Media Design Degrees: Bachelors, Associates & Online Course Info

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

Many entry-level jobs in graphic design and desktop publishing are open to individuals with an associate's degree, while higher paid positions in multimedia design and art direction often require a bachelor's degree. By enrolling in a degree program in media design, you can learn fundamental design, animation, and technical skills that can open up a variety of career paths, such as desktop publisher, multimedia artist, graphic designer, or art director.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted the employment outlook for digital artists to vary, depending on your area of specialization. Desktop publishing jobs were projected to decline 15% between 2010 and 2020. Growth for multimedia artists and animators was predicted to increase at a slower-than-average rate of 8%, and art director jobs were predicted to see slower-than-average growth of 9% over the same decade. However, jobs for graphic designers were predicted to increase 13% between 2010 and 2020.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? - Those interested in pursuing careers in the digital arts
- Individuals interested in transferring their credits to a bachelor's degree program
Those interested in careers in multimedia, or the graphic arts
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Desktop publisher ($37,000 - may require experience in page layouts)*
- Multimedia artist or animator ($61,000)*
- Graphic designer ($44,000)*
- Film or video editor ($53,000)*
- Art director ($81,000 - typically requires 3-5 years of experience in an arts related profession)*
Time to Completion 2-2.5 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 64-72 semester hours, including general studies courses, and media design courses
- Design portfolio or capstone project
- 124-136 semester hours, including core curriculum, general studies, and media design courses
- Final portfolio or project
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma, and minimum GPA
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate's in Media Design

As associate's degree in media design can provide graduates with design, programming, and animation skills required to work as a digital artist in a variety of industries. In addition, students may learn speech and writing skills that could enable them to effectively communicate in the workplace. At the culmination of this degree program, many students have accumulated a portfolio of design work that they can show to potential employers to demonstrate their skill.

While this degree typically results in entry-level employment, it also provides an opportunity to begin accumulating experience, which can lead to greater job growth. It can also serve as starting point to earning a 4-year degree. It's important to realize that an associate's degree may not fully prepare you for every position in the digital arts, and you could potentially compete with bachelor's degree holders for the same jobs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Often, students can locate a community college, or technical school offering courses in their area.
  • Lower tuition costs usually make this degree more accessible for students.
  • This degree provides an opportunity to get practical hands-on training in a relatively short amount of time.

Cons

  • The degree requires computer skills that can be challenging for some students.
  • Many jobs require that students have exceptional skills in design, writing, and programming that they may not have time to develop in a 2-year program.
  • You could compete with bachelor's degree holders for the same jobs.

Common Courses and Requirements

As a student in a digital media program, you'll have the opportunity to take courses that can hone your artistic abilities, and help you build your technical skills. Classes typically combine hands-on instruction with theory to help you acquire fundamental skills and knowledge. Additionally, these programs often require you to complete a capstone project, or design portfolio. Digital media course requirements may include the following:

  • 3-D modeling
  • Digital imaging
  • Web publishing
  • Web design
  • Graphics creation
  • Programming and scripting

Online Degree Options

You can find many choices for online degrees at technical schools, community colleges, and art institutes. These degree programs generally include the same courses and requirements as their on-campus counterparts. As with any online degree, you must organize your time and adhere to the class schedule on your own, meeting deadlines and submitting work on time.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

This degree provides an opportunity for you to enter the field of media design, and to begin building a portfolio that demonstrates your creativity and skills. Many employers value experience as much as education, and an extensive portfolio that showcases your skill and ability to create a variety of designs can put you ahead of your competition.

Bachelor's in Media Design

Colleges offer a variety of degree choices in media design, and students may have the option to specialize in a particular area, such as game design, graphic design, or animation. Some schools offer programs specially tailored to these areas, while others give you the option to pursue electives in a particular area of media design.

These programs can help you develop the necessary technical and artistic skills for a variety of digital arts careers. They also provide a broad general studies curriculum, which can assist you in developing other desirable skills, such as communication abilities, writing skills, and critical thinking skills. However, it's essential to understand that employers hiring digital artists generally look for artistic and computer skills, demonstrated through a portfolio, and a degree alone isn't enough to guarantee employment.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree can lead to a variety of career options in the digital arts
  • Can help you develop your artistic and technical skills to a professional level
  • Courses generally provide the opportunity to use industry standard software programs

Cons

  • This degree focuses on careers that are expected to see slow growth during the next decade.
  • Media design work requires many long hours in front of a computer to create designs.
  • A degree alone isn't enough to guarantee employment; demonstrable artistic and technical abilities are also required.

Courses and Requirements

These degree programs can provide in-depth training in the digital arts. Students could have the opportunity to focus on a specialized area, such as game design, graphic design, or digital animation. In addition to general studies courses, students have the opportunity to take courses in the digital arts that may include the following:

  • Computer animation
  • Digital modeling
  • Web design
  • Video production
  • Game design
  • Web design
  • Graphic design

In addition to completing required coursework and electives, colleges could require that you complete a senior project or portfolio demonstrating your work.

Online Degree Options

Many colleges and universities offer online courses for students to complete their bachelor's degree. While some institutions offer these degrees in a hybrid format, which requires students to attend some classes in person and some online, other educational institutions offer these degree programs entirely online. Keep in mind that if you decide to complete an internship, you'll typically have to complete it onsite.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you select a degree program that includes courses in technical writing, programming, and communications, you can widen the career choices you will have once you graduate, and you won't be limited to one career path. Since the design industry expects to have slow growth in the next decade, by widening your knowledge base, you can broaden your 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
  • Minneapolis, MN

    Dunwoody College of Technology

  • Bellingham, WA

    Whatcom Community College

  • Sioux City, IA

    Western Iowa Tech Community College

  • Fremont, OH

    Terra State Community College

  • Belleville, IL

    Southwestern Illinois College

  • Big Rapids, MI

    Ferris State University

  • Big Spring, TX

    Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf

  • Sioux Falls, SD

    Southeast Technical Institute

  • Lafayette, LA

    South Louisiana Community College

Featured Schools

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. General Studies - Communications

What is your highest level of education?

Whatcom Community College

Western Iowa Tech Community College

Terra State Community College

Southwestern Illinois College

Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf