Best Online Art Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 1/14/2022

Students in online art programs explore various techniques, such as painting, printmaking, creative writing, photography, and graphic design, while developing communication, project management, and research skills. Prospective online art students can browse our list of the best online bachelor's in art programs and our list of the best online MFA programs, ranked according to tuition rates and alumni salary data from PayScale. While not always necessary, a bachelor's degree can prepare graduates for a variety of entry-level positions in the arts.

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Online Bachelor's in Art & Design with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees in Art & Design Badge

We ranked the top online bachelor’s programs in art and design by return on investment (ROI). The ROI amount shows what earnings a graduate may have in 10 years, based on alumni salary and debt (and accounting for salary growth and loan interest). By evaluating income and debt over time, the ROI indicates whether paying for an online program might be profitable in terms of both future earnings as well as student debt. Academy of Art University, the top school on the list, has an estimated return of $305,400 once debt is paid off, which is $61,000 higher than the average ROI across all online and in-person art and design programs.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 Academy of Art University $30,330 $33,993 $35,750 $305,400
# 2 #2 University of Florida $15,000 $30,771 $16,250 $296,500
# 3 #3 Rasmussen University Online $10,305 $30,228 $41,877 $259,000
# 4 #4 Full Sail University $15,990 $16,663 $21,161 $145,200

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Art & Design Rankings Details

#1

Academy of Art University

San Francisco (CA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $305,400
  • Median Salary: $33,993
  • Annual Tuition: $30,330
  • Median Debt: $35,750

Academy of Art University (AAU) offers 38 online degrees in art and design, including a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Development - Career Interest in 3D Modeling for Games, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Motion Pictures & Television - Cinematography, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation & Visual Effects - Career Interest in Animation Generalist, and more. Fine Art classes are taught... by the same professors who teach classes onsite at AAU.

Online students at AAU access courses through a custom-developed learning management system. Most aspects of online learning at AAU are asynchronous. Online classes consist of artwork submission, narrated slideshows, lectures, digital documents, interviews with experts, artwork critiques, and more. Online students at AAU utilize a virtual collaborative space to provide and gain feedback from peers. AAU offers financial aid and a military scholarship to qualified active duty service members. Students have access to AAU's Career Services office.

Classes for the Fall 2021 semester begin on September 2, 2021. Applicants can submit their application and other materials online, and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Online students have access to online homework help, workshops and tutoring, AAU's online library, AAU's online music library, and more.

Cost per Credit: $1,011
School Type: For-Profit
Graduation Rate: 45%
Financial Aid Recipients: 59%
Accreditation: WSCUC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,911

#2

University of Florida

Gainesville (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $296,500
  • Median Salary: $30,771
  • Annual Tuition: $15,000
  • Median Debt: $16,250

The Bachelor of Arts in Digital Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida (UF) is designed for students looking for a program that offers more than a traditional liberal arts education. Students will gain relevant, transferable career skills in communications, entertainment, and technology. This online art degree program offers a project-focused curriculum. A total of 120 credits... are required for this degree, some of which can be completed through transferring prior credits from accredited academic institutions. Graduates can pursue professional opportunities as animators, game designers, UX/UI designers, software engineers, concept artists, and more.

Online courses are delivered through the Canvas learning management system. Financial aid is available, and employees of the university's partner organizations may have their tuition costs and other fees fully reimbursed. UF is a military-friendly school, providing tuition assistance and other services for active duty military personnel and veterans.

To apply, prospective students must submit an online application and their previous academic transcripts. Applicants are also required to submit a portfolio. Distance learners have access to IT support, mental health counseling, tutoring, and virtual office hours for professors.

Cost per Credit: $500
School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 88%
Acceptance Rate: 42%
Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
Average SAT Scores: 1310 - 1470
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,029

#3

Rasmussen University Online

Multiple Locations
  • 10-Year ROI: $259,000
  • Median Salary: $30,228
  • Annual Tuition: $10,305
  • Median Debt: $41,877

Rasmussen University Online offers an online Graphic Design Bachelor's degree with the option to specialize in web and interactive design or animation and motion graphics. Students are instructed on emerging industry trends, 3D imagery, mobile video production, user experience, user interface, and more. While this is a full degree program, students can transfer up to 90 credits... from prior learning experiences.

Students at Rasmussen access courses using the Blackboard course management system. Veterans, national guard, reserve, retired military, and their families receive a 10% tuition discount. Students who are active-duty members of the U.S. military receive even greater reduced tuition rates. Students have access to Rasmussen's Career Services office.

The next class start dates for this program are February 10 and April 5, 2021. Interested applicants must apply by February 7 and March 31, 2021, respectively. Online students can access tutoring services, library services (including live chats with librarians), virtual career fairs, IT support, job search strategy webinars, and more.

Cost per Credit: $229
School Type: For-Profit
Graduation Rate: 31%
Financial Aid Recipients: 87%
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 19,336

#4

Full Sail University

Winter Park (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $145,200
  • Median Salary: $16,663
  • Annual Tuition: $15,990
  • Median Debt: $21,161

Full Sail University (FSU) offers several online art and design degrees, including a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Animation, a Bachelor of Science in Digital Cinematography, a Bachelor of Science in Game Art, a Bachelor of Science in Game Design, a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design, a Bachelor of Science in Mobile Development,... a Bachelor of Science in Web Development, and a Bachelor of Science in Audio Production.

Students at FSU access courses through a custom-designed learning management platform, Full Sail One. Learning at FSU is asynchronous. Classes include group projects, collaboration, and hands-on learning opportunities. Many students at FSU utilize financial aid, and future media professionals may qualify for FSU's $25,000 Momentum Scholarship. Students also have access to FSU's Career Services office.

At FSU, degree programs start each month, and applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Applicants are encouraged to complete their applications and fill out any required documentation online. Online students at FSU receive a laptop through Project LaunchBox, as well as industry-relevant software and technology. Students who take classes online can access IT support, virtual events, virtual networking opportunities, and more.

Cost per Credit: $533
School Type: For-Profit
Graduation Rate: 43%
Financial Aid Recipients: 81%
Accreditation: ACCSC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 14,908

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Art Degrees

Can I Get an Art Degree Online?

With many schools offering distance learning options, it is possible to get an art degree exclusively online. Online students typically use tools, such as video streaming, to learn asynchronously. However, degrees that include project-based learning may use a hybrid model, combining online learning with on-campus visits to attend collaborative workshops.

What Kind of Art Degrees Are There?

Given the broad nature of the field, students can pursue an art degree at multiple levels and in various specializations — ranging from dance to political art. Associate degrees cover foundational training in different areas of art, while a bachelor's degree may focus on specific subdisciplines, such as graphic design or cinematography. Graduate degrees are typically designed for students who hope to hone their artistic skills. Some programs — particularly at the doctoral level — offer students the chance to conduct interdisciplinary research in the humanities, such as art history or art education.

How Long Does It Take To Get an Art Degree?

A bachelor's degree in art requires a minimum of 120 credit hours and takes four years of full-time study to complete. By contrast, students can achieve an associate or master's degree in just two years. Part-time learners who take fewer courses per semester generally take longer to finish.

What Art Degree Makes the Most Money?

Depending on their chosen specialization, art graduates may qualify for well-paying careers in education, writing, and web development. While a bachelor's is the minimum requirement for entry-level positions, a master's or doctoral degree can lead to lucrative roles — such as a postsecondary art teacher.

Is an Art Degree Worth It?

The worth of an art degree can vary based on an individual's career goals and financial circumstances. For example, students interested in a career emphasizing creativity and self-expression may benefit from the skills and industry connections sometimes derived from earning an art degree. However, an art degree may not be as flexible as other bachelor's credentials — particularly when it comes to developing widely applicable skills.

Online Bachelor's in Art Degrees

Online bachelor's in art degrees are available in several subfields. Curricula vary based on the program, but students can major in commercial art, architecture, computer animation, fashion, graphic design, visual communication, and web design, to name a few. In general, online learners should spend some time determining which medium, style, and subject matter they find most appealing so they can begin mastering specific techniques and developing their creative processes. This way, art students may graduate with a set of professional and technical skills, an understanding of the creative industry, and a polished portfolio in their chosen arena.

Enrollment in an online bachelor's in art program requires applicants to have a minimum 3.0 high school GPA, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Competitive programs may further require that students submit a portfolio of artwork. While an art bachelor's typically takes four years to complete, accelerated programs are designed to be finished in as little as two-and-a-half years.

Are you unsure about pursuing an art degree? Explore our comprehensive list of online bachelor's programs.

Common Courses in an Online Art Program

Students enrolled in an online bachelor's of art program often have some flexibility when developing the coursework to fit their educational goals. For instance, they can choose to take online classes in visual marketing, consumer psychology, and design technology. Many modules also involve gaining hands-on experience with specific tools or software, thus helping students develop applied skills in their chosen area of expertise. While classes vary by program, the following is a list of common online courses students can expect to take with a bachelor's in art.

Art History

Students taking this class gain an understanding of historical art forms with the objective of contextualizing their personal work in a particular style or movement. In addition to learning about how techniques have evolved, they also cover how cultural movements influenced artistic expression.

College Mathematics

Many art programs include math courses to help students develop transferable skills. This class typically includes foundational concepts in algebra and calculus, with some versions focusing on how to apply quantitative reasoning to subjects, including architecture, sculpting, and painting.

Color Theory

In this fundamental course, students learn about the basics of color harmony. Specifically, they explore why and how different color combinations complement each other from a psychological and visual arts perspective. Students also learn about the differences associated with applying color theory in two- and three-dimensional mediums.

Composition and Visual Design

Usually aimed at students majoring in certain niches, including digital photography, film, or multimedia, this course introduces the basics of visual storytelling. Students delve into foundational concepts — such as exposure, depth of field, and movement — and learn how these factors affect image quality. They also typically gain hands-on experience with an array of camera equipment.

Design Thinking

In this course, students learn how to effectively visualize and present their ideas to an audience. Topics covered include digital media, graphic arts, and streamlining the creative process. Students taking this class have the opportunity to gain valuable problem-solving and communication skills in marketing and interior design.

What Can You Do With an Art Degree?

Graduates with an art degree may find employment in a range of settings, including galleries, museums, studios, schools, and non-profits. As an alternative to traditional employment, many artists choose to work as independent contractors or freelancers, providing specific services or selling artwork to clients. As with other professions, job opportunities in this field largely depend on the wider economy — especially the demand for artistic services and products. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a decrease in art sales in 2020, but employment in galleries began to rebound in 2021.



Graduates with an art degree may find employment in a range of settings, including galleries, museums, studios, schools, and non-profits. As an alternative to traditional employment, many artists choose to work as independent contractors or freelancers.

Artists with a bachelor’s degree typically qualify for a range of employment opportunities. Additionally, an online art degree offers the chance to develop skills in a particular area, signaling to employers that a graduate has formalized knowledge and training. Below is a list of potential career paths for art graduates along with median annual salary and job outlook information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers
Median Annual Salary: $52,140
Job Growth Rate: 19%

Archivists, curators, and museum workers manage private and public artwork collections. This may involve identifying and appraising new pieces, maintaining existing catalogs, and planning exhibitions. Some professionals in this vein may also work as independent consultants to help private collectors acquire specific kinds of artwork.

Art Directors
Median Annual Salary: $97,270
Job Growth Rate: 11%

Art directors are managers that oversee the work of an artistic team. Their job involves conceptualizing artistic objectives, approving designs, and overseeing the completion of projects. Art directors can work for publications, movie studios, or even public relations firms.

Fine Artists
Median Annual Salary: $49,120
Job Growth Rate: 14%

Fine artists create pieces that typically convey emotions or meanings through various mediums. They may also fashion everyday items into artwork, like furniture or cutlery that perform specific functions. Many fine artists display their work in museums or galleries.

Graphic Designers
Median Annual Salary: $53,380
Job Growth Rate: 3%

Graphic designers are responsible for visualizing and communicating complex ideas to different audiences. They tend to work with specific design software in order to present important information to clients. Graphic designers often use their skills to construct websites, develop product packaging, or create logos.

Photographers
Median Annual Salary: $41,280
Job Growth Rate: 17%

Photographers are usually freelancers and may specialize in specific genres, such as photojournalism, portraiture, wedding photography, or cinematography. Photographers may also work in postproduction, editing pictures and videos to meet client needs.

Special Effects Artists and Animators
Median Annual Salary: $77,770
Job Growth Rate: 16%

Special effects artists and animators use software to create images, videos, and other visual media designs. They may work on movies, video games, television commercials, and diverse media art forms, often completing a specific part of a larger project.

Accredited Online Art Programs

Prospective students seeking an online art degree should consider enrolling in an art school accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, an organization that sets nationwide standards for higher education in the arts. Alternatively, they should ensure that their school has been evaluated by an accrediting agency recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Accreditation is a process in which third parties evaluate colleges and universities to determine whether they offer students a quality education. Attending an accredited institution has several benefits, and it's especially important for online students because it signals a program's credibility to potential employers and qualifies students for federal financial aid.

For more information, students may visit OnlineU's comprehensive accreditation hub.

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