Interactive Media Design Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Info

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What will you learn in an interactive media design degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Interactive Media Design: Degrees at a Glance

Interactive media design professionals fuse technical skills with artistic talent to create advertisements, marketing communications and other interactive media. Cutting-edge programs incorporate training in social media and modern Web technologies. The associate's degree program can prepare you for entry-level opportunities in a number of industries, including advertising, television and publishing. The bachelor's degree program provides an in-depth education and can lead to a career as an art director or a graphic designer.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that the employment outlook for the careers that use interactive media skills would vary. According to the BLS, desktop publishers were projected to see a 15% decline in jobs from 2010-2020, while graphic designers were expected to experience a 13% increase during that decade (www.bls.gov). Job opportunities were likely to be affected by overseas contracting, but candidates with strong computer graphics skills and artistic talent should enjoy good employment prospects.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level support or specialist positions in the entertainment, broadcasting or advertising industries People who want to pursue a mid-level position in industries that uses various forms of media
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Desktop publisher ($37,000)*
- Audio-visual and multimedia collections specialist ($45,000)*
- Graphic designer ($44,000)*
- Multimedia artist or animator ($61,000)*
- Art director ($81,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - General education courses
- About 10-15 courses cover interactive media and related topics
- Practicum/comprehensive project
- Portfolio
- Roughly 16-20 courses covering interactive media
- General education courses
- Capstone project
- Professional portfolio
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate's in Interactive Media Design

The associate's degree program provides a foundation in aesthetic sensibility, design-related software and scripting languages. Multiple jobs in desktop publishing, multimedia illustration or animation are available to graduates of the program. Schools usually design curricula to focus on the latest technologies used to create Web-based and gaming experiences. You'll learn to use multiple scripting languages, cascading style sheets for the Web, video editing and HTML. The school you select may require that you have access to the latest hardware and software to finish your education.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Careers in the industry pay a relatively competitive salary
  • Can give you an advantage over applicants who don't have any postsecondary training
  • Designing a professional portfolio is part of the program, which can give you something to show employers right when you graduate

Cons

  • Slower-than-average or declining job growth was projected for multiple careers the degree qualifies you for (projected employment decrease of 15% for desktop publishers and only an 8% projected increase for multimedia artists and animators from 2010-2020)*
  • Some employers may prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree
  • You'll need a bachelor's degree if you want to become a graphic designer or an art director

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections).

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree program combines courses in programming, scripting and artistry with general education and communications. You'll learn 2-D and 3-D illustration and modeling concepts and apply the use of storyboarding to Web and video design. Here are some courses you might take:

  • Optimizing media graphics
  • Flash design
  • Online database development
  • Web publishing
  • Computer design
  • Game scripting
  • Project development

Most associate's programs include a practicum or a comprehensive project that allows you to apply what you learned in your courses. You may be required to purchase a specific laptop or computer for the program (unless you already own one that qualifies), and the exact specifications depend on what your school uses.

Online Degree Options

Schools offer the interactive media design associate's degree online. Online programs provide coursework similar to traditional programs and usually take 2 years to complete. Some programs may require a few campus visits for a lab or practicum. You can usually find hybrid programs that give you some online courses and some on-campus ones. You'll probably need specific computer hardware and software, which you may have to purchase before you start the program.

Stand Out with This Degree

Experience, artistic ability and strong design skills are essential to gaining employment. Finding an internship while you work on your studies can give you an advantage when you graduate. An internship can give you a taste of what software is used and what skills you need to improve. In addition, building strong design skills by taking elective courses in digital imaging or programming design can give you advanced technical skills that make you stand out.

Obtaining a certification can help boost your earning potential and employment prospects. For example, Adobe offers the Adobe Certified Associate designation, which validates your skills in digital media communications using Adobe software.

Bachelor's in Interactive Media Design

The bachelor's degree in interactive media design can prepare you to become a graphic designer, multimedia artist or art director. Schools typically offer programs through a department of business or computer technology. Students study professional communications and business concepts in addition to programming, design and information technology. Many programs require the purchase of a Macintosh computer, which is a standard in the multimedia design industry.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can give you an advantage over associate's degree holders
  • Offers advanced coursework in interactive media design
  • Opens up positions that you couldn't get with an associate's degree (art director, graphic designer)

Cons

  • Additional technology requirements can make the program rather expensive
  • It'll take you at least 4 years to obtain a degree that is not a hard requirement for many interactive media positions (multimedia artists and animators)
  • Many programs have limited elective and concentration options

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree enhances your ability to solve problems using interactive media. You can learn to evaluate available technologies, apply the principles of user interface design to projects and engage target audiences with interactive products. Some of your courses might include Web development, design and color, video production, editing digital media, fundamentals of interactive design and technical communication. Programs typically have a capstone project that synthesizes your knowledge with practical experience. You'll likely need a computer that meets the program requirements before you begin, so keep in mind that this could add to the cost of the program.

Online Degree Options

Similar to the associate's program, schools offer a bachelor's degree program completely online. Some programs allow you to count your associate's degree coursework towards some of the technical and general education requirements of the bachelor's degree. The technology requirements are similar to the on-campus program, so you may have to purchase a new computer before the program starts.

Stand Out with This Degree

Pursuing certification can give you an edge over other applicants by showing employers that you have the ability to use specific programs. The Adobe Certified Associate credential offers a variety of options, including certification in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Flash. The best certification for you depends on what media design software you use.

In addition to obtaining vendor-specific certification, you may consider seeking a postbaccalaureate professional certificate. The postbaccalaureate certificate provides advanced training in concepts and theories, typography and the elements of design. Pursuing a certificate will cost more and take additional time but may result in increasing your marketability and providing access to additional employment prospects.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Communications
      • A.S. General Studies - Communications
  • Silver City, NM

    Western New Mexico University

  • Farmington, CT

    Tunxis Community College

  • Tulsa, OK

    Tulsa Community College

  • Chicago, IL

    Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

  • Indianapolis, IN

    Indiana University

  • Dryden, NY

    Tompkins Cortland Community College

  • Saint Cloud, MN

    St Cloud Technical and Community College

  • South Portland, ME

    Southern Maine Community College

  • Dayton, OH

    Sinclair Community College

Featured Schools

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. General Studies - Communications

What is your highest level of education?

Western New Mexico University

Tunxis Community College

Tulsa Community College

Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

Tompkins Cortland Community College

St Cloud Technical and Community College