It’s a wonderful thing to be able to dream. And there’s always that dreamy kid – the one who can’t stop putting pen, pencil or crayon to paper – the one who wants to be an artist. If this reminds about your younger self (or your child) read on and see how Oscar Wilde was quite wrong when he said “All art is quite useless”.
The ancient Greek word ‘techne’ means art or skill. It is widely understood to be the parent word of technology – a term that is completely distinct from art as we know it today. However, the essence still stands – art can be functional. And where there’s utility, more often than not, there’s employment. In fact, a 2018 survey of employees of Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) found that 62 percent reported pay increases in the last 12 months and a majority received non-cash employment benefits like medical insurance, retirement savings plans, paid time off, flexible scheduling, and professional development which is similar to working in most other fields.
Choosing to study art can mean facing raised eyebrows when you mention your major. However, with communication and marketing becoming ever more visual, this attitude is slowly changing. While the wages you earn can vary depending on what your field is, where you work and other such factors, one thing that won’t change is that you can follow your passion. How many people in other fields can say that!
Online degrees in art and design can help you turn your dreams into a career. However, not all degrees are made equal. So we’ve had look at the different online art degrees available and the careers you can have with each and ranked them according to their employability, earning potential, and availability. Our analysis is based on the latest employment, salary and education data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). You can read about our methodology at the bottom of this page. Meanwhile, here are our top picks for online art degrees!
1. Graphic Design
Given the Internet’s insatiable appetite for images, page layout, and information-rich graphics; it’s no accident that graphic design programs stay at the top of the list of degrees that can lead to well-paying jobs based on a reasonable investment in educational dollars. And designers are still needed to generate the images and put together the page layouts for printed magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and marketing collateral that don’t seem to have disappeared in our digital age. Most online graphic design degree programs involve learning specialized software allowing designers to marry technology and art in their work.
The BLS reports that many graphic designers work independently, although some may be employed design firms as well. Those working independently need to have a go-getter attitude to land the contracts that pay the bills. Also being able to keep up with the latest trends and technology can be the key to success – apart from talent, of course.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $70,204
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 8.28%
- Projected Employment: 608,000
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 25
2. Digital Arts
The multimedia industry is booming. Research by Deloitte shows that augmented reality is expected to be enabled on more than 3.4 billion devices across the world in 2020. And that’s just one area you can work in with an online degree in digital arts. Digital arts cover a whole array of artistic techniques that involve computers – from digital photography to 3D modeling. You may also have the opportunity to broaden your skillset (and so increase your chances of getting a job) through courses in animation, audio production, and computer science.
Given its broad nature, a degree program in this area provides access to both higher- and lower-paying jobs, which is why those looking to this major should pay careful attention to where they want to concentrate to ensure the skills they learn match the specific design field they would like to enter.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $64,170
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 5.5%
- Projected Employment: 742900
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 9
3. Music, General
Bob Marley had it right when he said, “One good thing about music is, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” As fun as listening to music can be, studying the subject is definitely a serious matter. And it can be expensive too! Thankfully, there are plenty of online degrees in music that can help you reduce some of the expenses associated with attending a music school. Additionally, talented musicians with a taste for teaching can always supplement their income by offering private music lessons.
This broad subject can offer plenty of specializations – from a particular form of music or a type of instrument to arranging and producing it. For those musically inclined individuals who don’t want to perform or compose, you can even find degrees that help you understand the business behind music.
Although competition for jobs in the field can be tough, a 2019 report by Goldman Sachs estimates that the music industry will hit the $41 billion mark globally by 2030.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $60,320
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 7.05%
- Projected Employment: 1279300
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 8
4. Game and Interactive Media Design
We’ve come a long way since Atari. Video games are now a serious business (as anyone who has had to sit through the end credits of a game to get to the final scene will know) with hundreds of people working on big budget games. And we mean big! Grand Theft Auto V cost Rockstar Games a whopping $265 million to make – but no fear, it’s estimated they made around $6 billion from it. But it’s not just the big budget games that make money. Variety reports that mobile games generated more revenue than PC or console games in 2018.
As someone involved in the making of games, you may be able to let your imagination run wild as you create fantastical worlds or mini escapes for people who aren’t in such an exciting field as you.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $69,090
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 9.9%
- Projected Employment: 340,000
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 13
5. Cinematography and Film/Video Production
With YouTube and similar sites pulling in millions of videos from across the globe every day, those skilled with production and cinematography no longer need to head to Hollywood to pursue their visions. And while cat videos may still be produced by a 12-year-old child with a cell phone, professional crafting of promotional videos and feature films still require people trained in the increasingly technical field of video and film production.
The BLS expects a favorable outlook for those looking to work behind-the-scenes in the film industry with the demand for producers, directors, camera operators and editors growing due to an increase in internet streaming platforms. Online cinematography and film production degree programs can allow you to gain a range of skills that allow you to combine ideas, stories and technology and bring them to life for audiences.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $64,715
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 11.68%
- Projected Employment: 354,500
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 8
6. Art/Art Studies, General
This cross disciplinary program can help you gain foundational knowledge in many subjects art-related including studio art, art history, performing arts, and writing among others. You may also be able to pick a specialization once you have decided which aspect of art you enjoy the most and orient your career in that direction.
If this sounds quite general, don’t worry. Graduates of online art studies degree programs may be able to find employment in places like museums, studios, theatres, and schools, to name a few. So if you’re torn between performing on Broadway and exhibiting your paintings at the Tate, an art studies program may help you decide.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $49,580
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 5.20%
- Projected Employment: 1,411,300
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 6
7. Animation, Interactive Technology, Video Graphics and Special Effects
Once upon a time, just like the beginning of many a Disney cartoon, every image needed to create a moving picture was drawn by hand. Now, the artist’s sketch pad and design table have been supplemented with a wide variety of technology-based drawing tools. And even designs that might begin life on paper will likely end up being realized as digital images requiring animators to master sophisticated technologies in order to pursue their craft.
Animators may find employment in the film and television industry creating special effects (VFX), and beyond. The scale of this demand is immense all over the world. In fact, PRNewswire reports that the total value of the global animation and VFX industry to hit $270 billion in 2020. Online animation and VFX degrees can give you the skills you need to build a robust portfolio and specialize in a specific type of animation or drawing that can give you a competitive edge.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $72,520
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 10.4%
- Projected Employment: 81,300
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 7
8. Commercial and Advertising Art
If the word ‘commercial’ leaves a sour taste in your mouth, think about it this way – the advertising industry is always going to need talent to create illustrations that resonate with consumers. It can help pay the bills while still giving you a creative outlet. As the College Board says, individuals working in this field, “connect the dots between art and business by using their artistic talents to create ads and other sales tools.”
Just because commercial and advertising artists have found a practical outlet for their creativity, doesn’t mean they are disconnected from the rest of the art world. Famous artists like Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell were known to dabble in the advertising industry too. Online degrees in commercial and advertising art can help you gain the business knowledge and artistic skills you need to succeed in the field.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $60,783
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 5.53%
- Projected Employment: 334,100
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 5
Arts degrees (online or otherwise) are an option best suited to those who value the opportunity to be paid for their creativity vs. those who simply want a paycheck at the end of the month. Oh, and don’t forget that some genuine talent is required for success in the arts, especially in an era when an impressive portfolio and work experience still beats a diploma when it comes to landing work.
You don’t have to be struggling artist. You can make your talent pay. Click here to explore more online arts and design degrees that can help you find your inner muse and bring home the bacon.
For this analysis, we ranked 30 online degrees in art. To be included in the ranking, each major had to:
- Match to a corresponding code in the Classification of Instructional Programs
- Be offered online at the bachelor’s level at five or more institutions
We scored each major on the following data points, using a 10-point scale and the weights specified:
- Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
- Annual 75th percentile wage of each occupation matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
- of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-2028
- Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28
- Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28
- 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 201-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2018-28 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- 2020 Telecommunications, media, and entertainment outlook, Deloitte, 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/media-and-entertainment-industry-outlook-trends/
- BA in Digital Arts & Sciences, UF Online, https://digitalworlds.ufl.edu/programs/ba-in-digital-arts-sciences-online/, accessed February 2020
- Commercial Art and Illustration, Monroe Community College, https://www.monroecc.edu/academics/majors-programs/arts-humanities/commercial-art-and-illustration-associate-degree/, accessed February 2020
- Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/film-and-video-editors-and-camera-operators.htm, accessed February 2020
- Global Animation and VFX Industry Strategies, Trends, & Opportunities Report 2019: Market was Valued at US$ 259 Billion in 2018 and is Projected to Reach US$ 270 billion by 2020, PR Newswire, 2019, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-animation-and-vfx-industry-strategies-trends mdash; opportunities-report-2019-market-was-valued-at-us-259-billion-in-2018-and-is-projected-to-reach-us-270-billion-by-2020-300816938/
- Grand Theft Auto V’ has made more money than any movie ever, NME, 2018, https://www.nme.com/news/grand-theft-auto-v-most-successful-entertainment-title-ever-2289320, accessed February 2020
- Graphic Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm, accessed February 2020
- Local Arts Agency Salaries 2018, Americans for the Arts, 2018, https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-program/networks-and-councils/local-arts-network/facts-and-figures/local-arts-agency-salaries-2018
- Major: Commercial and Advertising Art, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-design-applied-arts-commercial-advertising-art, accessed February 2020.
- Major: Digital Arts, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-digital-arts, accessed February 2020
- Multimedia Artists and Animators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm, accessed February 2020
- Music Industry Will Hit $41 Billion By 2030 According to New Goldman Sachs Report, Music Business Association, https://musicbiz.org/news/music-industry-will-hit-41-billion-2030-according-new-goldman-sachs-report/, accessed February 2020
- Producers and Directors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/producers-and-directors.htm, accessed February 2020
- Techne, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/techne, accessed February 2020
- Video Games Could Be a $300 Billion Industry by 2025, Variety, 2018, https://variety.com/2019/gaming/news/video-games-300-billion-industry-2025-report-1203202672/
Arts fields 1 Graphic Design 2 Music Teacher Education 3 Fine and Studio Arts Management 4 Drama and Dance Teacher Education 5 Music Therapy 6 Design and Visual Communications, General 7 Computer Graphics 8 Cinematography and Film/Video Production 9 Fashion Merchandising 10 Drama and Dramatics/Theatre Arts, General 11 Commercial and Advertising Art 12 Theatre/Theatre Arts Management 13 Fashion/Apparel Design 14 Digital Arts 15 Technical Theatre/Theatre Design and Technology 16 Art/Art Studies, General 17 Dramatic/Theatre Arts and Stagecraft, Other 18 Music Performance, General 19 Industrial and Product Design 20 Dance, General