For students interested in working in a creative industry, art degrees offer a wide variety of choices in terms of both specializations and career paths. While it used to be the case that these degrees were only available in in-person studio settings, many art degrees can now be pursued online, increasing their accessibility for many students.

What Is an Online Art School Degree?

Art degrees vary in topic from hands-on, skills-based disciplines like sculpture, illustration, and dance to more theoretical, research-based subjects like art history. However, depending on the program and level, students studying for an art degree typically learn both practice and theory. Courses tend to blend instruction in specific techniques and skills with knowledge about the “whys” that underpin them.

Students pursuing art degrees complete creative projects, participate in skill-building workshops and attend classes and lectures about art movements, seminal artists, philosophy, and other subject-specific knowledge areas.

How Can I Use an Online Art School Degree?

A wide variety of career paths can be pursued by graduates with an online art degree. While traditional occupations include painter, art teacher, museum curator, and fashion designer, graduates these days can also pursue more unusual occupations, such as industrial designer, game developer, or digital book illustrator.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests a positive career outlook for graduates with art degrees, with a median annual wage of $49,600 and employment growth of around 4% over the next decade. 1

Online Art Program Courses

Not all art degrees can be studied online, but increasing numbers of art programs can now be studied online at accredited institutions at all levels, from associate degrees to master’s and doctoral degrees. The following represent five of the most popular type of art degrees available online.

Film and Cinema Arts

Film and cinema arts degrees explore a range of broad and specialist topics, including history of film, art history, visual storytelling, scriptwriting, cinematography, sound, animation, and directing. These degrees can emphasize either academic and critical approaches or skills-based film production. Students generally complete a capstone project or dissertation as a graduation requirement.

Students study via a combination of lectures, screenings, critical readings, and online discussions, as well as through virtual internships and activities such as virtual film festival visits.

Fine and Studio Arts

Fine and studio arts degrees vary in scope and across multiple focal areas, including sculpting, painting, drawing, and more. They typically involve instruction in specific creative techniques, as well as scholarly knowledge of artistic genres, movements, and media. Students might also be expected to study art history and the works of specific artists. Typical graduation requirements include a capstone project such as a personal portfolio, a presentation, or a dissertation.

Students often study via online, asynchronous classes, as well as by participating in field experiences like internships, clinical placements, and service-learning projects.

Graphic Design and Digital Arts

In a graphic design degree program, students typically study techniques for working with color, photography, print, illustration, typography, design, and other visual elements to meet specific communication needs. Students create designs both digitally and by hand, and typical classes include 2D and 3D design, digital imaging, typography, and package design.

Students in these programs often learn via asynchronous virtual classes and complete a capstone project of portfolio pieces that can be used to launch a graphic design career.

Art History

A degree in art history encourages students to explore all forms of art through a range of historical, social, cultural, and philosophical contexts. Students are asked to critically examine aspects of subject and style, as well as the impact that art has had on human history.

These programs can prepare students for employment in museums, galleries, and agencies through online art history courses and activities. An independent research project forms a key program completion requirement.

Multimedia and Animation

Degree programs in multimedia and animation typically comprise four years in a liberal arts program, with a focus on written, visual, and audio artist creation across multiple media, preparing students to communicate effectively in print and on radio, in cinema, and on television. As with many other art degrees, graduation requirements typically include a capstone project such as a personal portfolio, a presentation, or a dissertation.

Online Art Degree Concentrations and Careers

Film and Cinema Arts

Available concentration paths for film and cinema arts vary from school to school and program to program, but common concentrations include editing, sound, television, cinematography, screenwriting, and directing. Some popular careers for students with these concentrations include:

  • Film Producers and Director: $76,400 per year 2
  • Film and Video Editors and Camera Operator: $61,900 per year 3
  • Broadcast, Sound, and Video Technician: $50,000 per year 4

BLS data suggests employment growth is in the range of 21% for technicians, 29% for editors, and 24% for directors and producers. 2,3,4

Fine and Studio Arts

While only limited concentrations are available for online fine and studio art degrees, there are a number of specializations that students can pursue, including ceramics, drawing, jewelry making, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture. Careers can vary, but popular options include:

  • Craft and Fine Artist: $49,120 per year 5
  • Fashion Designer: $75,810 per year 6
  • Art Director: $97,270 per year 7

Graduates should expect job growth in arts and design occupations in the range of 4%, with around 37,000 new jobs expected over 10 years. 1

Graphic Design and Digital Arts

Students pursuing these graphic design and digital arts degrees can opt to specialize in areas like web design, information design, or typography. Some career options include:

  • Graphic Designer: $53,380 per year 8
  • Web Developers and Digital Designers: $77,200 per year 9
  • Industrial Designers: $71,640 per year 10

The employment outlook for jobs in graphic and digital arts ranges from 3% to 13%, with the greatest growth predicted for careers in web development and digital design. 8,9,10

Art History

Concentrations for art history degrees may include museum studies, museum education, collecting, and architecture. Certain programs may also offer students the option to concentrate either on pure research or a combination of research and studio work. However, these options are more limited for students seeking online-only programs. For graduates, degree options can include:

  • Museum Curator: $52,140 per year 11
  • Art Conservator: $52,140 per year 11
  • Art Historian: $63,100 per year 12

BLS data suggest that job growth for historians is around 5%,12 while job growth for archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators is around 19%. 11

Multimedia and Animation

Students pursuing multimedia and animation degrees can specialize in 3D computer animation, game art, science visualization, or motion graphics. Popular career choices include:

  • Video Game Designer: $64,800 per year 13
  • Special Effects Artist: $77,700 per year 14
  • Animator: $77,700 14

The BLS predicts employment growth for special effects artists and animators, including game developers, at a rate of 16%. 14

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Art Degree?

The length of time needed to complete an online art degree varies according to both the program and the student’s form of enrollment. Some typical timeframes include:

  • Certificate programs: Can be complete in about one year
  • Associate degree programs: Can be completed in about two years
  • Bachelor’s degree programs: Can be completed in about four years

For example, online art certificate programs can typically be completed a year or less by a student enrolled full time. Online bachelor’s and associate degrees in art typically take longer to complete, ranging from two years for an associate degree to four years for a bachelor’s degree. According to The National Center for Education Statistics, students take a median of 52 months to complete a bachelor’s degree. 15 This can take even longer if a student is enrolled only part time. Accelerated programs and online programs can help speed up the completion time for both full-time and part-time students by providing greater flexibility.

For students desiring even greater levels of specialization, a limited number of masters and doctoral art degrees are also available online. A typical master’s degree takes a year to complete for a full-time student, and a doctoral program can take a minimum of three years to complete.

Discover More About Online Art Programs

What is the typical application process for online art programs?

Depending on the degree, the application process for an art program may include more than the usual application form, personal statement, and reference letters. For example, applications to performing arts degrees may be required to audition, while fine arts applicants may be asked to submit a portfolio of work.

Are scholarships available for online art programs? There are a number of scholarships dedicated to students pursuing art degrees. A few include the CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship16, the CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Visual Arts, 17 and The Kress Foundation History of Art Grants Program. 18 Students should ask their chosen institution about local and institutional scholarship options as well.


[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Arts and Design Occupations . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/home.htm.

[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Producers and Directors . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/producers-and-directors.htm

[3] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/film-and-video-editors-and-camera-operators.htm.

[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Broadcast, Sound, and Video Technicians . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/broadcast-and-sound-engineering-technicians.htm.

[5] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Craft and Fine Artists . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/craft-and-fine-artists.htm.

[6] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Fashion Designers . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm.

[7] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Art Directors . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm.

[8] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Graphic Designers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm.

[9] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Web Developers and Digital Designers . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm.

[10] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Industrial Designers . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/industrial-designers.htm.

[11] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm.

[12] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Historians . https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/historians.htm

[13] Payscale. (2021). Average Video Game Designer Salary . https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Video_Game_Designer/Salary.

[14] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Special Effects Artists and Animators. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm.

[15] The National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Fast Facts: Time to Degree . https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=569.

[16] Scholarships.com. (2021). CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship . https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-major/art-scholarships/cbc-spouses-visual-arts-scholarship/

[17] Scholarships.com. (2021). CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Visual Arts . https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-major/art-scholarships/cintas-foundation-fellowship-in-visual-arts/.

[18] Scholarships.com. (2021). The Kress Foundation History of Art Grants Program . https://www.scholarships.com/financial-aid/college-scholarships/scholarships-by-major/art-scholarships/the-kress-foundation-history-of-art-grants-program/.

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