Multimedia Arts Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a multimedia arts degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Multimedia Arts: Degrees at a Glance

Studying multimedia arts can prepare you for a range of careers, from supplying animation for movies, television and video games to serving as art director for a corporation or non-profit. Technically, a degree is not necessary to become a multimedia artist. However, employers will hire you based on your portfolio, which you will develop as you work through your degree program. As such, the bachelor's degree is considered the entry-level degree for multimedia artists.

When deciding whether or not to pursue a degree in multimedia arts, be aware that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that multimedia artists and animators were expected to see only an eight percent growth in employment opportunities from 2010-2020, which was less than the occupational average. This tepid growth is attributed to the outsourcing of animation and graphic design work.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People interested in entry-level positions in the multimedia field Those interested in careers as multimedia artists and animators
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Graphic designer ($49,000)*
- Production assistant (salary unavailable)
- Multimedia artists and animators ($68,000)*
- Art director ($95,500 - this salary is more common for individuals with several years of experience)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Approximately four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Some programs feature an internship - Internship
- Senior project
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate's Degree in Multimedia Arts

Degree candidates in this type of multimedia arts degree program study design and communication principles, drawing and composition, script development and storyboarding. You'll also spend time in computer labs, working with the latest in software programs as you master digital imaging, animation and website development. Drawing, painting, printmaking and photography classes add a dimension of the visual or plastic arts to balance out the curriculum. This degree is offered in a variety of formats, including Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Art.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Will allow you to develop your portfolio
  • After two years of study you'll be ready to begin working
  • With a bit of planning, upon graduating you should be able to transfer your credits to a 4-year program

Cons

  • Will not prepare you for as many job possibilities as a bachelor's degree
  • You may end up competing for jobs with individuals who don't have a degree
  • Depending on where you live, you may have to relocate to where the jobs are

Courses and Requirements

Your coursework will be comprised of lectures as well as lab courses. In the lab courses, you'll work with image manipulation software and work on your freehand drawing and painting skills. A portion of your coursework will be spent developing your portfolio. Some programs feature an internship as a degree requirement. Listed below are some sample courses.

  • Figure drawing
  • Web development
  • Photoshop
  • Design principles

Online Course Options

For those looking for the benefit of flexible classes there are online courses in multimedia arts available. These courses are generally offered as part of a degree program, whether in multimedia studies or a related field such as graphic arts or Web design. When researching the courses or programs you are interested in, be certain the institute in question is accredited.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you're looking for a way to stand out within the multimedia field, you may want to consider joining a professional organization, such as AIGA. Formerly known as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, AIGI is a professional design organization that has been in existence since 1914. It is open to students as well as working professionals. The organization offers networking opportunities, job listings, student scholarships and more.

Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Arts

In these programs, students study the emergent technologies used to create and convey ideas and images. The curriculum is often structured in an interdisciplinary manner, with courses in fields such as communications, media studies, technology and art. The coursework is comprised of didactic instruction alongside hands-on lab courses, in which you'll get to experiment with the latest in multimedia software and hardware. This degree is traditionally offered in the Bachelor of Arts degree format.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many programs feature an internship, providing you with valuable professional experience
  • After completing your degree, you'll be poised to pursue graduate studies in multimedia arts or a related field
  • Will most likely make you eligible for more jobs than the associate's degree

Cons

  • According to the BLS, jobs for multimedia artists will increase at a slower-than-average rate from 2010-2020*
  • The BLS also states that multimedia artists often have to work long hours because of deadlines
  • As a multimedia artist, you'll need to take continuing education courses to stay on top of the ever-changing world of technology

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

Courses and Requirements

In addition to your core multimedia courses, you will also enroll in general education or humanities electives. These could include writing intensive courses as well as classes in math and the sciences. Many programs also feature an internship, a senior project or both as degree requirements. Below are listed some courses that are likely to be in your program.

  • Digital photography
  • Logo design
  • Web commerce
  • Graphic design

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degree programs in the multimedia field are available. They are offered in a variety of formats. Online programs are offered in multimedia concentrations, such as Web design. Hybrid programs are also available, which use a combination of distance-learning and traditional classroom-based instruction. Some online programs require you to already have an associate's degree in multimedia arts or a related field, such as graphic arts, fine arts or design.

Stand Out with This Degree

The BLS reported that multimedia artists and animators are sometimes called upon to write their own computer code to use in animation or in creating other computer visual effects. With this in mind, it may be a good idea to become fluent in as many computer languages as possible. Computer code is written in particular programming languages. Therefore, it makes sense that the more languages you are familiar with, the easier it will be for you to write your own code for a specific application. It might be the asset that sets you apart from the rest.

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