Online MFA Programs: An Overview
A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) offers the opportunity to study a variety of artistic professions. Many artists choose to pursue a master's program because these fields are highly competitive and take significant effort to become successful. Students in an online MFA program typically devote two to three years taking studio and theory courses while working on a thesis project. The structure of the thesis will depend on the degree's focus. For example, students working toward a creative writing degree may be required to write a complete novel, while a graphic design student might develop a series of advertisements for a particular product.
While most graduates use a master's degree to further develop their artistic mission and create works of art for sale or display, some enter more commercial areas of art and design, utilizing their MFA to qualify for supervisory or leadership positions.
Online art and design programs in areas such as illustration, painting, or fashion design may require students to scan and upload their work for critique by peers and instructors. Some online art and design degrees, such as those in architecture or interior design, have residency requirements, meaning that students must travel to campus to participate in seminars and design labs often lasting about a week.
While most graduates use a master's degree to further develop their artistic mission and create works of art for sale or display, some enter more commercial areas of art and design, utilizing their MFA to qualify for supervisory or leadership positions. Some MFA graduates also pursue careers in teaching.
Online master's degrees in art and design are much more variable in coursework and graduation requirements than undergraduate degrees. Some graduate degree programs may require just 36 semester credits, as well as a significant amount of hands-on studio work. However, many top MFA programs may require upwards of 72 credits plus hands-on studio work, thesis projects, and/or portfolio development.
MFA Online Courses
Onlines courses for an MFA can vary depending on which concentration, major, or emphasis you choose. For example, the best MFA art programs in screenwriting and directing may require students to explore courses covering the fundamentals of directing during their first year before advancing to the practicalities of production.
Overall, the curriculum of an online MFA is tailored toward your degree focus. Most coursework includes critique, studio time, and theory classes, where you'll explore the different facets of your field. Critique involves contextualizing, understanding, and assessing works of art, while studio courses allow students to practice hands-on work in a professional environment. Finally, theory classes take a look at the historical, societal, and psychological aspects of artwork.
Earning an MFA gives you 2-3 years to produce hands-on work and receive feedback from professors — a process that's likely to enhance your skills. This degree may open the door to more opportunities and advanced positions that involve creative expression.
Annual Median Salary: $69,510
Job Outlook: 4%
One of the most popular online MFAs focuses on writing, and this type of master's program is designed to prepare graduates for writing careers in fiction, nonfiction, technical writing, poetry, and/or screenwriting. Depending on the type of work they do, writers may be self-employed, or they may create written content for one or more clients or employers.
Is an Online MFA Worth It?
Whether a master's degree in the arts is worth the investment of time and money depends on your personal goals and circumstances, such as finances and other commitments. While earning an MFA will most likely help you hone your creative and technical skills, most critics agree that the degree may not yield more job opportunities or higher pay. There are also pros and cons to earning this degree online. Opting for distance education gives you a wider range of programs to choose from without having to relocate, but the online learning environment may not give you the level of peer interaction you want.
So, is it worth it to get an MFA? Alongside the financial, time commitment and personal considerations, let's take a look at the potential benefits and disadvantages of taking a masters of fine arts program online:
You can earn your degree on your own time from the comfort of your home while maintaining a healthy study-life balance.
Online learning still allows you to hone your creative and technical skills through innovative computer programs without the need to work in a studio environment.
You can follow your passion with a lower financial commitment than an on-campus learning environment that may require relocation and then daily transportation costs.
MFA programs take an additional two to three year commitment after you complete your bachelor's degree.
In most cases, an MFA alone is not a sufficient credential to become an art professor at a university.
Some students may find that physically being in a studio with other students is more beneficial to their craft than studying remotely from home. This comes down to your personal learning preference.