The 10 Best Master’s in Visual Arts Programs Online for 2018

In the increasingly diverse world of visual arts, there are now more opportunities than ever to put skill and talent to work. From museums to education, to advertising agencies, the artistically versatile are called upon for important roles. A visual arts masters degree online is one of the ways career-oriented artists are advancing their capacity in the industry.

The following ranking represents the top 10 online masters degrees in visual arts. These schools were selected through a focused research process, on the key elements of a strong online degree in the visual arts.

The majority of these online visual arts programs are considered low-residency; the majority of this type of program is completed online but does require some on-campus coursework. While periodic travel may be a stretch for some, there are great benefits to joining your arts community in person.

For more general information regarding online learning, visit our ranking of the top online colleges.

In determining the order of this ranking, we awarded points based on:

  • Range of visual arts academics, blending studio and career-focused curriculum (1-5 points)
  • Faculty artist expertise in visual arts mediums (1-3 points)
  • Students testimonials and alumni success stories (1-3 points)
  • Visual arts networking opportunities (1-3 points)
  • An additional point was awarded for noteworthy features that made it a top college for an entertainment management major.

In the event of a tie in points, the school with the lower net price appears higher in the ranking

Tuition and other data were sourced from each college’s prospective website.

Here is the list of ranked colleges that represent our picks for the top 10 online master’s degrees in visual arts.

#10 –  Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Master’s in Visual Arts Online

Program Website

Points: 12
Program Tuition: $475.00 per-credit-hour

Founded in 1884, Northwestern State University of Louisiana is a student-centered institution. NSUL’s online MA in art is a low-residency, 33-credit degree program; students have the option to attend two campus intensives in the summer months or attend classes at the NSUL for the entirety of their first semester.  Those enrolled in this cheap masters in visual arts online have the option to focus their degree in design, photography, or new media. Regardless of concentration, NSUL’s curriculum is designed to prepare students for long-term, stable arts careers; graduates of this renowned program have found positions at museums, universities, creative agencies, and many more settings.

#9 –  Lesley University

Program Website

Online MFA Degree in Visual Arts

Points: 13
Program Tuition: 1,130.00 per-credit-hourLesley University Best Small Colleges

A progressive institution that values creativity, Lesley University is a collaborative educational experience. Lesley’s online visual arts master’s is a low-residency model, requiring two ten-day intensives a year. MFA students benefit from ongoing arts mentorship, both from Lesley faculty and an artist local to home. LU provides an interdisciplinary arts curriculum, ensuring a well-rounded background in critical dialogue, advanced art practice, and the professional skills needed to succeed. Lesley’s extensive network in the fine arts has often led to promising connections in the field.

#8 –  Tiffin University

Online Master’s in Visual Arts

Program Website

Points: 13
Program Tuition: 500.00 per-credit-hour

A tight-knit campus community, Tiffin University is committed to an individualized student learning experience. Among Tiffin’s advanced degrees is an online master of humanities with a concentration in art and visual media; this degree can be completed 100% online, and students complete coursework in topic areas such as independent film, women in art, photography, teaching college art, among others. Graduates of this top online masters in visual arts go on to careers as graphic designers, museum curators, art teachers, publishing professionals, and more.

#7 –  Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Visual Arts Online MA

Program Website

Points: 14
Program Tuition: $750.00 per-credit-hour

Founded in 1875, Indiana University of Pennsylvania educates an average 12,000 students each year. IUP has continued to expand its academic degrees, one of which being a low-residency online masters in art; this visual arts online MA degree incorporates curriculum combining studio critiques, contemporary fine art, independent art study, and more. In the fall and spring, online masters in visual arts students complete courses via distance learning; in the summer, students are required to come to campus for course intensives. In addition to the online MA in art, IUP has a 60-credit online MFA in visual arts. IUP’s faculty are highly skilled in their field areas, and students have given glowing feedback on their distance-learning arts experience.

#6 –  Maine College of Art

Online Visual Arts MFA Program

Program Website

Points: 14
Program Tuition: $34,320.00 annually

A unique and progressive school, Maine College of Art draws career-artists of multiple kinds. MECA established one of the first low-residency MFA programs, allowing for online visual arts degree masters students to more flexibly complete their degree. The low-residency online MFA in visual arts requires eight-week summers in Maine, where the cohort and faculty work closely together. MECA degree programs are highly competitive, mentor-based, and individualized. Online MFA degree students are provided a local studio advisor, ensuring continuous support in the months away from campus. Graduates of MECA’s online visual arts MFA have praised the school for its flexibility and individualized arts learning experience.

#5 –  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Visual Arts MFA Online

Program Website

Points: 15
Program Tuition: $1,330.00 per-credit-hour

Founded in 1805, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is among the best-recognized arts degree institutions. For those pursuing a visual arts MFA online, PAFA offers a low-residency master’s program; this graduate visual arts degree online is suited for students who want both the flexibility of distance learning and a community-centric campus experience. PAFA’S MFA curriculum spans visual arts, art history, studio electives, lectures, and much more. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is known to have inspiring visiting artists; these artists conduct lectures, seminars, and other special programming.

#4 –  Vermont College of Fine Arts

Online MFA Degree in Visual Arts

Program Website

Points: 16
Program Tuition: 13,900.00 per six-month residency

Based in the quaint city of Montpelier, Vermont College of Fine Arts has a proud history of attracting visionaries. VCFA is home to the nation’s first low-residency MFA; this online master’s in visual arts requires periodic campus visits, but the majority of artwork and academics are done long-distance. The visual arts MFA is 60-credits, and students are connected with a visual artist mentor in their hometown.  VCFA provides a combination of challenging academics, top-notch instructor faculty, open creative discourse, and independence to design their career path. VCFA has numerous available scholarships to help aid in tuition costs.

#3 –  Academy of Art University

Online Visual Arts Master’s Programs

Program Website

Points: 16
Program Tuition: $982.00 per-credit-hour

Academy of Art University is San Francisco-based school with an excellent reputation in the field. In 2002, this school has added two of the best online visual arts degrees to their offerings, an MA in fine arts and an online MFA in fine arts. The online MA in fine arts has concentration options in drawing and painting, printmaking, or sculpture; the more intensive online MFA degree option has the same concentrations available, with more required credit-hours. Academy of Art University’s faculty consists of high-respected practicing artists in a vast range of art mediums. This college has excellent, innovative online classroom technology, enhancing the distance-learning experience.

#2 –  Savannah College of Art & Design

Online Master’s in Visual Arts

Program Website

Points: 17
Program Tuition:  $834.00 per-credit-hour

Savannah College College of Art and Design is a celebrated school in arts academia of all kinds. SCAD has an eLearning division with multiple online graduate degrees in visual arts; among these visual arts degrees include an MA or MFA in graphic design, MA or MFA in illustration, an MA or online MFA in visual arts and photography, an MFA in painting, among others. Graduates of the online degree in visual arts report feeling supported and connected to faculty and advisors. SCAD is known to have extensive connections with potential industry employers, and SCAD reports a 99% employment rate of its spring 2017 graduates.

#1 –  School of Visual Arts

Online MFA in Visual Arts / Online MA in Digital Photography

Program Website

Points: 18
Program Tuition: 1,490.00 per-credit-hour

One of the best-known names in higher education, School of Visual Arts draws the best in the field. SVA has three masters options for those seeking the best online visual media degree; these degrees include an online MFA in art practice, an online MFA in visual narrative, and an MA in photography. All three online graduate programs are low-residency, requiring students to attend summer courses on the NYC campus. SVA’s graduate curriculum encourages students to hone their skills as they build a longterm career. SVA’s extensive network in NYC and beyond opens many promising opportunities.

The previous list of colleges represents the top 10 online master’s degrees in visual arts.

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