Online visual communications degrees combine course work in areas of illustration, design history, photography, aesthetics, and digital design. These degree programs aim to provide graduates with a broader understanding of the narrative power of visual design, as well as a broad set of design skills for creating appealing combinations of words of and graphics.
Online visual communications programs are available as certificates and associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. Many programs allow students to specialize in a particular design area, such as Web design, 3D animation, or print design, providing graduates with a breadth of understanding in design principles, as well as a focused skill set.
Online Visual Communications Degree Levels Available
- Undergraduate/Graduate Certificate – One year to complete
- Associate Degree – Two years to complete
- Bachelor’s Degree – Four years to complete
- Master’s Degree – Two years to complete
Online associate degrees in visual communications may be career-oriented programs in which the majority of classes discuss design issues; they may also be transfer degrees with more general education classes. Undergraduate certificates in visual communications provide a foundation of knowledge in basic design skills. Common classes in the associate degree and certificate program include digital imaging, illustration, computer illustration, Web design, and new media.
Online bachelor’s degrees are generally required for moving into staff-level design positions after graduation. Bachelor’s programs in visual communications typically require courses such as design research, design and illustration techniques, photography, sequential graphic design, and packaging design. Many bachelor’s degrees require an internship in a visual communications setting, such as an advertising or design firm. Most programs require project-based classes and studio courses in which students complete design projects that will add to their design portfolio. Graduates understand how to craft a powerful message using various design elements, from photography to Web animation.
Online master’s programs in visual communications may be Master of Fine Arts or Master of Design degrees. Both programs take about two years to complete and are more focused on independent study, seminars, and studio time than an undergraduate program. Most master’s degrees are based on a thesis that the student is expected to develop an innovative project that contributes something new to the design field. Course work includes advanced courses in areas like design leadership, design research, and design and society.
Undergraduate online programs in visual communications may require a year of art experience or the submission of a portfolio of work, along with a high school diploma. They may also require standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Graduate programs typically require undergraduate experience in an art or design area, as well as the submission of a portfolio. GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and an interview may also be required.
Differences between Traditional and Online Visual Communications Degrees
Online visual communications schools use technology to provide an interactive arts education. Students watch video lectures and tutorials to learn various techniques in a step-by-step manner. Since most designers rely heavily on programs like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, visual communications programs can be a good fit for online learning. Online programs may require that students complete an onsite internship in a design firm prior to graduation.
Online associate and bachelor’s degrees in visual communications range in annual tuition from $10,000 to $21,000. Online master’s programs cost from $18,000 to $22,000 per year. Certificates cost around $12,000 per year.
Along with institutional accreditation, prospective visual communications students should look for programmatic accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD accredits more than 300 degree programs in design areas across the United States. The organization ensures that degree programs adhere to particular curriculum requirements and that art and design graduates leave their program with a recognizable set of skills.
Choosing the Best Degree for You
Prospective visual communications students should look for degree programs that foster the skills of artistic ability, creativity, and technical know-how, as these are vital for succeeding in any design position. Along with these creative attributes, however, programs should also teach students how to communicate well and work in teams, and how to manage time and meet deadlines. Most creative and design professionals work in collaboration with other artists, writers, or technical professionals, and they need to be able to relate well with others.