2022 Best Online Masters in Visual Communication Degree Programs

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An online masters in visual communication can teach you how to use images and art to convey messages. An understanding of visual communication can be useful in a diverse range of fields, such as advertising or web-based user experience design.

Masters in Visual Communication Degree Programs

Students of visual communication study color, symbolism, lettering, visual organization, and related topics, and they can learn how to apply their knowledge to inform and influence others.

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Masters in visual communication degrees may be useful for anyone aspiring to a leadership role in creative or artistic industries.

Online Masters in Visual Communication Programs

Masters in Visual Communication Programs

In a visual communication degree program, you can learn how to use visual art and images to not only look pretty but also convey messages to an audience. Thinking about art in this way can help you utilize visuals effectively in media, advertising, and elsewhere.

Students of visual communication graduate programs can go on to pursue careers in graphic design, web development, publishing, advertising, marketing, journalism, or digital photography. Essentially, this masters program can apply to nearly any profession that involves the use of visual creativity.

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Visual communication is a multidisciplinary field. Here are some subjects you might study while earning your masters in visual communication online:

  • Typography
  • Motion design
  • Branding
  • Design strategy
  • Information design
  • Digital imaging
  • Photography

Visual communication programs usually include both practical and theoretical coursework. You can develop a blend of both technological skills and knowledge of how to analyze aesthetic elements.

You can study how to apply emerging technology in visual communication. You may also complete hands-on projects to learn about topics such as page layout in print media and interactive designs for web and digital media. During your masters program, you can begin developing a professional portfolio of work samples that you can use to display your skills to potential employers.

Types of Visual Communication Masters Programs

Visual Communication Masters Programs

There are a couple of different routes you can take when pursuing a master’s degree in visual communication. You can choose to get either an MA, an MS, or an MFA.

MA and MS in Visual Communication

A Master of Arts or a Master of Science in Visual Communication typically requires 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework. Students in these programs usually complete some sort of thesis or capstone project in their chosen specialty to demonstrate what they have learned.

MA and MS programs are intended to teach you practical, industry-relevant skills, such as print production and quality management. This type of degree could be helpful if you would like to expand your career options in a field such as graphic design or advertising.

MFA in Visual Communication

A Master of Fine Arts in Visual Communication is a terminal degree program that is usually about 60 credit hours long. Course credits from an MA or MS in Visual Communication can often be applied toward an MFA.

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MFA programs can be very academically rigorous. Compared to an MA or MS, an MFA program often puts a heavier emphasis on research. MFA students are typically expected to complete a thesis that includes original research on a topic related to visual communication. An MFA in Visual Communication could be beneficial for someone wanting to pursue a career in academia or teach the subject at the postsecondary level.

Design and Visual Communications Careers & Salaries

Design and Visual Communications Careers & Salaries

Knowledge gained from a masters program in visual communication is most applicable to a career in arts and design or education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some careers related to design and visual communications, accompanied by their median annual salaries.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Marketing Managers $142,170
Advertising and Promotions Managers $133,460
Art Directors $97,270
Postsecondary Teachers $80,560
Special Effects Artists and Animators $77,700
Project Management Specialists $77,420
Web Developers and Digital Designers $77,200
Interior Designers $57,060
Graphic Designers $53,380
Craft and Fine Artists $49,120

There’s a variety of careers you can pursue in design and visual communications. Exactly what kind of career would be a good fit for you after graduation depends on what your specialty was and what types of courses and electives you took while earning your degree.

Visual Communications Masters Curriculum & Courses

Visual Communications Masters

Here are examples of the types of courses you might come across while earning your masters in visual communication:

  • History of Design: In this course, you’ll learn about changes in the field of design from the beginning of the industrial revolution to the present day.
  • Typography: In this course, you’ll study methods for arranging words, letters, and other symbols to achieve the most effective communication.
  • Graphic Communications Management: In this course, you’ll study the most effective practices for leading and organizing teams working on graphic communications projects.
  • Corporate Marketing Materials: In this course, you’ll study how different aspects of an advertisement can influence a consumer’s perception of a commercial product or service.
  • Design Writing: In this course, you’ll study written communication as it applies in the modern design industry.
  • Issues in Contemporary Art: In this course, you’ll discuss and think critically about the meanings of different types of art and their social impact.
  • Digital Imaging: In this course, you’ll learn how to create and edit visual media using modern software.
  • Interactive Design: In this course, you’ll study how to apply visual elements in a way that invites user interaction, such as a web application.
  • Digital Motion Design: In this course, you’ll learn about animation software and techniques for creating animations.
  • Problems and Trends in Visual Design: In this course, you’ll learn about common obstacles faced by professional designers and about strategies for overcoming them.

Exact course titles and requirements can vary from one university to another.

How to Know If a Master’s in Visual Communications Degree Online Is Right for Me

Master's in Visual Communications

An online master’s degree in visual communications might be a good fit for you if:

  • You are trying to advance or start a career in visual communications.
  • You enjoy analyzing visual art and media.
  • You are motivated to make any project you work on the best it can be.

Only you can decide if this is the right path for you. There are many options for studying art and visual communications and for establishing careers in those fields.

Admissions Requirements

Visual Communication Graduate Programs Admissions

Here are some common admissions requirements for visual communications graduate programs:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official college transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay

You may also be asked to submit GRE or GMAT scores, but a growing number of schools are no longer requiring this. You may also be asked to submit a portfolio of your work, especially if you are applying to an MFA program.

Visual Communication Graduate Programs Accreditation

Visual Communication Graduate Programs Accreditation

Many colleges and universities state their accreditation status on their websites. When trying to select a university to attend, you may want to specifically choose one that has regional accreditation.

If a school has received regional accreditation, it has been evaluated by an outside organization to ensure that it provides a quality education. Degree programs in visual communications can also receive programmatic accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

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For more information about regional accreditation, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website.

Visual Communication Licensure and Certifications

Visual Communication Licensure and Certifications

In addition to earning your degree, you may also want to consider earning a professional certification of some kind. Holding a certification can demonstrate your skill sets to potential clients or employers.

One possible option is to become an Adobe Certified Expert. Adobe offers training courses in using specific Adobe products, and you can take exams verifying your skill in using these products. Exams can be taken remotely.

You can also pursue certification as a Communication Management Professional through the Global Communication Certification Council. In addition to passing an exam, candidates for this particular certification must have at least 8 years of professional experience or 6 years of experience plus 2 years of education.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Visual Communication Graduate Programs financial aid

Earning a master’s degree in visual communication can potentially cost quite a bit in the form of tuition and other fees. The good news is that there are many financial aid options available that you can look into.

You may be able to qualify for state or federal aid. You can apply for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your university may also offer grants or scholarships for students based on financial need or academic merit. Some private organizations offer scholarships specifically for students of visual communication.

Visual Communication Professional Organizations

Visual Communication Professional Organizations

Whether you are just starting your career or have worked in visual communication for years, you may be able to benefit from joining a professional organization.

Here are some professional organizations for those who work in the field of visual communication:

Membership in a professional organization can often provide opportunities for networking and continuing education. Some organizations have newsletters or publications you can subscribe to as well as resources for students.

Is Visual Communication a Good Degree?

Visual Communication Degree

Yes, visual communication is a good degree for many professionals. Studying visual communications can help you develop your creativity, learn to analyze subtle aspects of visual images, and expand your technological skills, such as using video and photo editing software.

A master’s degree in visual communication can help prepare you for a wide variety of artistic careers. Some professionals work in web design, graphic design, interior design, and animation. Earning a graduate degree may also help you qualify for senior or leadership roles and higher earnings.

The median annual salary for art directors is $97,270, and the median for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers is $141,490 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Some of these careers are highly competitive, and the availability of job opportunities may be affected by factors other than your education, such as your geographic location and work experience.

What Can You Do with a Visual Communications Master’s Degree?

A master’s degree in visual communications can prepare you for a wide variety of creative and artistic careers. Common positions in this field include art director, graphic designer, photographer, digital designer, animator, and advertising, promotions, and marketing managers.

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Companies often want professionals who have an eye for design and an understanding of how to convey messages, design, and market their products. If you choose the Master of Fine Arts route, you may also be qualified for careers in academia.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters in Visual Communication Degree Online?

Masters in Visual Communication Degree

A typical MS or MA in Visual Communication requires about 36 credit hours of coursework. This type of program can potentially be completed in as little as 1 year if you attend classes full-time, year-round.

You may need more time to complete your degree if your program includes a thesis or if you only enroll part-time. A Master of Fine Arts usually takes longer to earn than an MS or MA. If you plan on pursuing an MFA, you may spend at least 2 years completing your degree.

What’s the Difference Between an M.F.A. vs. M.A. in Visual Communication?

Here are the basics of what differentiates a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from a Master of Arts (MA).

Master of Fine Arts Master of Arts
  • Focuses more on academic research
  • Almost always requires a thesis
  • Considered a terminal degree
  • May accept MA credits
  • Focuses more on industry-specific skills
  • May have a capstone project instead of a thesis
  • Typically shorter than an MFA

Both types of degree programs can help you develop your skills in visual communication.

What’s the Difference Between a Masters in Visual Communication Design vs. Graphic Design?

Here are some key differences between the fields of visual communication design and graphic design.

Visual Communication Design Degree Graphic Design Degree
  • Focuses more on symbolic meaning and the messages conveyed by visual designs
  • Includes the study of graphic design as well as other topics, such as page layout for publications
  • Somewhat broader in terms of the range of careers it prepares you for
  • More about creating designs that simply catch people’s attention
  • More specialized field of study
  • Typically for those who specifically want to be a graphic designer

There is some overlap in what you would study in a visual communication design program and a graphic design program.

Is a Visual Communications Master’s Degree Worth It?

Visual Communications Master's Degree

Yes, a visual communications masters degree is worth it for many students. In today’s world, visual communication professionals are in high demand. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics currently projects that employment of art directors will grow 11% over the next decade.

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Employment of special effects artists and animators is expected to grow 16%, and 10% job growth is expected for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In addition to the possibility of job opportunities, many students find the study of visual communications to be personally enriching as they grow to understand art in new ways.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Visual Communications Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University offers a Master of Science in Technical Communication online program. It requires a total of 36 credit hours, or twelve classes, to graduate. Classes are each just 7.5 weeks long. Topics covered include data visualization, content strategy and management, global communication across cultures, and social media.

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green State University campus

Bowling Green State University’s Master of Arts in Media and Communication is available 100% online and designed for working professionals. It requires 30 credit hours of coursework to graduate, and courses are just 7 weeks long. Required courses include Strategic Communication, Advertising Research and Practice, Public Relations Research and Practice, and Social Media Seminar.

Bowling Green State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University campus

Georgetown University offers an online Master’s in Design Management and Communications program. It is designed to develop students’ creativity and business knowledge. It requires the completion of 33 credit hours to graduate and typically takes 2 to 5 years to complete. There are both full-time and part-time enrollment options, and students can start in the fall, spring, or summer.

Georgetown University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University offers a Master of Arts in Visual Communication Design. Courses are 100% online and 8 weeks long. Students in the program have the opportunity to take courses like Issues in Contemporary Art, Advanced Typography, Digital Imaging, and Interactive Design. The degree can potentially be completed in as little as one year.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University campus

Quinnipiac University offers an MS in Interactive Media and Communications. Students in the program study web design and development, social media analytics, video and graphics, and UX design. By the end of the program, students are expected to have a completed web-based portfolio to show prospective employers. Students also have access to a variety of electives.

Quinnipiac is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Point Park University

Point Park University campus

Point Park University offers an MA in Communication Technology. It requires the completion of 36 credit hours to graduate and typically takes 2 to 3 years to complete. Classes are 8 weeks long. The instructors have professional industry experience, and the classes are designed to be flexible and provide personal attention. Topics covered include graphic design, social media, integrated marketing, and search engine optimization.

Point Park University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University campus

Southern New Hampshire University offers a Master’s in Communication online program. Students can pace themselves and potentially complete the program in as little as 15 months. The online platform is available 24/7 so students can work on coursework whenever and wherever is convenient.

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Spring Arbor University

Spring Arbor University campus

Spring Arbor University offers a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership. It can potentially be completed in just 18 months, and applicants do not need to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Students are expected to graduate with an ePortfolio that can be shown to potential employers. Courses include Communication as Calling, Communication Theory and Worldview, and Digital Media Strategies.

Spring Arbor University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

St. Bonaventure University

St Bonaventure University campus

St. Bonaventure University offers a Master of Arts in Communication. Students can potentially graduate in just 22 months, and coursework is 100% online. Specializations are available in Content Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications, and Public Relations. Courses include Finding Your Voice: Introduction to Marketing Communications and Embracing the Brand: Branding, Strategy, and Execution.

St. Bonaventure University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Texas State University

Texas State University campus

Texas State University offers an MFA in Communication Design. The program includes 60 credit hours of coursework, 6 of which are spent completing a thesis. It is mostly online, with one on-campus residency each semester. Career possibilities for graduates include graphic design, UI/UX design, design research, typography, and education.

Texas State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Master’s in Visual Communication Online

Master's in Visual Communication Online

If you earning a master’s degree in visual communication is the next step in your education and career, you have many program options available to you.

Visual communication graduate degree programs are often available online, which can enable you to attend school virtually anywhere without having to commute or move closer to campus. Online learning platforms for visual communication students often feature ways for you to upload samples of your work so that you can receive feedback from instructors and classmates, much the same as you would experience in an online graphic design degree program.

You can get started on your graduate journey today by exploring visual communication masters programs from accredited universities.

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Amy Wilson
WRITTEN BY
Amy Wilson
While attending the University of Georgia, Amy enrolled in both on-campus and online courses giving her the opportunity to explore the pros and cons of each course delivery system. Amy's research is focused on making education more accessible to everyone and how different education methodologies can affect student outcomes.