Best Online Art and Design Degree Programs

The world is a more beautiful place because of the art that is in. Irish playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw recognized this sentiment when he said: “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” If you have a desire to contribute to the world through your creative and artistic abilities, a art and design degree could be for you.

Whether it’s through photography, fashion design, music, theater art, animation, web design or a similar field, a formal education in art and design can open up opportunities for students to work with both traditional and new media. With interest in art and design growing, a degree in this field can be greatly employable. Take a look at some of the trends and government initiatives to keep the arts alive:

  • Trends show that Americans are more engaged in the arts than ever before and believe more strongly of its power to impact life positively, according to a 2018 public opinion poll conducted by the American for the Arts.
  • Arts is encouraged and supported by companies across the country. In 2017, more than 75 percent of companies made financial contributions to the arts for the building of vibrant communities.
  • Thousands of nonprofit arts and culture organizations act as economic drivers leading to an industry that supports employment, creates government revenue, and promotes the tourism industry.
  • Government initiatives continue to sustain and promote the arts through programs such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) which receives federal funding to keep the arts alive through community projects, making sure that more artists are added to our workforce every year.
  • The Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy (CREATE) Act, re-introduced in 2017, seeks to invest in the nation’s workforce and creative economy. One way they do so is by providing more support to artists and creative entrepreneurs.

Whatever your choice of medium when it comes to art and design, you may find many different ways to launch and sustain a career, whether through arts education, manufacturing and retail, traditional employment or innovation. Online art and design degrees are available from the associate to doctoral level and could provide you with that extra push for making a step toward a career and divining your own unique contributions. If you’re a high school graduate, working professional or someone who has family commitments, an online art and design degree may be a good option for you to consider.

Art and design are at the heart of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In fact, creativity, innovation and economic growth are said to be fostered by STEAM, rather than STEM. The sections below provide information on diverse online art and design degree programs for you to consider. Be sure to click on the buttons under each section for detailed information on each program by degree level. Explore online art and design colleges using our list of the best online schools in art and design. Compare, consider and make your college choice.

Online Arts Degree Programs

More industries are recognizing the value artists can add to their work creating a wide variety of employment opportunities in schools, community centers, religious organizations, hospitals, neuroscience labs, and senior centers. Whether you seek an education in animation, fine art and crafts, music, photography or theater arts, hybrid or fully online art degree programs could be an option for you. Just click on any of the buttons below to find more information on degree programs related to the arts. You’ll find information on the kind of salary you may be able to expect, career outlook, typical job duties and the coursework you may encounter.

Online Design Degree Programs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a growing demand for people with skills in animation and visual effects for the creation of video games, movies, and mobile apps. Graphic designers are also likely to see greater job growth with more and more businesses establishing a digital presence through a variety of media platforms.  Click on any of the buttons below to discover more about how these programs can help you achieve your career goals. Explore coursework by degree level, estimated wages, top jobs and more.

Below are lists of the top 10 colleges for art and design online degree programs by degree levels. We compiled our lists using key factors that we considered important to the online experience, including the availability of academic and career counseling services, the percentage of students partially or fully enrolled in distance education and the average in-state tuition. Be sure to check out our methodology at the bottom of this page so that you can be fully confident that these colleges present you with the best online degree program options.

Online Colleges for Associate Degrees in Art and Design

Associate degree programs in art and design typically take two years to finish. An associate degree program can help graduates to prepare for entry-level work in a field like graphic design or to build the foundations for a higher-level degree.

Online Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Art and Design

A bachelor’s degree is considered foundational for many different occupations in art and design. For example, occupations for art directors, fashion designers, interior designers and animators require a bachelor’s degree, the BLS reports. And an online bachelor’s degree in art and design can usually be completed in four years.

Online Colleges for Master’s Degrees in Art and Design

A master’s degree can usually be completed in two years or more. This degree might be right for someone who wants to advance in their profession, teach at a community college or learn more advanced skills.
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Before you decide to commit to a program, it may be smart to see what the in-demand occupations are in art and design and whether you would like to align your interests with them to maximize your career potential. Take a look at this list compiled from BLS data presenting top art and design occupations along with their related employment numbers and average salaries.

Occupations In-Demand for ART-DESIGN
Job Openings
Median Salary
Typical Entry Level Education
Art Directors11,10094,220Bachelor's degree
Commercial and Industrial Designers4,60068,890Bachelor's degree
Designers, All Other1,20064,620Bachelor's degree
Fashion Designers2,60073,790Bachelor's degree
Film and Video Editors4,70063,780Bachelor's degree
Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators3,10050,550Bachelor's degree
Graphic Designers30,30052,110Bachelor's degree
Interior Designers8,00056,040Bachelor's degree
Music Directors and Composers7,80051,670Bachelor's degree
Producers and Directors16,00074,420Bachelor's degree
Set and Exhibit Designers1,50054,600Bachelor's degree
Special Effects Artists and Animators8,30075,270Bachelor's degree

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Methodology and Sources
Methodology and Sources
Methodology: To be included in our rankings for the top colleges for online degrees in art and design by degree level all colleges had to meet the following 4 requirements:

  1. Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
  2. Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
  3. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2015-16
  4. Have reported data for all 19 ranking variables for associate/bachelor’s and 11 ranking variables for master’s (listed below)

We then ranked colleges and universities in the United States that fit our criteria, using 2016-17 data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the weights specified. The final totals were:

  • 40 colleges for online associate degree in art and design
  • 31 colleges for online bachelor’s degree in art and design
  • 34 colleges for online master’s degree in art and design

We then scored the final list of colleges by degree level on a 100-point scale using these specific data points: Associate/Bachelor’s

  1. Associate’s/Bachelor’s Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
  2. Ratio of undergraduate students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
  3. Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
  4. Retention rate
  5. Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
  6. Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
  7. Student-to-faculty ratio
  8. Variety of Programs, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
  9. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases, and media
  10. The availability of any tuition plans (4 variables considered)
    1. Payment
    2. Guaranteed
    3. Prepaid
    4. Other
  11. Services (2 variables considered)
    1. Academic/Career
    2. Placement for Completers
  12. Credit offerings (4 variables considered)
    1. Dual
    2. Life
    3. AP
    4. Military

Master’s

  1. Master’s Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
  2. Ratio of graduate students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
  3. Average in-state tuition for graduates
  4. Credit offerings (2 variables considered)
    1. Life
    2. Military
  5. Services (2 variables considered)
    1. Academic/Career
    2. Placement for Completers
  6. The availability of any tuition plans (3 variables considered)
    1. Payment
    2. Prepaid
    3. Other
  7. Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases, and media

Methodology Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/ Sources:

  • “10 Reasons Why the Arts are So Important in Our Lives,” Swari Swami, May 31, 2016, The Odyssey Online, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/10-reasons-why-arts-are-important-in-our-lives
  • About Americans for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, Accessed November 2018, https://www.americansforthearts.org/about-americans-for-the-arts
  • Art and Design Occupations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed November 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/home.htm
  • Arts and Healing Exploring the Potential for the Arts in Healthcare Settings, https://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/TCB-Business-Contributions-to-the-Arts-2018.pdf, accessed January 2019
  • Arts, Entertainment and Recreation, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed November 2018, https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag71.htm#workplace_trends
  • Associate of Arts, Graphic Design Degree, Payscale.com, Accessed November 2018, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Associate_of_Arts_(AA)%2C_Graphic_Design/Salary
  • Frequently Asked Questions, the National Endowment for the Arts, February 2018, https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/FAQ_Facts&Figures_FY2019_budget_update8.2.18.pdf
  • Master of Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Payscale.com, Accessed November 2018, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Fine_Arts_(MFA)%2C_Graphic_Design/Salary
  • Multimedia Artists and Animators, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed November 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm
  • PhD in Art and Design, MIT Press Journals, Ken Friedman and Jack Ox, Accessed November 2018, https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/LEON_e_01472
  • Postsecondary Teachers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed November 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-1
  • The Create Act, Americans for the Arts, Accessed November 2018, https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/reports-and-data/legislation-policy/legislative-issue-center/the-create-act
  • Valuing the Art of Industrial Design, Art Works, Accessed November 2018, https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/Valuing-Industrial-Design.pdf
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