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Affordable online illustration degree

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

You can study at any university of your choice from anywhere and at your own convenient time. The same goes for international students who wish to enrol in universities abroad. You can study for a degree, diploma or certificate at an affordable price without having to visit the university’s campus. All you need is an internet connection and a confident mind that you can achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. This article will guide you on how to get started with online education and give reasons why it is better than the traditional education system. Collegelearners has the best information on the most affordable schools around the world. We are a team of experts with years of experience in education and we want to share our knowledge with you.

We know that it is difficult to find an affordable school in a foreign country, especially if it’s your first time abroad. That’s why we created this guide, so that you can make an informed decision when choosing what school fits your needs best.

The arts and design field includes occupations such as art director, graphic designer, and interior designer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in this field earn a median annual salary of $48,130, approximately 33% higher than the median salary for all occupations.

Although arts and design professionals have higher earning potential than workers in many fields, the BLS projects employment for the arts and design field to decline 4% from 2019-2029. As a result, these professionals need marketable, honed skills to succeed in a competitive job market. Earning an art degree can help individuals improve their employability.

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Admission requirements vary by school, degree level, and topic. Typical requirements for bachelor’s-level art programs include a high school or GED diploma. Incoming students interested in institutional financial aid must typically submit standardized test scores.

Top 10 Online Art Degrees: The Best Schools and Programs

RANKSCHOOLAVG NET PRICE ?
1Harvard University$41632
2Judson College$15774
3Pennsylvania State University$16572
4Valley City State University$5153
5University of Northern Colorado$6372
6Northern Arizona University$8400
7National University$12744
8University of Montana$4603
9University of Nebraska at Kearney$5325
10North Carolina Central University$3555

Best Online Art Programs 2021


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  1. Harvard UniversityLOCATIONCambridge, MATUITION$$$$$
  2. Judson CollegeLOCATIONMarion, ALTUITION$$$$$
  3. Pennsylvania State UniversityLOCATIONUniversity Park, PATUITION$$$$$
  4. Valley City State UniversityLOCATIONValley City, NDTUITION$$$$$
  5. University of Northern ColoradoLOCATIONGreeley, COTUITION$$$$$
  6. Northern Arizona UniversityLOCATIONFlagstaff, AZTUITION$$$$$
  7. National UniversityLOCATIONLa Jolla, CATUITION$$$$$
  8. University of MontanaLOCATIONMissoula, MTTUITION$$$$$
  9. University of Nebraska at KearneyLOCATIONKearney, NETUITION$$$$$
  10. North Carolina Central UniversityLOCATIONDurham, NCTUITION$$$$$

Top Online Illustration Schools – 2019

Best Online Illustration Schools

What are the top online schools for illustration?

SchoolState
Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
Rocky Mountain College of Art and DesignColorado
Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia

Our list of the top schools for online illustration training and degrees. The list is in no particular order and is not intended to be a ranking.  

Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California

San Francisco-based Academy of Art University has been in existence since 1929. Family-owned and serving thousands of students, the school is the largest private art and design university in the nation. Academy of Art prepares artists in the fields of design, communication, and the arts, through more than 30 areas of study from Animation & Visual Effects to Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media.

Academy of Art houses 18 schools, including the School of Illustration, which the Academy says “offers an innovative curriculum that blends digital technology with classical training to meet the marketplace’s growing need for trained artists in both areas.” Those accepted into the School of Illustration will “take a contemporary approach to traditional techniques with an emphasis in drawing, composition, and storytelling.” Students will also “develop a keen attention to detail, gaining portrait, clothed figure, and live animal drawing skills and a deep understanding of anatomy and design.”

Available programs include AA, BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Illustration. A Certificate is also available. The degree programs are offered 100% online and all are taught by industry professionals. Some Academy of Art instructors have designed backdrops for Carlos Santana and U2, while others have worked with major companies such as Microsoft, DreamWorks, The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Universal Studios, Doubleday, Penguin, Bantam,  Houghton Mifflin, Universal/MCA, MGM Studios, 20th Century Fox Studios, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. Studios, Disney Imagineering, Mattel Toys, and many others.

Online courses for the AA, BFA, MA, and MFA programs are a mix of lecture content, recorded audio, interactive slideshows, video, written content, and hands-on work. Students in the program also engage in discussions and activities through the online platform, online studio environment, social media and real-time streaming of events.

Students can expect to take mix of timely courses such as Blogging: Content Creation & Promotion, Digital Clothed Figure, Digital Media 2: Illustrative Imaging, Editorial Illustration for Apps and Publication, Illustration for Consumer Products & Licensing, Illustrative Vector Art & Motion, Interactive Illustration, Physics for Artists: Light, Sound, and Motion, Social Media Strategies, and The Body As Art: History of Tattoo & Body Decoration.

An Illustration Internship is part of the programs as well as a Collaborative Project, Portfolio Preparation and Self Promotion, and the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Florence.

Graduates of the Illustration Program at Academy of Art University are prepared to seek positions such as Concept Artist, Children’s Book Illustrator, Storyboard Artist, Narrative Illustrator, Book Cover Artist, Freelance Illustrator, Reportage Illustrator, Interactive Illustrator for Apps & Web Publishing, Comic Artist, and Consumer Product & Licensing Illustrator.

Academy of Art alumni have been hired by companies such as The Atlantic, Blizzard Entertainment, Dark Horse, DC Comics, Marvel, National Geographic, The New York Times, the New Yorker, Paramount Pictures, Pixar, Random House, Riot Games, Wired, and many others.

Academy of Art University is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) was founded in the foothills of Colorado in 1963. Illustrator and Educator Philip J. Steele, the school’s founder, said his mission was to “make RMCAD a ‘community of creatives’ that would instill in all students a passion for creativity, innovation, and a desire for lifelong learning—both in the fine arts and applied arts.”

Per RMCAD, Steele “sought to nurture the individual talents of each student, to integrate critical thinking and analysis into their skills, and to contribute in socially responsible ways to the local, global, and professional communities.” Today, with more than 1,100 on-campus and online students, RMCAD offers dozens of programs in nine areas of art and design. Among them is a BFA in Illustration. Offered online and on-campus, the program is designed for “self-motivated individuals who thrive in an independent learning environment.”

Three focus areas are available including Children’s Book, Sequential Art, and Concept Art. The curriculum, including focus areas, “is structured to ensure students receive exceptional online instruction in the technical, conceptual, and business aspects of illustration to build a unique portfolio that demonstrates a strong and diverse skill set.” In addition, students will engage in coursework and projects that cover Visual Perception, Materials Exploration, and Human + Animal Anatomy.

Students in the Online BFA in Illustration can expect to receive the same academic and personal support as students in the on-campus program. They receive personal one-on-one instruction, engage in consistent interaction and communication with faculty, and they have access to the same “cutting-edge” software as RMCAD’s on-campus students.

Courses for the program are taught by experienced online faculty, who are also working professionals in the field of illustration. Credits include freelance work for Dell, Ballentine, Harper Collins, Sterling Publishing, Doubleday, Scholastic, McGraw Hill, Communication Arts Magazine, and Warner.

In addition to learning the technical aspects of illustration, RMCAD’s accomplished instructors help students explore the business practices that will allow them to be successful in the field. And with a network of industry contacts and connections, RMCAD says it will be there every step of the way to help students reach their career goals.

Graduates of the Online BFA in Illustration at RMCAD are making their mark as Magazine Illustrators, Editorial Illustrators, Technical Illustrators, Instructional Illustrators, Architectural and Interiors Illustrators, and more.

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia

Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is one of the top art and design schools in the nation. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD serves nearly 13,000 students with access to 40 majors and 60-plus minors. Among these programs are four degree options for aspiring illustrators—the BA, BFA, MA, and MFA. Two are available online—the MA and MFA.

The MA requires 45 credit hours of study and the MFA requires 90 credit hours of study. Both programs teach students to use new and traditional media to illustrate everything from film sequences to app icons. Students will learn to “work in a professional environment through a program structured like a working studio,” and they will “develop a personal style and technique, learning to express (their) own unique vision while forming a well-rounded perspective on design.”

Course highlights for the MA program include Media and Techniques, Illustration Markets, Digital Solutions for Illustration, and Illustration Concepts and Composition. Directed Projects in Illustration is also part of the program as well as the Illustration MA Final Project.

The MFA is a terminal degree that offers the opportunity to choose four electives to create an area of focus and students may complete an internship. Course highlights for the program include Advanced Studio Techniques, Illustration for Publications, Art Criticism, Professional Practices in Illustration, and Media and Techniques. Directed Projects in Illustration is also part of the program as well the Illustration MFA Thesis.

SCAD’s online courses require no specific meeting times and are accessible 24/7. Students complete assignments by designated due dates and participate in online class sessions, where they assess and critique work and expand upon discussion board postings. There are no required campus visits, and internships and study abroad experiences are readily available, but optional.

Other Illustration Schools to Consider

Sessions College for Professional Design, Tempe, Arizona

Sessions College for Professional Design began in 1997 in New York. Originally named Sessions.edu, the school relocated to Tempe, Arizona in 2009. Now an accredited, degree-granting school, Sessions College serves more than 1,500 students enrolled in Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) degree programs and eight-month Certificate programs in Graphic Design, Web Design, Digital Media, Illustration, Advertising Design, Digital Photography and Fine Arts.

The Illustration Program, which highlights creative classes, expert instructors, career preparation, and portfolio development, covers illustration in traditional and digital media, utilizing software tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Student illustrators can expect to take courses such as Computer Technology, Digital Photography, Typography, Cartooning and Sequential Art, Digital Illustration, Technical Illustration and Infographics, Watercolor, Commercial Illustration, Portrait Painting, Web 101 HTML and CSS I, and InDesign.

The final semester of the Online Illustration AOS program at Sessions concludes with studies in design business and portfolio building as well as a live online portfolio review and a capstone project. Graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions in areas such as Advertising, Animation, Marketing, Print Media, Promotions, Publishing, Video, and many others.

Sessions College is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). At the certificate level, the school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS).

2020 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Art Degrees

If you’re interested in pursuing a creative career, an online degree in art or design can provide a strong foundation. Once enrolled in an online program, you’ll discover the basics of design. From there, you’ll develop specialized skills in the design area of your choice, whether it be for printed items, websites, or video games. You could become a graphic artist with a median annual salary of $53,380, or an animator with a median annual salary of $77,700.

Below is our list of the 11 most affordable online degree programs in art and design, with schools offering programs in digital photography, graphic design, and more. We also provide information about online art degrees, common courses found in these programs, the cost of earning an online degree, and career paths for art and design graduates.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online master’s in art & design degrees. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

 All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified

RankSchoolAnnual Tuition 
# 1Southern New Hampshire University Online $9,600
# 2Liberty University $11,700
# 3Central Michigan University$13,454
# 4Bellevue University$13,600
# 5Upper Iowa University$14,130
# 6Lindenwood University$14,850
# 7University of Florida$15,000
# 8Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design$16,058
# 9The University of Montana $21,600
# 10Cogswell College$24,750
# 11Academy of Art University$28,890

Can You Go to Art School Online?
Very few schools offer online courses in the traditional visual arts, such as painting, drawing, and sculpture. However, many online schools have developed distance learning programs for creative fields that blend art with technology, including digital photography, graphic design, web design, animation, and video game design. Earning an online four-year degree in one of those subjects can help prepare you for a creative career, but if you’re committed to pursuing a degree in the traditional arts, you should consider on-campus programs.

Art and Design Degree Quick Facts
Average Credits: 120
Average Duration: 4 years
What is the Best Online Art and Design Degree to Get?
If you’re planning to pursue a creative field through online learning, you may want to focus on one of the technology-oriented arts. Based on data from ONET Online regarding well-paying, high-growth fields, a few of the most promising art and design subjects to study online include web design, video game design, and animation and 3D graphics.

Online Art and Design Courses
Art and design programs typically start with foundations in art and art history, progress through courses related to your area of specialization, and culminate in a capstone course designed to help you polish your professional portfolio of work. Some of the most popular online classes in art and design include:

Digital Imaging: This graphic arts course will provide you with an essential understanding of how digitized art must be prepared for use in electronic media and in print. You will most likely learn to use the Adobe Creative Suite or similar software programs.
Digital Photography: Although there are entire degree programs devoted to digital photography, design students are often required to take a summary course on the subject. Coursework will enable you to learn how to use a digital camera, how to create various light effects, and how to use photo editing software to enhance your images.
Introduction to Web Design: Typically a hands-on, application-oriented course, you’ll learn the basics of HTML, CSS, and possibly other languages and programs to build websites. Your technical skills will be enhanced with an understanding of appealing visual design and usability.
Principles of Design: This fundamental course is included in nearly every art and design program. You’ll learn to utilize the formal elements and principles of design, especially color, and you may be introduced to the basics of typography. Problem solving and decision making are important skills that art students develop through this course.
3D Graphics Basics: While gaining experience in using industry-standard software, you’ll learn the fundamentals of creating 3D motion graphics. Hands-on projects will introduce you to the process of storyboarding and rendering graphic objects and animations.
Cost of Online Art and Design Programs
The 11 schools on our list offer the most affordable online art and design degrees available, with annual tuition averaging $16,694, typically for 30 credit hours per year. In many cases, tuition rates for online students are comparable to those for in-state students. You may also save money on housing, transportation, and other fees by living at home or off campus while earning your online degree, which can help with affordability.

The 11 schools on our list offer the most affordable online art and design degrees available, with annual tuition averaging $16,694.

Art and Design Careers
Online bachelor’s programs in art and design prepare art students for occupations that combine creativity with technological skills, many of which are highlighted in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. For example, graduates may become animators, with a median annual salary of $77,700, or UX/UI designers, who earn a median annual salary of $77,200.

Graphic design has also been a popular choice for many years, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that demand for graphic designers is expected to decline by 4% over the next decade. On the other hand, the job market in web design, UX/UI design, 3D design, video gaming, and animation remains strong, with demand for several of these occupations projected to grow at 4%-8%

After gaining several years of experience, some designers move into management positions as art directors, where they guide the vision and direction of an organization’s brand presentation. At this level, art directors earn a median annual salary of $97,270.

Median Annual Salary of Careers in Art and Design Bar Graph

Is an Online Art Degree Worth It?

A college degree is not required to thrive in some creative fields like fine arts and web design. Many talented individuals with artistic skills and drive have been successful without one, and that may turn out to be the best path for you, depending on your personal circumstances and career goals. However, an undergraduate degree is strongly recommended for other fields, such as graphic art, animation, and game design, and most professionals hold degrees. Additionally, all of these occupations are highly competitive, and the technical skills and business acumen you gain from earning an online degree in art and design may give you a competitive edge.

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