Online Degrees in Graphics and Multimedia

The terms “graphics” and “multimedia” hardly need an explanation in today’s digital world. In fact, the internet would be an extremely boring place without them. And it’s not just the web that combines the use of digitally drawn pictures, text, videos and animation films, advertisements, and video games use them too!

Traditionally hand-drawn, the graphics and multimedia discipline in today’s world encompasses the possibilities for presenting word and image: video, typography, animation, graphics, photography and audio using specialized computer software. However, this hasn’t rendered old-school art skills obsolete either; which is why the College Board recommends having artistic abilities and also being “at home on a computer.” Online graphics and multimedia degree programs may help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to build or advance their careers in the field.

Note: You may find the term digital media used interchangeably with multimedia while looking for online degree programs. You may also find online digital technology degree programs which include a software programming element. Additionally, most of these programs also include coursework in graphic design. If you are looking to specialize specifically in graphic design, do have a look at our online degrees in graphic design page.

Graduates of an online graphics and multimedia degree program may carry out vary tasks depending on the industry they work in, including:

  • Using computer programs to create graphic images and animations
  • Researching topics for upcoming projects in order to create realistic animations
  • Working in teams to create visual effects for the web, games, and movies
  • Editing animation and effects based on feedback from directors and clients

Many roles within this industry can also be highly specialized with some artists and animators writing their own computer codes to create their work, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports.

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Special Effects Artists and Animators29,340$84,7804.2%
Graphic Designers215,930$56,5103%

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

The following steps outline a straightforward path toward becoming a multimedia artist and animator:

  • Sign up for art class in high school and learn drawing and design software through computer classes.
  • Research and enroll in an online graphics and multimedia degree program.
  • Choose a specialization.
  • Build your portfolio of work while still in school.
  • Obtain an internship.
  • Continue with an advanced degree should you wish to study further.
  • Look for a job that suits your interests or choose to freelance if you wish to.
Media companies have also been reevaluating their content strategies, increasingly investing in areas such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).

Online graphics and multimedia degrees may lead to careers in graphic design, web and game development or multimedia production. The BLS projects that a large part of the demand for the services of multimedia and graphics artists will stem from consumers wanting more realistic “video games, movie and television special effects, and three-dimensional movies.” The table below lists some of the jobs you can get with a graphics and multimedia degree along with their associated wages.

As graphics are no longer limited to the big screen and computers alone, the BLS estimates that the demand for high quality graphics from the mobile industry will contribute to job opportunities in the near future.

Many social media companies are entering the video content broadcasting space.

Online degrees in graphics and multimedia are most commonly available at the undergraduate level. An associate degree may provide individuals with the basic knowledge they need to qualify for entry-level roles in the industry while a bachelor’s degree is often the minimum educational qualification sought after by employers. A master’s degree may allow individuals to hold senior positions in multimedia firms and lead teams while a doctoral degree may allow individuals to embark on cutting-edge research developing new technologies or enter academia.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

A graphics and multimedia associate degree online can help students get the basic design skills and hands-on practice they need to work on creative multimedia projects. They can learn how to use various software applications and develop an understanding of basic design principles that may be applied to real-world projects.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Students take general education courses along with core coursework that can allow them to explore design and art fundamentals, photo and video editing principles and different software used to create and edit different media. Some examples of courses include:

  • Color theory
  • Digital illustration
  • Digital video production
  • HTML
  • Introduction to typography

Students may have to undergo a portfolio review as well as complete an internship to satisfy the degree requirements.

Possible electives: UX/UI design; modern art and design

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in graphics and multimedia?

Graduates of a graphics and multimedia associate degree online program may be able to transfer their educational credits toward a four-year degree or find work in entry-level roles in media houses, advertising agencies and web design firms to name a few. Potential job titles include:

  • Drafter
  • Graphic designer
  • Multimedia developer
  • Web designer
With its promise of faster data-transfer speeds, lower latency, and improved IoT connections, 5G will affect almost all aspects of the media & entertainment sector.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

These degrees are typically found as:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A): This studio degree emphasizes creative instruction and hands-on studio practice.
  • Bachelor of Science or Arts (B.S. or B.A.): These four-year college degrees emphasize design instruction. The B.S. may include more technical training than the B.A., which may emphasize visual arts training.

You may find considerable overlap between the three degrees.

Online graphics and multimedia bachelor’s degree programs can help students obtain design and media skills that may be applied to deliver content across multiple industries and fields. Students can learn to use key software applications to create animations, edit videos and design graphics.

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Topics cover a host of multimedia related topics including digital imaging software, visual communications and digital art techniques. In addition, online graphics and multimedia degree programs may cover business topics relevant to visual communications. Some courses that may be included in your curriculum are:

  • Business of graphics
  • Concept development
  • Information design
  • Motion graphics design
  • Web animation

Students may also have to develop their portfolios throughout the program and complete a senior project and/or an internship as a part of their program.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in graphics and multimedia?

Individuals who have successfully graduated with an online graphics and multimedia bachelor’s degree may choose to continue with graduate education or freelance working with different firms on a project wise basis. In fact, the BLS reports that 59 percent of multimedia artists and animators were self-employed in 2018. Others were employed in the film industry, in computer systems design firms, software publishing companies and advertising and publishing services. Some job titles include:

  • EPUB designer
  • Mobile interface designer
  • Package design
  • UI/UX designer
  • Web content producer
  • Website designer
California is home to more animators and multimedia artists than any other state in the nation.

Online Master’s Degrees in Graphics and Multimedia

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Online graphics and multimedia master’s degree programs can allow students to explore advanced topics in the field across multiple platforms. Students can learn how to build their expertise to develop content- rich experiences using cutting-edge tech to make an impact.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in graphics and multimedia or a related field

Typical coursework: Curricula can cover topics ranging from character and story development to advanced production techniques and project management. Some examples of courses include:

  • Foundations of digital storytelling
  • Information technology and creative practice
  • Interface design principles
  • Media and culture
  • Web creation for content management systems

Possible electives: Integrative experiential learning; entertainment and education design; advertising in the digital age

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in graphics and multimedia?

Individuals with a graduate degree may be able to obtain supervisory roles in the graphics and multimedia industry, leading projects from conceptualization to delivery. While some job titles may overlap with those in the bachelor’s degree section, they may come with additional responsibilities and higher wages. Some examples include:

  • 3D animator
  • Art director
  • Branding specialist
  • Print and digital designer
  • Web designer
Although the motion picture and video industries employ the highest number of animators in the world, advertising and public relations, computer systems design, and software publishers also employ a large number of animators.

For continuing education in the field, graphics and multimedia artists may opt for brief, targeted technical certificate programs. Certificate courses may be several weeks long, and generally focus on a particular technology or technique, such as Dreamweaver, Flash or graphic design production. Online graduate certificate programs may allow working professionals to build their skills in a particular area.

Typical duration: One year of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in graphics and multimedia or a related field

Typical coursework: Topics studied can vary quite a bit depending on the focus of the program. Some program may focus on particular software while others may take a more multi-disciplinary approach. Examples of courses include:

  • Graphic applications
  • UX Design
  • Video Composition
  • Photoshop Basics
  • InDesign Basics

Possible electives: Introduction to XML; e-commerce; advanced website design

There are no online doctoral degrees currently available in graphics and multimedia.

Accreditation

Attending an accredited school can be an important prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid, and transferring credits. Many employers may also prefer hiring candidates who have graduated from accredited programs as accreditation can demonstrate that the education they have received meets the professional standards needed to work in the industry today. Accreditation may be regional, national, or programmatic.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design is the main accrediting body for more than 360 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design including online graphics and multimedia degree programs.

Specializations in Graphics and Multimedia

Some roles in the graphics and multimedia industry may require highly specialized skills. Some may require knowledge of particular software while others may require animation skills or storytelling abilities. You may be able to choose a specialization or concentration as a part of your online graphic design degree program or focus on one once you have started working. Some specializations you may be able to choose from include:

  • 3D design
  • Dreamweaver
  • Game media
  • Graphic communication
  • Motion graphics
  • Video journalism

Certifications in Graphics and Multimedia

Professional certifications are typically offered by associations and organizations affiliated with the field of graphics and multimedia. Some may also be offered by software companies. Although not always mandatory, they can demonstrate your proficiency in different aspects of the field. Certifications may require graduation from an accredited graphics and multimedia degree program, work experience and passing an examination. Professional certifications typically need to be renewed periodically through continuing education or retaking examinations. Some examples of certifications are:

Employment Statistics

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Motion Picture and Video Industries
  • Independent Writers, Artists and Performers
  • Software Publishers
  • Specialized Design Services
  • Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Georgia
  • Florida
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Scholarships and financial aid programs can help ease the financial burden that can come with attending college. Eligible students may get their tuition partially or fully reimbursed through these programs. However, competition can be tough so it can be a good idea to do your research and apply to multiple schemes. We’ve listed a few resources below to help you get started in your search.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Multimedia Artists and Animators

 

Sources

  • 2019 Media & Entertainment Industry Outlook, Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/media-and-entertainment-industry-outlook-trends/, accessed October 2019
  • 7-1014.00 – Multimedia Artists and Animators, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-1014.00, accessed October 2019
  • Associate Degree in Digital Media, Sessions College for Professional Design, https://www.sessions.edu/online-degrees/digital-media/, accessed October 2019
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Design and Development, DeVry University, https://www.devry.edu/online-programs/bachelors-degrees/multimedia-design-and-development/, accessed October 2019
  • California Animation Careers: Employment & Salary Trends, Job Opportunities, & Colleges Offering Animation Programs in California, Animation Career Review, 2018, https://www.animationcareerreview.com/articles/california-animation-careers-employment-salary-trends-job-opportunities-colleges-offering-a
  • Career: Multimedia Artists and Animators, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/arts-visualand-performing-multimedia-artists-animators, accessed October 2019
  • Certificate Program in Multimedia Applications, University of Massachusetts Lowell, https://gps.uml.edu/certificates/undergrad/online-multimedia-applications-certificate.cfm, accessed October 2019
  • Digital Media Technology – Graphic Design, Surry Community College, https://surry.edu/areas-of-study/all-programs/digital-media-technology-graphic-design, accessed October 2019
  • Digital Media, Master of Arts, Sam Houston State University, https://www.shsu.edu/programs/graduate/digital-media/, accessed October 2019
  • Digital Media, Northeastern University, https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/program/master-of-professional-studies-in-digital-media-online-17101/, accessed October 2019
  • Graphics, Multimedia and Web Design, Associate Degree Program, New England Institute of Technology, https://www.neit.edu/Programs/Associate-Degree-Programs/Digital-Media-and-Management/Graphics-Multimedia-and-Web-Design, accessed October 2019
  • Graphics, Multimedia and Web Design, Bachelor’s Degree Program, New England Institute of Technology, https://www.neit.edu/Programs/Bachelors-Degree-Programs/Graphics-Multimedia-and-Web-Design, accessed October 2019
  • Interactive Media Management, Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology, https://www.algonquincollege.com/mediaanddesign/program/imm/#overview, accessed October 2019
  • Major: Computer Graphics, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/computer-information-sciences-computer-graphics, accessed October 2019
  • Major: Digital Arts, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/arts-visual-performing-digital-arts, accessed October 2019
  • Master of Arts in Web and Multimedia Design, Touro College Graduate School of Technology in NYC, https://gst.touro.edu/academics/web-and-multimedia-design.php, accessed October 2019
  • Media Specializations — Requirements and Course Lists, Indiana University, https://bulletins.iu.edu/iub/college/2015-2016/departments/media/media-ba/specializations.shtml, accessed October 2019
  • 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 October 2019
  • Professional Certificate in Graphic Design, Sessions College for Professional Design, https://www.sessions.edu/certificate-programs/graphic-design/, accessed October 2019
 
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