2022 Best Online Masters in Visual Communication [Program Guide]

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A masters in visual communication equips you with the skills necessary to create and interpret visual messages. This includes understanding how to use various visual elements—such as color, shape, and text—to convey a message effectively.

Best Online Masters in Visual Communication

With this knowledge, you can be better prepared for senior or leadership positions in advertising, design, and creative writing. In addition, you can develop your communication expertise in a world increasingly relying on visual media.

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Pursuing a master’s degree in visual communication online can also give you the flexibility to study at your own pace and complete the program around your other commitments.

Masters in Visual Communication Online Programs

Masters in Visual Communication Online Programs

In the world we live in today, it is undeniable that visual communication plays a vital role in almost every aspect of our lives.

Be it for informing, educating, or influencing human thoughts, visuals have always been an effective means of conveying messages to people of all age groups and cultures. With the advent of social media and other digital platforms, the reach and impact of visual communication has only increased manifold.

Whether for communicating brand messages, designing user interfaces, or political campaigning, visual communication has become an integral part of almost every field. A master’s degree in visual communication can open up a world of career opportunities. With the skills you can develop in this program, you may be able to pursue a variety of jobs in the fields of media and communication as well as marketing and advertising.

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Some professionals find themselves working for a marketing agency, animation studio, production company, social media marketing firm, or advertising agency. In addition, the skills you learn in this program could be beneficial for a career in academia.

Looking at the current landscape, some possible career paths include:

  • Art director
  • Design strategist
  • Design engineer
  • Community college professor
  • Design researcher
  • Typographer
  • Creative management
  • Graphic designer

Depending on the combination of courses that the degree program offers, you can get a Master of Arts (MA), a Master of Science (MS), or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA). An MA or an MS can help you develop skills in traditional subjects like print as well as new areas of technology. An MFA delves deeper to help you develop a personal approach to design in your area of specialization.

Visual Communications Careers & Salaries

Visual Communications Careers & Salaries

Completing a visual communications program exposes you to a variety of career opportunities in design, media, and communication.

The field of graphic design involves formatting text, images, and other visual elements to create a compelling copy in various industries, including advertising, branding, and exhibitions. Graphic design applies to both print and digital media.

Game designers use visual elements to create interactive programs for gamers. Illustrators, on the other hand, create visual sketches and images for books, magazines, film, and digital media to communicate to the audience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries for some visual communications careers.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $133,380
Art Directors $100,890
Web and Digital Interface Designers $79,890
Postsecondary Teachers $79,640
Special Effects Artists and Animators $78,790
Industrial Designers $77,030
Film and Video Editors $62,680
Fine Artists $60,820
Set and Exhibit Designers $54,860
Graphic Designers $50,710

Visual communication careers extend across many fields, and your potential salary will differ depending on a number of factors—including your role, area of specialization, and skill level. With experience and masters-level training, some professionals move into senior or leadership roles.

An art director role can involve branding and strategizing visuals for businesses, books, magazines, films, advertising videos, or websites. They can also coordinate with other communication departments in the organization.

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Tenure-track professors and college professors have different roles, but both roles involve building visual communication curriculum and programs. While it’s typical for professors to hold a PhD, community colleges often hire instructors with masters degrees.

Visual Communication Masters Curriculum & Courses

Visual Communication Masters

Many of the universities that offer a master’s in visual communications degree online include  these types of courses in their curriculum:

  • Art Direction: This course includes an in-depth examination of conceptual frameworks like branding, design strategy, and choice of copy in choosing art direction for different mediums.
  • Design Management: This course exposes you to management methods in the design industry.
  • Design Writing: This course delves into written communication in the design industry.
  • Design Language: You’ll explore design as a language of communication, and you’ll study different design strategies in various mediums, like print and digital media.
  • Corporate Marketing Materials: You can learn how to use different elements in advertisement to communicate effectively with customers.
  • Graphics Communication Management: This course exposes learners to management theories and practical solutions for managing a graphics communication team.
  • Interaction and Interactive Design: This course examines the application of visual elements in interactive areas of design, such as web and app design.
  • Motion Design: You’ll explore motion media in detail, looking at ways real-time elements interact with 2D and 3D artistic expressions.
  • Communication Design: This course delves into modern communication design, focusing on digital product design and theories like copyright and ethics.
  • Visual Perception: This course takes you through the history and evolution of visual perception and the use of visual elements in the creative process.

Courses vary depending on the program, so it could be beneficial to go through a prospective school’s course list before applying.

Admissions Requirements

Masters in Visual Communication requirements

Many colleges offering visual communication graduate programs have these admission requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in graphic design, media, or a related field
  • Personal essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)

Visual communication MA programs don’t typically ask for a portfolio of your work, but some schools require them for MFA students. You can check with your preferred visual communication graduate program for their specific admission requirements.

Accreditation

Masters in Visual Communication accreditation

The accreditation of a college or university can be an essential factor in your decision-making process. Most institutions list their accreditation status on their websites.

It is beneficial to check whether the type of accreditation is recognized by employers in your chosen field, as this may impact your future career prospects. Regional accreditation is often seen as being more reliable because it involves an independent assessment of the quality of an institution’s education. This can give you greater confidence that the institution you choose will provide a high-quality education.

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To check the accreditation status of your prospective schools, you can go to the website of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) also gives accreditation to some visual communication and graphic design master’s programs.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Masters in Visual Communication financial aid

Visual communication graduate programs can be a costly affair. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to bear the full cost.

There are various financial aid opportunities available to qualifying students, and some colleges even offer fully-funded graduate programs. Many financial aid options grant funds on the basis of academic merit or financial need.

Some universities offer grants and scholarships for visual communication design masters programs. Alternatively, you can look out for private organizations that specifically offer scholarships for visual communications majors.

You may also be eligible to receive federal aid, which includes student loans. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify.

What Can You Do with a Masters in Visual Communication?

Masters in Visual Communication

A masters in visual communication can lead to several different career paths. Graduates often find work in advertising, branding, graphic design, design strategy, and web design.

The skills learned in a visual communication program are also valuable in fields such as marketing and education. In fact, almost any field that relies on clear and effective communication can benefit from the skills of a visual communication expert.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for arts and design occupations is $48,220. Leadership positions, such as art directors and advertising managers, tend to have higher earning potential.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s in Visual Communication Online Degree?

Masters degree in Visual Communication

Most masters programs can be finished in 1 to 2 years. If a visual communication MA requires between 30 and 36 semester credit hours, it can generally be completed in 1 year with full-time enrollment, including the summer break.

You could take longer to complete your graduate program if you need to complete a thesis or a professional project. Learning part-time can add to your completion time as well. Completing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) may also take longer due to the required coursework.

What’s the Difference Between MA vs. MFA in Visual Communications Graduate Programs?

Although a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) are similar, they have some differences worth noting. Here are some key differences between an MA and an MFA in Visual Communication:

  • Length of programs. An MFA is a terminal degree, so it often requires more credit hours than an MA.
  • Degree focus. An MFA is more practice-based, focused on helping artists hone their craft. An MA is more research-based and can help students prepare for doctoral studies.
  • Course requirements. An MA may require either a thesis or a professional project to complete the program, while an MFA typically requires a thesis.

Whether an MA or an MFA is right for you will likely depend on your professional and educational goals.

Is a Masters in Visual Communication Worth It?

Masters in Visual Communication career

Yes, a masters in visual communication is worth it for many professionals. In most fields, visual communication is necessary in order to get messages across clearly and effectively. With the power of the internet, visual communication has become even more vital in most communication avenues.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many visual communication occupations are experiencing faster than average job growth. For instance, art directors and digital designers are projected to see 11% job growth and 13% job growth, respectively, over the next ten years.

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With a master’s in visual communication, you can develop advanced expertise and open yourself up to more job opportunities in this competitive field. Having a graduate degree could also lead to increased earning potential.

Universities Offering Online Masters in Visual Communication Degree Program

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers an online program for a Master of Science in Technical Communication. It is designed to teach students successful communication techniques for diverse audiences in both digital and print media. The program consists of 12 classes that cover topics like data visualization, social media, user experience, and content strategy.

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Boston University

Boston University

Boston University offers a Master of Science in Health Communication with a specialization in Visual and Digital Health Communication. The program is designed for students interested in pursuing communication roles within the healthcare sector. This fully online, 32 credit program can be taken part-time and is typically completed in 16 to 18 months.

Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Idaho State University

Idaho State University

Idaho State University offers a Master’s in Communication, Media, and Persuasion. It aims to graduate individuals who engage critically and creatively with the world in both their personal and professional lives. Whether students decide to attend class online or on-campus, they will have opportunities to learn fundamental concepts in media, criticism, and theory and strategic communication.

Idaho State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Liberty University

Liberty University

At Liberty University, the Master of Arts in Visual Communication Design aims to help experienced artists elevate their careers by teaching diverse, marketable skills. The curriculum covers topics like graphic design, advertising, and electronic media. This online program consists of 30 credit hours and can typically completed in 1 year of full-time study.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Ohio University

Ohio University

Ohio University offers a Master’s in Visual Communication. The program covers a variety of topics in the field of visual communication, such as journalism, media production, print and web design, and telecommunications. This fully online degree is often an excellent fit for students pursuing communication-related careers in public, non-profit, and private sectors.

Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Point Park University

Point Park University

In a world where communication is rapidly evolving, organizations need leaders who understand those shifting demands. Point Park University seeks to develop professionals to meet these needs in its Master of Arts in Communication Technology program. Courses can be attended fully online, and the program can typically be completed in 2 to 3 years.

Point Park University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

St. Bonaventure University

St Bonaventure University

Central to St. Bonaventure University’s Master of Arts in Communication is storytelling, which drives successful content creation, marketing strategy, and audience connection. Students in this online degree program have three specializations to choose from according to their specific career interests. Options include Integrated Marketing Communication, Content Marketing, and Public Relations.

St. Bonaventure University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Texas State University

Texas State University

The Master of Fine Arts in Communication Design program at Texas State University boasts diverse faculty, lectures from visiting industry experts, and flexible, online classes. The program is often a great next step for individuals interested in graphic design, user experience design, or typography.

Texas State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Tiffin University

Tiffin University

Tiffin University offers a Master of Humanities in Art and Visual Media. The program is designed to help students with an existing passion for art learn core professional skills and harness their creativity for exciting, in-demand roles. This fully online program can typically be completed in 1.5 years for full-time students and 2.5 years for part-time students.

Tiffin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina offers a Master of Arts in Digital Communication. The program aims to teach students how to analyze data trends, utilize innovative communication strategy, and make meaningful connections with their target audiences. Core courses in this online program include Media Analytics, Visual Literacy, Communications Strategy, and Leadership and Entrepreneurship.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Master in Visual Communication Degree Online

Master in Visual Communication Degree Online

A master’s in visual communication offers you a chance to broaden your design knowledge and skill sets. Many fields—ranging from business and communication to the arts—need people with these skills.

This online visual communications degree graduate program can help equip you to start or advance your career in this lucrative field. Some professionals even start their own business or pursue academia. There is a high demand for visual communication experts, and many accredited colleges offer online graduate degrees in this field, allowing for more flexibility with your studies.

You can start exploring accredited universities today to find the visual communication masters program that best aligns with your interests and career goals.

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Ben Flynn
WRITTEN BY
Ben Flynn
Ben has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Northwestern University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Project Management from New York University. Ben's work focuses on the intersections of education, leadership, community college reform, and workplace training and development.