow candidates to earn art director positions with less field experience than what is typically necessary.

    Median Annual Salary: $92,780

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 1%


  • Multimedia Artists and Animators

    These artists and animators develop images that simulate movement for games and film. These images may use two or three dimensions, and designers typically create them by using software and programs. These professionals discuss projects with clients and designers and revise products based on director critiques. Visual communications master’s programs develop strong technical and artistic skills that apply to these positions.

    Median Annual Salary: $72,520

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 4%


Online Master’s in Visual Communications Program Accreditation

Learners should limit school options to colleges and universities with regional or national accreditation. These types of accreditation come from agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Learners may also focus on programs with specialized accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. This approval indicates that the program’s structure prepares learners for professional success.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Visual Communications Degree

Visual communications master’s programs charge students for tuition and fees. Options exist to help learners with these costs. However, degree-seekers should consider all funding source details, such as eligibility requirements and repayment stipulations, before choosing assistance methods.

  • Federal Financial Aid: Federal financial aid may include grants, work-study programs, loans with comparatively low interest, and income-based repayment options. Grants and work-study do not require repayment. Learners should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to obtain this form of funding.
  • Income Share Agreements: Organizations assist learners with college expenses, but in exchange, obtain a portion of the borrower’s income after graduation. Candidates pay this amount for a determined period of time. This format may lead to borrowers repaying more money than they initially borrowed.
  • Private Loans: Students can apply for private loans through organizations such as banks. These loans may not deliver the same financial benefits as federal opportunities. For example, private loans may not provide deferment options for current students or graduates who experience financial hardship.

Scholarships for Master’s in Visual Communications Students


  • Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: African-American students who enroll full time in a visual arts program may qualify. Applicants must hold connections with a CBC district and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.

    Amount: Varies

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation Graphic Communication Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Full-time learners with at least a 3.0 GPA can apply if they work in graphic communications and plan to enroll in related classes. Applicants must submit professional recommendations.

    Amount: Up to $5,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Graphic Web Design Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: Candidates must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree related to visual communications. Master’s students must enter graduate school directly after earning a bachelor’s. Applications require submission of a portfolio.

    Amount: $1,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Beck Web Design Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a degree in web development or design may qualify. Applications call for a resume and responses to questions. Candidates should also provide a portfolio a professional website.

    Amount: $500

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • The LAGRANT Foundation Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: TLF provides scholarships to minority students obtaining an education in a field related to advertising, marketing, or public relations. Visual communications students may qualify. Recipients participate in career-building activities in Cincinnati, Ohio.

    Amount: $3,750

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


Professional Organizations and Resources

Candidates who graduate from visual communications master’s programs should connect with professional organizations. These groups offer benefits such as job boards, conferences, training experiences, and webinars that increase visual communications knowledge.

  • Graphic Communications Education Association: GCEA delivers a yearly conference and regional meetings. The association also offers webinars, the Visual Communications Journal, and a newsletter. Learners at the University of Wisconsin-Stout can connect with the group’s student chapter.
  • National Communication Association: NCA offers a convention in different cities each year. The association also participates in events such as the Summer Conference on Argumentation and the Institute for Faculty Development. Professionals can review NCA’s 11 communication journals.
  • The Visual Communication Guy: This website provides resources for grammar, data visualization, public speaking, research, and advertising. Candidates can explore topics such as images, illustrations, and emotional appeals through the site’s design blog.
  • Visual Communications: This group focuses on Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans in visual communications. Candidates can attend the C3: Conference for Creative Content and obtain training through the Armed with Camera Fellowship for Emerging Media Artists. The organization also delivers a film festival and provides the VC Archives.
  • Visual Communication Studies Division: Established in 1993, this department of the International Communication Association offers discount rates on the journal Visual Communication. Members can also attend a yearly preconference.

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