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Online Degrees in Web Design & Multimedia

Ever looked at a website and been wowed by its multimedia functions? Whether it's the animation on the page, the Flash attributes or an interactive feature, you're looking at the skills of a web designer in action. Just think of the playable Les Paul guitar recently posted on the Google home page in honor of what would have been the guitar virtuoso's 96th birthday.

Web designers and multimedia artists integrate interactive and non-interactive features to give a page presence, and differentiate it from similar sites. These creative professionals often discover new ways to use features and even branch out into related fields.

From brief coursework programs to advanced education, training in multimedia and web design can be catered to a range of career goals. Education at the following levels includes:

  • Certificate/diploma: A certificate or diploma generally requires nine months of training or less and integrates coursework in web development, technologies, programs and more.
  • Associate: An associate degree takes two years to complete and introduces classes in web audio and video, 3-D animation and desktop publishing.
  • Bachelor's: This four-year degree program gives students knowledge in different applications, environments, interfaces and more and an opportunity to gain business skills.
  • Master's: Depending on the student's interests, an art-centered MFA or a technology-focused MS could be ideal for graduate study.

Online multimedia and web design online art-design degree programs can be especially beneficial because training occurs through the medium that is being studied. Students become familiar with programs like Adobe Photoshop and Flash and are able to access discussion threads, web links and other materials online. As they study new topics, they can explore the Internet for examples and look for applications that can help direct their learning.

Find an available online degree that's right for you

Careers in Multimedia and Web Design

In general, web designers and multimedia artists are skilled communicators. They have strong verbal and visual skills that help them to communicate and understand their clients and create pieces that meet client needs. Creative thinking and computer and technology understanding are also helpful to these professionals. They can also seek jobs as animators, illustrators, video game designers and web site developers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 26,000 people were employed in the U.S. as multimedia artists and animators in 2010 and earned mean annual wages of $63,440. Upon graduation, these professionals can work in a freelance capacity, create sites for individual clients, or join up with a specialized design firm or company with evolving needs.

Multimedia and web design at a glance:

  • Essential skills: Computer skills, attention to detail, customer service
  • Mean annual wage for multimedia artists and animators: $63,440
  • Most popular industries: Specialized design services, motion picture and video industries, newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers
  • Popular programs: Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Web Studio

In a world where technology is king, those with an in-depth understanding of web design and multimedia are on the cutting edge of visual communication. Online associate degrees in web design and multimedia may help lay the foundation for a career in a variety of industries, as having a strong online presence is quickly becoming essential for many organizations. Students pursuing an online associate degree in web design might learn about web content management, design principles and web authoring software, among other topics.

What Does an Associate Degree Program in Web Design and Multimedia Entail?

An online associate degree in web design and multimedia typically takes two years of full-time study to earn, but every degree program is unique. Core courses may include communications, project planning, online business models, career development and introductions to various technologies, including digital publishing and video editing. Online associate degree programs in web design and multimedia also commonly feature courses in the following topics:

  • Introduction to Web Design: This course touches on how to create basic websites through the effective use of interface design, page structure, web accessibility, file management, and web authoring languages such as HTML, CSS and Javascript.
  • Digital Media Applications: A study of various software applications used to create digital media. Students learn about special effects, animations, transitioning from one medium to another, and creating a seamless user experience. This course provides in-depth, hands-on training with a variety of popular software, such as Adobe's Photoshop, Edge Animate and Dreamweaver.
  • Web Animation: Teaches design and production of animation for the web. Topics of study can include formatting, scripting, file-size optimization, timing, and automated animation techniques.
  • Color Theory: Introduces colors as they relate to web design and how they can positively or negatively interact with one another. Students may use color wheels and create web pages with certain color combinations to help illustrate these concepts.

Those who pursue an Associate of Arts degree or Associate of Science degree in web design and multimedia are also expected to take general education courses in topics such as English, math and literature. Those who choose an Associate of Applied Science program tend to take more courses that focus on the practical aspects of web design, as it is a terminal degree.

Career Outlook for Graduates of Associate Degree Programs in Web Design and Multimedia

As e-commerce continues to become the preferred method of purchasing goods and services, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects encouraging job prospects for professionals in web development (which web design falls under), especially ones who know multiple languages and design programs. However, some positions might be outsourced, since websites can be created from any location. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects web developers to experience 22 percent* national job growth between 2010 and 2020, faster than average occupational growth rate.

Meanwhile, graphic designers who focus on computer systems design can expect to see a staggering national job growth of 61 percent from 2010 to 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of this growth can be attributed to the increased popularity of the Internet, spurring the need for websites to employ talented designers. Those who choose to work as multimedia artists and animators can expect job growth of 8 percent, nationally, from 2010 to 2020.

*Job growth data for web developers also includes information security analysts and computer network architects.

As technology advances by leaps and bounds, and more people than ever turn to the Internet for information, communication, shopping and more, web designers and multimedia artists are on the front lines of entertainment and commerce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those seeking a career in web design usually need a bachelor's degree in order to find entry-level work. The core curriculum of the online bachelor's degree in web design prepares students to work with website development, database management, animation, programming and more.

What Does a Bachelor's Degree Program in Web Design Entail?

The online bachelor's degree in web design typically takes about four years to complete. However, some accelerated programs may allow for completion within three years. The courses listed below are typical of the core curriculum of online bachelor's programs in web design:

  • Database Creation: This course includes instruction in database development, implementation and management, including data analysis, programming language, structured query language, modeling and other points that are integral to database management systems.
  • Website Development: This course teaches students to develop a website from the ground up, starting with Internet protocols, concepts and client-server communications, then moving on to building animations and graphics, document object modeling, HTML and Javascript programming, and more.
  • Multimedia Design: This course focuses on building websites with animation, graphics, sound, video clips, photographs and flip-books, and much more by using various software and techniques. This course might also focus on integrating web design with product packaging, advertising and marketing.
  • Digital Commerce: Geared toward the business side of graphic design, web development and multimedia, this course touches on the concepts and principles of sales and commerce, including privacy issues, security, ethics, website driven sales and working with third-party partners.

Other courses included in the bachelor's degree program in web design may cover topics such as mobile-friendly web design, programming fundamentals, cloud computing, and animation. Specialized courses that teach students how to work with industry-standard software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash are also common in online bachelor's programs in web design. Bachelor degree programs in web design also incorporate general education courses, including fine arts, literature, English, mathematics and science.

Career Outlook for Graduates of Bachelor's Degree Programs in Web Design

Those with an online web design bachelor's degree may be able to find employment in a variety of industries and work environments. For example, some web designers work in advertising agencies or as self-employed freelancers, juggling redesign projects for multiple clients, while others work in-house for a single organization.

Job outlook for web designers appears to be positive. The BLS expects employment of web developers (which includes web designers) to increase by 22 percent* nationally between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average occupational growth rate. The increasing popularity of e-commerce should help drive demand for web designers and developers.

Web design graduates could also find work as graphic designers who specialize in web graphics. Graphic designers working in computer systems design and related services are expected to see 61 percent national growth from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other careers potentially available to those who graduate with online bachelor's degrees in web design include art directors and online multimedia artists.

*Job growth data for web developers also includes information security analysts and computer network architects.

A master's degree in web design and multimedia can prepare individuals for supervisory and management roles, as well as offer the skills and knowledge necessary for advanced work in the field. While a bachelor's degree is the traditional requirement for entry-level work some employers may prefer to hire someone who holds a master's degree.

The core curriculum of the master's degree program in web design and multimedia includes courses on e-commerce, business models, layouts, designs, and templates. Master's degrees in web design can often be earned entirely online, offering students the opportunity to continue building work experience while earning the graduate degree.

What Does a Master's Degree Program in Web Design Entail?

Web design master's degree programs can take between one and three years to complete, depending upon whether the traditional or accelerated program is chosen. The master's degree does not require general education courses but instead offers courses that focus on giving students deeper knowledge of web design. The courses below are a sampling of the typical curriculum students can expect:

  • Advanced Web Topics: This course builds on basic programming knowledge to help students with program design, debugging techniques, architecture of programs, flow charting, website design, and adaptation of programs for mobile devices.
  • Computer Simulation: Understanding the techniques and methodology behind modeling techniques for business and industrial applications, including queuing systems, manufacturing processes, computer and network modeling, and handling a variety of modeling software.
  • Digital Communications: Learning to use multimedia approaches in communication with consumers and businesses, gaining a working knowledge of communication strategies and evaluating theories for their usefulness in various digital media approaches to marketing, advertising and the like.
  • Information Technology Project Management: Gaining the ability to honestly assess programming projects, including the strengths of team members, time constraints, budgeting, pacing, project risk management, teamwork, project structure and problems unique to the IT environment.
  • Digital Commerce: Understanding communication and trade between various entities over online venues, including government, business, individual, institutional, employee and consumer users. Focuses on security, system architecture, seamless tools, and ethics.

Students can also choose elective courses that suit their career path; for example, a student interested in management might choose business courses. Students might also be required to complete a capstone course or project that incorporates all the new skills and knowledge learned during the course of the program.

Career Outlook for Graduates of Master's Degree Programs in Web Design

Those who earn web design degrees can find work in a variety of industries, including public relations, printing services, advertising, computer systems design and more. Those with a degree in web design can find work as multimedia artists and graphic designers, among other related occupations, such as that of computer software engineer, art director, industrial designer, computer network architects and the like.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for graphic designers is expected to be 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, while employment of multimedia artists and animators is estimated at 6 percent from 2012 to 2022. Much of this growth can be attributed to the growing demand for graphics in websites and video games, as well as the need for realistic computer games and mobile graphics.


Sources:
"Graphic Designers," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Arts-and-Design/Graphic-designers.htm
"Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts-web-developers-and-computer-network-architects.htm
"Multimedia Artists and Animators," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm

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