Digital Arts Degrees: Bachelors, Associates & Online Course Info

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What kind of jobs can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in digital arts? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses and digital arts training programs.
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Digital Arts Associate's and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

While a degree isn't required to work as a digital artist, enrolling in an associate's or bachelor's degree program will prepare you to work in the field by teaching you how to use software programs and computer applications to create artistic images. Earning an associate's degree will provide you with basic artistic skills while a bachelor's degree program will include advanced courses related to the field. Graduates of these programs will compete for entry-level jobs, and employers will look at applicants' portfolios to choose the right candidate.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2010-2020, employment for multimedia artists was projected to increase eight percent. Duties will depend on the employer and can vary from creating graphics and effects to developing storyboards and make designs.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to obtain basic digital artistic skills Individuals who want more advanced skills in the field
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Multimedia artist ($68,000)*
-Illustrator ($53,000)*
-Graphic designer ($49,000)*
-Art director ($96,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements -About 20-24 courses
-Portfolio
-About 40-48 courses
-Portfolio
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Digital Arts

In addition to learning about digital technology and its relationship to the arts, students will also learn how to expand their creativity and originality. An associate's degree program in digital arts will prepare you for a career in digital media production. Due to the technical nature of the program and to complete certain projects, the ability to learn or prior experience with digital equipment and software is necessary, which may add pressure as you progress through the program. While courses will develop a student's basic skills, opportunities may also be available to work on collaborative projects with peers. Students will need to complete a portfolio to prepare them for employment opportunities, but it will likely need to be reviewed and approved by department staff.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Work in a creative field
  • Self-employment opportunities*
  • Can work in several industries, such as education, television and the Internet

Cons

  • Employment may be hindered by hiring artists overseas
  • Deadlines may cause stress
  • Nights and weekends may be required

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

A 2-year associate's degree program in digital arts combines both general education requirements and core digital arts courses. General education requirements may include mathematics, humanities, social sciences and English. Core digital arts courses could include drawing, Web design, motion graphics, digital imaging and media planning. Students may also take elective courses in an area where they wish to work. These classes may include digital media production, digital video production, video game foundations and digital graphic design.

Online Course Options

Students may be able to find degree programs online related to digital arts. For example, online associate's degree programs in animation and visual effects are available that cover the same topics and prepare students for digital arts careers. Students in an online program typically take courses through a course management system and learn through online lectures, readings and tutorials.

How to Stand Out with This Degree

The BLS states that while a degree may not be required, having a strong portfolio and being proficient in various computer software programs will make you a strong candidate for jobs. Those working in the digital arts use a variety of design software, but they may also be asked to write original programming code. In addition to technical and artistic skills, you'll also stand out by being creative in terms of writing and coming up with stories to accompany your visual creations.

Bachelor's in Digital Arts

A bachelor's degree in digital arts will offer students an opportunity to learn more about digital technology and explore their creativity and self-expression. Pursuing this degree provides students with a chance to become more proficient using software programs and to develop a more comprehensive portfolio for employers. Students will get to take advanced courses and learn about developing and editing stories. Some bachelor's degree programs in this field have visiting lecturers and speakers from major multimedia companies. Without natural artistic talent, progression through the degree program may be stalled. Also, some programs may not offer concentration areas, limiting you to general design content.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Additional career opportunities
  • Freelancing is available
  • The popularity of applications for mobile devices may increase employment*

Cons

  • Job may be repetitive
  • Competition may exist against associate's degree graduates for entry-level jobs
  • Will need to sit for long periods of time
  • 40+ hour work weeks are common

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Like in an associate's degree program, students will be required to complete general education and core digital arts courses. In fact, the courses for the first two years of the program will resemble the ones in an associate's degree program. Students will gain basic skills in operating computer programs and creating artistic designs and effects. Higher-level courses may cover topics in 2D and 3D modeling, animation, HTML, typography and game design. Some kind of senior project is usually required and is faculty-reviewed and graded.

Online Course Options

Bachelor's degree programs related to digital arts are available fully online as well. Admissions requirements for distance learning are the same as for campus students. To complete the courses, students will need to have a computer with Internet access and an updated operating system. Communication takes place through e-mail, message boards and chat rooms. The program may also require students to have other technical requirements, including design software, word processing programs, a DVD drive and speakers. You may also need drawing tools like pencils and sketch paper.

How to Stand Out with This Degree

Artistic talent is important in the digital arts field, so while earning your bachelor's degree, you could continue to develop your technical skills through electives. Since multimedia artists can work in many different industries, it's advisable to become proficient in print and electronic software programs and terminology. Some schools offer certificates in specialty areas, so depending upon the prerequisites, you could study an area of interest during a summer session.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Information Technology
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    2. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Network Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Computer Information Technology
      • A.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AAS in Technical Studies (Computer Technologies)
      • AAS in Technical Studies (Electromechanical Technologies)
      • AAS in Technical Studies (Electronic / Instrumentation Technologies)
      • AS in Science in Technology (Computer Technologies)
      • AS in Science in Technology (Electromechanical Technologies)
      • AS in Science in Technology (Electronic / Instrumentation Technologies)
  • Knoxville, TN

    Pellissippi State Technical Community College

  • Warwick, RI

    New England Institute of Technology

  • Online Programs Available
    9. Thomas Edison State University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • ASNSM in Computer Science
      • AAS in Applied Computer Studies
      • ASAST in Computer and Information Technology

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Information Technology
  • AASIT: Network Admin

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ECPI University

  • Associate's - Network Security

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Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
  • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Computer Information Technology
  • A.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology

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Excelsior College

  • AAS in Technical Studies (Computer Technologies)
  • AAS in Technical Studies (Electromechanical Technologies)
  • AAS in Technical Studies (Electronic / Instrumentation Technologies)

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