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Online Bachelors Degree in Visual Arts: Program Summary

Get info about online bachelor's degree programs in visual arts. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

In general, on-campus arts programs are more prevalent, but online bachelor's degree programs in visual arts are available through some schools. While some programs are offered entirely online, others may include both distance learning coursework and in-person learning components. In most cases, students can specialize in visual arts sub-fields, like illustration or printmaking. Submission of a creative portfolio may be required for admission. A bachelor's degree is not strictly required for a career as a visual artist, but it may help aspiring artists improve their technical skills and improve their job prospects.

Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts

These degree programs place the majority of their emphasis on improving students' technical skills and helping them realize their creative potential. Students develop a personal style in the course of exploring sculpture, drawing, painting and printmaking. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED at a minimum to enroll, but those who can submit a portfolio of prior work have better prospects. Transfer options from an associate's degree program may also be available.

Learning Environment

Classes in an online bachelor's degree program in visual art may be completed entirely online or as an online-traditional classroom hybrid. Assignments, notably studio work, must be turned in by set deadlines, but students may access all course content at their convenience. Lectures, readings, video demonstrations and other materials are accessible through a school's website. Interactions between students and the instructor are also handled through a school's website via online forums and e-mail. A bachelor's degree program is typically completed within four years.

Students need a multimedia-capable personal computer, Internet access and graphics software to participate in an online program.

Common Coursework

Bachelor's degree programs generally include liberal arts courses in the humanities, sciences and social sciences. Students who have already earned a bachelor's degree in another field may have the option to enroll in a shortened program that exempts them from the liberal arts requirement.

Color Theory

This course provides a theoretical introduction to the science of color and a practical introduction to the uses of color as an artistic element. Students are assigned a series of projects that improve their capacity to make informed color choices.

Composition in Painting

Students in this course engage in an in-depth study of compositional tools like pattern, staging and tone in the creation of a painting. The course emphasizes the full process from initial concept to finished work.

Mixed Media Drawing

This course explores the expressive potential of collage art. Students learn ways of incorporating textured surfaces, paint, ink and found objects into a drawing.

Relief Printing

Students in this course learn different types of relief printing, such as collagraph, monoprint and woodcut. Coursework stresses both technical skills and creative imagery.

Visual Anatomy

The human skeletal and muscular system is the focus of this course. Students learn the surface complexity of the human body and how to represent it realistically.


Career Information

Possible careers include those of commercial artists or illustrators. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of craft and fine artists will grow two percent, slower than the average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024. Competition will be extremely intense for freelance and salaried positions because the supply of people with creative talent will exceed the supply of jobs. The BLS reported an average annual salary of $54,170 for all fine artists as of May 2015. During that time, craft artists averaged $35,710 per year.

Continuing Education Information

Artists who want to further refine their skills in a structured setting can consider pursuing a master's degree in fine art. Programs at this degree level are available online but are much more commonly found in on-campus degree programs.

In online bachelor's degree programs in visual arts, students learn to use a variety of media and methods to produce a portfolio of art; they can also choose to specialize in a particular subfield of interest. Graduating from one of these programs might enhance the employment prospects of artists and illustrators.

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