Study Interactive Media: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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Associate's and bachelor's degrees in interactive media can lead to careers in Web and multimedia design. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Interactive Media Associate's and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

Interactive media involves the design of digital publications that allow people to interact with products or each other. If you want an interactive media job, you might become a graphic designer or multimedia artist. Graphic designers usually must earn a bachelor's degree in graphic design, while multimedia artists don't always need postsecondary education, but can benefit from an associate's or a bachelor's degree in fine arts, graphics or animation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected the graphic design field to grow 13% from 2010-2020, which was average (www.bls.gov). However, employment of graphic designers in computer systems design was predicted to increase 61% during the same time. The BLS also projected that multimedia artist and animation positions would grow by eight percent during that period. However, you can expect to encounter competition due to strong interest in the field and a high number of talented applicants.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those looking for entry-level positions in Web design or multimedia Students interested in gaining greater knowledge of interactive media and a wider variety of career options
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Web Production Artist ($58,000)*
- Web Designer ($52,000)*
- Multimedia Artist ($61,000)**
- Graphic Designer ($44,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years (full time) 4 years (full time)
Common Graduation Requirements - About 60-110 credit hours
- May require an internship, practicum or capstone project
- Portfolio development
- 124 credit hours
- Senior capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *Salary.com (figures for 2012), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (figures for May 2011).

Associate's in Interactive Media

An associate's degree program in interactive media is designed to teach graphic design basics and the use of computer platforms. Courses can enable you to create interactive displays for education, advertising or games. You'll learn how to provide content for websites, videos and CDs. Much of your coursework must be done on a computer, either in a campus lab or on your own equipment. You may find it helpful to have a computer of your own, so you can accomplish work when off campus.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • As more companies develop their Web presence, jobs in interactive media are expected to grow
  • Interactive media careers offer relatively high salaries for an associate's degree ($58,000 for Web production artists)*
  • Can work in a variety of industries, including gaming, health and business

Cons

  • Most jobs in the field are held by those with bachelor's degrees
  • Competition is strong, since there are many talented individuals involved in interactive media
  • Equipment and programs for working outside of campus labs can be expensive

Source: *Salary.com (2012 figures).

Courses and Requirements

Courses in an interactive media associate's degree program focus on teaching the basics in computer programming and give instruction on the design programs you will most likely encounter in the industry. In addition, you probably will need to take classes in writing, to aid in producing informative products. In addition, you may be required to complete an internship or capstone project before graduating.

Courses you can expect to find in this program include:

  • Introduction to design
  • Vector illustration
  • Web development
  • HTML
  • Flash

Online Course Info

Since this program involves the use of computers, it lends itself well to an online learning environment. Online courses are common, but most schools that offer entirely online associate's degree programs are for-profit universities.

Some schools offer online courses for certification in Adobe software programs like Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash. These classes often require you to purchase these software programs so that you can work from your own personal computer. You can take the prep courses during or after your associate's degree program.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

An important way to improve your chances of employment is to develop a portfolio while working toward your degree. Compiling your most successful projects into an interactive report can showcase your talents to potential employers. You can include websites that you've designed, games you've created or online animations that you've produced.

Another way to get ahead is to seek an internship while working toward your degree. With strong competition among prospective employees, employers are looking for experience, as well as talent. An internship can also help you sharpen your technical skills, which are vital for an interactive media career. You should practice using programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, AfterEffects and Premiere, as well as gain experience with HTML scripting for websites.

Bachelor's in Interactive Media

In addition to offering more in-depth education in the areas of design and programming, the bachelor's degree program offers instruction in management, marketing and business. This additional instruction is geared toward training you for leadership positions in the interactive media industry. As with the associate's degree program, much of the coursework is completed on a computer, and you may find it helpful to have your own personal laptop, as well as the software programs commonly used in your courses.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Interactive media is part of a quickly-growing industry
  • You can learn to head collaborative projects and manage employees
  • A bachelor's degree improves your chances in a highly competitive field

Cons

  • You may be applying for some of the same jobs as those with only an associate's degree
  • Schools may require you to purchase a computer and software, in addition to textbooks
  • Entry-level positions may not pay much more than those available with an associate's degree (graphic designers make a median salary of about $44,000, even though you must usually have a bachelor's degree)*

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

Courses and Requirements

Coursework in this program includes more advanced scripting and design classes than those found in an associate's degree program. You also might learn about a wider range of artistic subjects, including digital photography and video production. In addition, you will take courses designed to help you manage projects involving a team of workers.

Typical courses include:

  • Advanced Web design
  • Advanced graphic design
  • Project management
  • Technical communication

In addition to standard coursework, you will be required to take a capstone course. During this class, you can focus your energy on developing a single project with the intent of producing professional-quality work that you can add to your portfolio.

Online Course Info

Online courses are available for this degree and are structured the same way as campus-based courses. These classes usually require you to own a computer, as well as relevant software. Some of these programs require a significant amount of processing power, and project files can be quite large, so you must make sure that your computer meets the program's technology specifications. You also typically need broadband Internet, access to a printer and a headset with a microphone to attend online classes.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

An internship in an interactive media position can provide valuable experience in the industry and allow you to improve both your technical and leadership skills. Leading collaborative projects during an internship might help you apply for management positions.

As mentioned with the associate's degree program, computer technology knowledge is still very much emphasized. Learning about film animation in particular might increase your job prospects and help you land a job at an animation studio, reported the BLS. Employers often also look for those with an artistic eye for color and design. Taking fine arts classes in drawing can help you develop your artistic side.

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

  • Dryden, NY

    Tompkins Cortland Community College

  • Indianapolis, IN

    Indiana University

  • 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