Visual Communications Degree Program Information

Students in a visual communications program learn how to relay messages to mass audiences through imagery and graphic design. Undergraduate and master's degree programs provide study in this diverse field. Learn about programs and careers.

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Essential Information

Visual communications are used in the entertainment, fashion, advertising and marketing industries to convey messages, sell products and promote images. Those interested in this creative area of study can pursue training at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. The broad curricula of these programs address subjects like color, advertising, digital editing and design history. Students in these programs learn through classroom lectures, projects and studio work.

Associate's Degrees in Visual Communications

Associate's degrees in this field are wide-ranging, with the option to choose emphasis areas like graphic design, multimedia, Web design, communication design or advertising design. At this level, these degrees typically fall under Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts programs. A high-school diploma is usually required.

Students learn the principles of design, color, texture and shape and then apply these principles to the design of websites, digital images, advertising campaigns and media events. Students are also encouraged to create professional portfolios showcasing skills and techniques learned throughout the program. Additional visual communications courses cover subjects like drawing, computer graphics and photography. Core courses typically covered include:

  • Image editing
  • Digital layout
  • Art movements
  • Aesthetics
  • Electronic illustration

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication

Bachelor's degree programs in visual communications teach students to use visual art to persuade consumers and promote products. As with an associate's degree, applicants to the bachelor's program should have a high-school diploma or its equivalent.

The curriculum includes traditional courses, training in computer labs, design studios and an internship. Students study drawing, typography, website and graphic design. Visual communications courses teach students how to utilize graphics design software, Web design tools and various design materials while developing professional standards in the creation of visual art. The program typically culminates in a portfolio development course. Areas of study include:

  • Design software production
  • Visual solutions
  • Typesetting
  • Advertising design
  • Project organization

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Communication

This MFA program is a terminal degree program that qualifies graduates to teach in secondary schools and community colleges. Applicants are usually required to have a bachelor's degree and a portfolio of their work.

The curricula of these programs combine design and studio courses with an emphasis on research and solutions for solving complex design problems. Students develop an understanding of visual communications history and strategies for using art to represent people, products and businesses. These programs allow students to focus their studies on interactive design, 3-D design, illustration and Web design, among other options. Master's programs usually culminate in an internship, final examination and master's thesis or studio project. Courses may also include a discussion of:

  • Audience
  • Typographic layout
  • 2-D form
  • Sustainable design
  • Design analysis

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a visual communications associate's degree program have the opportunity to work in fashion, advertising, entertainment, public relations and more. These opportunities may include the following job titles:

  • Set decorator
  • Visual stylist
  • Events coordinator
  • Assistant art director
  • Graphic designer

Career options for graduates with bachelor's degrees in visual communications exist in corporations, design firms, colleges, publishing firms, advertising agencies and performing arts organizations. Graduates can obtain positions such as:

  • Animator
  • Web designer
  • Graphics designer
  • Art director
  • Illustrator
  • Print designer
  • Freelancer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates of visual communications programs have numerous career options, including opportunities in graphics design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for graphic designers are expected to grow slower than the average for all occupations in the U.S., with little or no change expected between 2014 and 2024 ( The BLS also reported that graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $46,900 in May 2015. Multi-media artists and animators held 64,400 jobs in 2014 and earned a median annual wage of $63,970 in 2015, according to the BLS.

A visual communications degree can be applied to various industries, such as entertainment, fashion, and marketing. Graduates of these programs may find careers such as animators, illustrators, art directors and graphics designers.

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