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Best Online Art Schools & Degree Programs

Explore 40 of the top schools that offer online art programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Learn what types of art can be studied online, how long art programs take, and what careers are possible.

Top Schools with Online Art Degree Programs

When choosing a school for an online art degree program, you should consider flexibility, admissions requirements, accreditation, cost and program length. Listed below are 40 of the best schools that offer online art programs.

1. Savannah College of Art and Design

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Savannah, GA $37,130 98%

Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and offers 25 degree programs online. Undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $12,525 per quarter (full-time) and can pursue programs such as graphic design, photography and interactive design and game development. Graduate students have a per-quarter tuition rate of $12,825 and can choose from programs in illustration, design management, fashion and more. Students are able to complete course components at their convenience and have access to various resources such as Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Visual Studio.

2. Berklee College of Music

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Boston, MA $44,140 70%

Berklee College of Music has been offering music degree and certificate programs online since 2002 and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Both undergraduate and graduate students can earn one of dozens of certificates including creative recording, drums, general music studies and guitar. Undergraduate students can earn a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree with one of eight concentrations, such as songwriting, guitar and music composition for film, TV and games. Graduate students can earn one of three degrees online: Master of Arts in Music Business, Master of Music in Music Production or Master of Music in Film Scoring. Undergraduate students with no transfer credits have a total program tuition of $60,000 to $65,000 while graduate students have a total program tuition of $33,120.

3. Arizona State University-Skysong

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Scottsdale, AZ $10,317 82%

Students at Arizona State University can earn one of several online art degrees with a flat per-credit cost of $530 to $1,397, depending on their specific area of study. Undergraduate students can choose from programs such as a Bachelor of Fine Art in Digital Photography, Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance and a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies. Online undergraduate students can also add a minor in music, art history or film and media studies. Graduate students can earn a Master of Applied Science in Film and Media Studies. The school has been providing education since 1886 and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

4. University of Nebraska at Kearney

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Kearney, NE $7,512 93%

The University of Nebraska, or UNK, is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation as well as the Higher Learning Commission. UNK offers online graduate programs in music education and in art education, both of which consist of 36 credit hours. Students may be able to complete either program completely in two years or less of full-time study. In-state students have a tuition rate of $309 per credit hour, and out-of-state students have a tuition cost of $494 per credit hour.

5. University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Amherst, MA $15,887 91%

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, also known as UMass, is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. The school offers discounts for students living within the region, and has in-state tuition fees of $7,292 (undergraduate) and $7,389 (graduate) per semester for students taking 12 credit hours. Undergraduate students can choose online degree programs in film and media studies and writing, and certificate programs in art management and film studies. Graduate students can earn a Master of Arts in Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT), which allows students to create a custom learning experience with elective courses.

Rank School Name Location Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA $1,563 40%
7 Eastern Illinois University Charleston, IL $11,803 92%
8 Herzing University-Minneapolis St. Louis Park, MN $14,000 97%
9 University of Kentucky Lexington, KY $12,245 95%
10 The University of Montana Missoula, MT $7,244 89%
11 Wayne State University Detroit, MI $13,097 94%
12 Radford University Radford, VA $11,210 86%
13 University of Florida Gainesville, FL $6,381 93%
14 Southern Utah University Cedar City, UT $6,770 93%
15 Eastern Washington University Cheney, WA $7,323 94%
16 East Carolina University Greenville, NC $7,188 81%
17 University of Connecticut Storrs, CT $15,730 74%
18 Iowa State University Ames, IA $8,988 89%
19 University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, IA $8,938 81%
20 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO $9,972 85%
21 Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, OH $11,105 95%
22 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH $31,136 75%
23 University of North Carolina at Asheville Asheville, NC $7,145 76%
24 Montclair State University Montclair, NJ $12,790 81%
25 University of Connecticut-Waterbury Campus Waterbury, CT $13,688 81%
26 University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT $9,222 85%

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions. All table data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

What is an Online Art Program Like?

Online art programs can vary greatly based on the degree pursued and the chosen concentration area, when applicable.

  • Associate's Degree Programs: Online art associate's degree programs typically consist of around 60 credit hours and take 2 years to complete. These programs usually contain a large amount of general education courses (such as mathematics and English) along with some art and related courses. Most of these programs are available to students who have a high school diploma or an equivalent.
  • Bachelor's Degree Programs: These programs are also open to students with a high school diploma or GED, and typically include an even more broad scope of general education courses than associate's degree programs. Students may take courses in science, English, mathematics and social sciences along with several classes specifically related to their major. Students entering these programs without previous college credits typically finish in four years or less of full-time study (around 120 credit hours), whereas students who have previously earned an associate's degree can often cut their program in half and finish in less than two years.
  • Master's Degree Programs: Students typically need to have a bachelor's degree to enter a master's degree program, and might also need to have a specific GPA on their undergraduate coursework. Some programs require students to have an undergraduate degree in an art-related field, while other programs are open to students with various educational backgrounds. These programs usually contain 30 to 40 credit hours of coursework and take two years or less of full-time study to complete.

In online art programs, students complete their coursework and other requirements (such as a thesis) online. This is usually done through a third-party site, or learning portal. At the beginning of their program, students complete a tutorial or introductory course that goes over the various components of the learning portal so that students can effectively navigate it once classes begin. The learning portal is often where students access lesson plans and lectures, review assignments, communicate with peers and email their instructors. Separate sites may be used as online labs, or studios, that contain assignments such as design homework and/or tests.

Most online courses allow students to complete their work asynchronously each week, meaning students can work at their convenience. Some courses, however, do require students to log in at specific times for synchronous course components that can include scheduled exams, live lectures or class discussions, or even live presentations. Even in courses with no synchronous components, students typically interact and collaborate through online forum discussions each week.

Concentrations and Common Courses

Although some online art programs include a broad scope of art topics and courses, many programs focus on one or more areas of art. Some of the concentrations commonly available for online art programs are listed below.

Music

Music programs explore techniques, tools and characteristics of music and music production. Students may utilize various tools to create, mix, record and revise musical pieces for audio recordings and video tracks. Courses include:

  • Music Techniques - explores theories and techniques used in various eras of music as well as harmonies and music phrasing
  • Music Research - shows how to professionally and effectively conduct research to understand and improve the field of music

Graphic Design

An online art program with a graphic design focus develops the visual communication skills of students. Through the program, students learn various techniques and effects of design as well as digital images and illustration. Courses include:

  • Interactive Design - teaches students how to create and evaluate interactive design processes for various systems
  • Typography - studies various methods and approaches to using typography to meet aesthetic objectives

Fashion Design

Students in fashion design art programs explore the evolution and innovation of fashion, preparing for positions in the fashion industry. Students typically study past and present trends and design various prototypes and a portfolio. Some courses students may take are:

  • Fashion History - reviews historical fashion trends as well as their economic and social implications
  • Digital Fashion Design - explores various methods for creating fashion designs using digital tools and software

Photography

Photography programs provide students with extensive understanding of photography, including iconic and transformative past images. Students develop their own vision and voice through assigned pieces and projects. Some courses are:

  • Digital Printing - explores inputs and outputs for digital printing software and tools, as well as how each change affects the final result
  • Aesthetics in Photography - reviews various artwork to better understand the aesthetics and impressions

Illustration

Students in illustration art programs learn techniques and characteristics of illustration in art and other mediums. Students complete assigned pieces and are able to improve their understanding and skills through feedback and practice. Courses include:

  • Digital Illustration - looks at methods for creating original illustrations and images using software and other digital tools
  • Drawing in Illustration - explores expressions, exaggerations and interpretation of drawings in illustration, and may emphasize individual approaches

Painting

These programs further explore colors, techniques and styles used in paintings. Students improve their understanding of paintings including landscape, watercolor, still life and portrait. Some courses are:

  • Art in Society - explores contemporary art and various practices and styles that have been used in painted artworks in recent years
  • Individualized Practice - allows students to work on topics based on their strengths and interests and create one or more pieces for critique

Sculpture

Sculpture programs teach students about methods and materials used for sculpting, as well as the limitations and applications of each. Students may study different technologies that can be used in sculpture and create one or more original pieces during their programs. Courses could include:

  • Sculpture Methods - explores tools, forms, materials and content used in the art of sculpting, and may also discuss 3-D printing methods
  • Sculpture Theory - looks at sculpture and art topics to increase awareness of student artwork

Film

Students increase their understanding of film topics including visual aesthetics, business implications and storytelling methods. Film-specific courses can require students to create original films individually or in groups. Course topics could also be:

  • Video Production - analyzes the fundamentals of filmmaking, including using camera and sound equipment as well as lighting and location selection
  • Video Editing - stresses methods of video editing as well as how to evaluate aesthetics and personal style

Animation

Animation programs prepare students to create original animations for art and film through coursework and projects. Students may create one or more original animations throughout their program, using faculty feedback to develop their individual style. Some courses are:

  • Mechanics of Animation - looks at digital and traditional methods for creating animations as well as characteristics such as timing and movement
  • Animation in Media - investigates animation in cinema and other media, including key historical and current styles of animation

Practical Requirements: Online Studios

Due to the nature of the field, many online art programs require students to complete various art and design assignments through a virtual studio. Students may utilize a variety of software or sites to complete these assignments, such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Visual Studio and Unity 3D. The online studio requirements vary by program, but can include several assignments throughout a program as well as a larger creation of work at the end of a program.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online Art Programs

Accreditation shows that a school has met specific third-party criteria regarding student outcomes, curriculum, faculty and more. Accreditation is mandatory for students to be eligible for federal student aid, and may be preferred by potential employers. Schools can have regional accreditation or national accreditation, both of which qualify for aid. Students who are interested in pursuing another degree in the future may prefer a school with regional accreditation, as it is easier to have credits transferred from a regionally accredited school than a nationally accredited school.

How to Choose an Online Art Degree Program

When deciding on a school for an online art degree program it's important to consider several factors prior to making a decision.

Programs Offered

The first consideration in choosing a school is which programs are offered. Not all programs offered at a school are online, and some online options may have more specific admissions requirements.

Flexibility

Although many programs allow students to choose part-time or full-time, with some allowing students to switch between the two, other programs are available as only one of those options. Consider your time commitments and talk with your schools to see if the program you're interested in will work with your schedule.

Faculty

Many schools place experienced faculty over online art programs, but it doesn't hurt to ask about their credentials. Additionally, ask if faculty respond to student inquiries the same day or if there is a several-day window for responses. Knowledgeable and available instructors can make a huge difference in your success.

Cost

Online art program costs vary significantly depending on the degree and the student. Many schools offer discounted tuition to in-state students, and some programs have flat-rate costs that include all program fees. When reviewing your school choices, get the full list of applicable program expenses in order to accurately estimate the cost of your degree.

Financial Aid & Scholarships for Online Art Students

Students interested in getting financial aid for their online art program should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA is free to use and shows several types of aid that might apply to the student. Students can additionally find scholarships and other types of aid through private organizations.

Work Study

Work study programs allow students to pay for part or all of their degree program by working part-time during their studies. Work study is available through some employers as well as participating schools.

Student Loans

Students can obtain loans through private or government issuers, although government loans typically offer better interest rates and repayment options. Some students may be able to qualify for federal loans that include government-paid interest until students have completed their program.

Loan Forgiveness Programs

Graduates who pursue work in qualifying fields may be able to get their loans forgiven by the government; an example would be an art school graduate who teaches in a public school for ten years. In addition, some employers offer loan repayment as sign-on or duration benefits.

Scholarships for Online Art Students

There are a multitude of scholarships available to online art students, many of which can be found by checking with state websites. Some scholarships that are applicable to online art students are listed below.

  • Against the Grain Artistic Scholarship - One scholarship of $1,000 is awarded to a student who is at least 25% of Pacific Islander and/or Asian ethnicity and who is pursuing a degree in film, fashion, graphic design or a similar field.
  • CSUB Armand Hammer Fine Arts Scholarship - This scholarship is awarded to a student with outstanding academic performance, who is majoring in one of the fine arts, and is in the top 20% of their program.
  • The Foundation Scholarship Fund - $2,000 is awarded to three undergraduate students who are majoring in art history, fine art or museum studies. As part of the application, students should articulate their knowledge of Eileen Monaghan Whitaker and Frederic Whitaker's works.

How to Become an Artist

There are a few ways to become an artist, which commonly involve practice, a college program, and more practice.

Step 1: Practice

Even before entering a college program, most artists are already practicing their craft. The more practice they get in, the better their skills become. During this pre-program period is a great time for students to decide what types of art they're most interested in and which program they want to pursue.

Step 2: Complete an Art Program

Although a degree in art isn't always required it is common for many artists and preferred by many employers. Students can complete their programs entirely online in many cases, in two to four years (depending on the degree).

Step 4: Maintain and Improve Art Portfolio

After graduating from an art program, individuals should have a firm grasp of methods and topics relating to their craft. As they pursue and find employment as artists, they will continue to improve and expand their work portfolio. A portfolio is essential for artists because it enables potential clients to review their past work.

What Can You Do with an Online Art Degree?

Graduates of online art degree programs can work in a wide variety of careers, depending on their specific degree and career interests. Several careers available to online art program graduates are listed below.

  • Craft and Fine Artists - These artists create various types of original art such as textiles and pottery.
  • Archivists, Curators and Museum Workers - They prepare, catalog and restore various artworks and museum objects.
  • Fashion Designers - Fashion designers sketch and oversee the production of original clothing designs.
  • Photographers - Photographers take, modify and produce images for individuals and organizations.
  • Industrial Designers - They develop ideas used to create products by combining art, engineering and business.
  • Multimedia Artists and Animators - They create images, models and visual effects for different types of media including movies and video games.
  • Film and Video Editors - These editors manipulate video images to create an organized or desired final result.
  • Graphic Designers - Graphic designers use computers or drawing papers to create visual designs.
  • Art Directors - Art directors oversee images and the overall visual style in media productions, such as movies and newspapers.
  • Producers and Directors - These individuals oversee the production of movies, TV shows and other types of performing arts creations.
  • Music Directors and Composers - Music directors direct musical groups and orchestras during performances while composers create original music.
  • Musicians and Singers - Musicians and singers perform in front of live audiences as well as in recording studios.
  • High School Teachers - These teachers teach in their area of expertise and are required to have valid licensure.
  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers - They instruct younger children in various subjects, and can specialize in areas such as art or music.
  • Middle School Teachers - Middle school teachers typically work with students in sixth through eighth grade, teaching subjects such as music and art.
  • Postsecondary Art, Drama and Music Teachers - They provide instruction to students beyond high school in their field of expertise.

Job Title Median Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Craft and Fine Artists $48,960 1%
Archivists, Curators and Museum Workers $48,400 9%
Fashion Designers $72,720 1%
Photographers $34,000 -6%
Industrial Designers $66,590 3%
Multimedia Artists and Animators $72,520 4%
Film and Video Editors $62,650 14%
Graphic Designers $50,370 3%
Art Directors $92,780 1%
Producers and Directors $71,680 5%
Music Directors and Composers $49,630 1%
Musicians and Singers $58,550 0%
High School Teachers $60,320 4%
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers $57,980 3%
Middle School Teachers $58,600 3%
Postsecondary Art, Drama and Music Teachers $69,960 8%

All salary and outlook data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics