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Colleges with Visual Communications Programs: How to Choose

Those who have a degree in visual communications can work in a variety of areas including journalism, advertising, media, research or graphic design. This field of study covers subjects such as animation, game art, design, graphic arts, illustration and photography. Learn about things you should consider when choosing a visual communications program, and see some schools in the U.S. that offer visual communications degrees.

Visual communications programs often cover subjects like graphic design, illustration and photography, and are available at various levels at many colleges and universities.

10 Schools with Visual Communications Programs

Here's a list of schools with relevant programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees (In-State, 2015-2016)*
Auburn University Auburn, Alabama 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate:
$10,424
Graduate:
$10,418
Belmont University Nashville, Tennessee 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate:
$30,000
Graduate:
$19,960
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate Undergraduate:
$50,665 Graduate:
$41,371
Duke University Durham, North Carolina 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $49,241
Iowa State University Ames, Iowa 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate:
In-state $7,736
Graduate:
In-state $9,172
New York University New York, New York 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate:
$47,750
Graduate:
$40,984
Purdue University West Lafayette, Indiana 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate:
$10,002 Graduate:
$10,002
San Francisco State University San Francisco, California 4-year, Public Bachelor's $6,476
Texas State University San Marcos, Texas 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate:
$9,348
Graduate:
$7,786
University of Chicago Chicago, Illinois 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate:
$51,351 Graduate:
$52,713

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when choosing a visual communications program:

  • Students looking into visual communications programs should see what equipment and facilities each school provides. Programs that offer fully equipped computer labs with state of the art equipment and software might give students more opportunities to work with the technology they will come across in the workforce.
  • It's important to note that applicants to graduate programs will traditionally need to submit a portfolio of their work that includes items such as photos, graphic design projects, animated spots or online multimedia projects. Prospective students may want to look for undergraduate programs that include internship opportunities.
  • Most levels of study concentrate on the same topics; however, the amount of focus and depth will increase in higher-level degree programs. Some programs require students to pass a qualifying exam to proceed to upper-level courses.

Associate's Degree in Visual Communications

Associate's degree programs typically take two years to complete. Some schools allow students to choose a specialization such as animation, 3-D modeling, game art, interactive media or motion graphics. Coursework includes general education subjects such as math, science and history, in addition to visual communications courses.

Bachelor's Degree in Visual Communications

These 4-year programs may offer areas of concentration in 3D animation, photography or publishing. Some schools also include internships as part of their required curriculum. Depending on the area of emphasis, courses may include the study of illustration, graphic design and art history.

Master's Degree in Visual Communications

Students with a bachelor's degree can earn a master's degree in visual communications. Some schools may require a degree in a related subject; others may accept any bachelor's degree that is accompanied by a portfolio demonstrating familiarity and experience. Graduate students may work as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses in the department such as introductory design courses.

Typically offered at the bachelor's and master's degree levels, visual communications programs may be presented as communication design, digital communications, graphic design or visual arts majors. Before selecting a program, students should find out what kinds of facilities are available and familiarize themselves with the coursework and prerequisites.

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