An art degree provides students with more than just art training. Thanks to courses designed to introduce the business side of art, a student with a bachelor of fine arts degree can make an average of $61,000 per year1. Online art degrees open the field up even further for students who can’t move for a degree or mid-career professionals looking to make a change.
This guide outlines everything students need to know about getting an online art degree, as well as what to expect once they start on their degree path.
What Is an Online Art Degree?
Art degrees include both classical art training in drawing, theory, and design and newer technologies that make those disciplines more efficient. Students should expect this blend from most art degree programs.
Art degrees can be flexible, covering several disciplines and intentions. For example, students can choose fine arts to specialize in drawing or painting. They can also choose media arts for careers in graphic design or cinematography. Others major in art history or even art business, not creating art themselves but offering their knowledge and expertise to the field.
Students in fine or media arts should expect to build portfolios and critique their peers’ work. Learners should also expect studio time and to participate in a variety of art mediums before niching into their preferred concentration.
How Can I Use an Online Art Degree?
While some may believe that art doesn’t offer the types of opportunities other degrees might, an online art degree does provide many reliable career paths. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies the following five career sectors as the highest paying2.
Motion Picture and Video Industry Artists Average Annual Salary: $94,760
The motion picture and video industry pays its artists an annual salary of just over $94,000 per year2. Artists handle a variety of tasks, from marketing materials to rendering animation to website design. The field employs around 210 people per year2.
Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services Artists Average Annual Salary: $93,090
Artists working in advertising, public relations, and related services make an average salary of just over $93,000 per year2, handling artistic media for campaigns, announcements, and advertising-related materials. The field employs around 110 positions per year that don’t require specific graphic design skills2.
Artists in the Federal Executive Branch Average Annual Salary: $89,420
Art positions with the federal government pay around $89,000 per year2, and the sector employs more than 3,000 people2. Artists handle tasks such as print media, rendering, sketches, and other art-related activities.
Artists in the Management of Companies and Enterprises Average Annual Salary: $73,230
Artists in management, such as art or gallery directors, make an average salary of just over $73,000 per year2. This sector offers about 120 positions per year2.
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services Artists Average Annual Salary: $71,530
Artists working in architecture, engineering, and other related services make around $72,000 per year2, providing creative services to firms and independent or boutique organizations.
Artist Employment by State
State location also influences things like how likely a student is to find a career and their salary. For example, the BLS identifies the following states as the highest paying artist locations2:
- Maryland: Average annual salary of $100,010
- New York: Average annual salary of $96,830
- Georgia: Average annual salary of $92,350
- Massachusetts: Average annual salary of $85,940
- Florida: Average annual salary of $85,700
- Nevada: 630 positions (0.50 art positions per thousand jobs)
- Utah: 500 positions (0.34 art positions per thousand jobs)
- Maryland: 420 positions (0.17 art positions per thousand jobs)
- Alaska: 40 positions (0.14 art positions per thousand jobs)
- Georgia: 460 positions (0.11 art position per thousand jobs
- University of Massachusetts Lowell: Online Bachelor of Art in Art History
- SUNY Empire State College: Bachelor of Art in The Arts
- Savannah College of Art and Design: Bachelor of Art in Sequential Design or Photography
- The University of Florida: Bachelor of Art in Art History
Studio Foundation Courses
Art students must sit for studio courses. Many degrees require basic drawing so that students learn the elements of composition, perspective, and other basics. Students also take studio courses for their chosen concentration, such as ceramics, photography, and even graphic design, providing participants with access to instruction, practice, and cutting-edge equipment.
Students study the history of art to understand the effects different time periods had on art. They explore different art movements, cultures, and political acts that influenced each type of art. This provides not only inspiration but the context for budding artists.
2D and 3D Design
2D and 3D design in both physical mediums and computer-aided design prepare students for a variety of art tasks. They can sketch storyboards for movies, build advertisements, work in criminal justice sketching crime or court scenes, or work with engineers to mock up new products. They can also build immersive worlds for tech companies or reconstruct artifacts or bones for historical preservation.
Students need time to showcase their work, receive critiques and feedback, and offer their own to others. Seminars provide exactly that outlet. Often divided by grade level but sometimes open to all, these seminars are less formal than classroom courses but more structured than a typical studio.
Art Business and Technology
As more students come in from the technological generations, art schools want to prepare them to become artists in the modern world. That includes learning more about business concepts such as marketing, grant work, and business communications. Students also learn the technology transforming the world of art, including digital graphics tools and programming.
A media studies concentration offers a commercial approach to art. Students in these concentrations leverage graphic design and animation, particularly for companies. They produce art meant for consumption, including advertising pieces, and learn the technology making it possible.
Fine Art Studies
Fine arts majors choose a classic art discipline, such as drawing, painting, or photography. Instead of a commercial focus, students learn the practice itself and build skills in design, perspective, and artistic theory. They spend time in the studio and hone their artistic skills and eye.
Relatively new in the world of concentrations, art entrepreneurship teaches students how to launch their art careers. Students learn subjects like marketing, art commissioning, and pursuing investments. The subject helps students make a living from art without taking a typical job.
Art history majors examine art movements from different time periods to offer opinions and critiques. They train to work in museums, restoration and preservation, and in education. They offer insight into questions about the art world and can bridge the gap between artists and the rest of the world if necessary.
Students who want to train the next generation of artists can major in art education. They train in studio art while also studying best practices in art pedagogy. Students become eligible for teaching certification in k12 pedagogy, early childhood education, or higher ed.
Students can also find the highest concentration of jobs in these states2:
Students can find online programs in many of these states, including:
Online Art Degree Courses
While art degrees vary based on a student’s chosen concentration and program, some common courses follow most degrees alongside state-required core courses.
Art Degree Concentrations
Art offers many different concentrations for students to explore. Students can work in either their chosen media or concentrate on their desired industry. Not every art degree offers the same concentrations, but these are some common options.
How Long Does It Take to Earn an Art Degree?
Students can pursue an associate degree in art with two years of full-time study, including state-required core courses. A bachelor of arts or a bachelor of fine arts takes four years of full-time study along with those same types of core courses.
Students pursuing a master’s degree typically take one to three years of study after receiving an undergraduate degree. For students looking to work in academics or research, a doctoral degree takes around five years on average after receiving a master’s degree.
Discover More About Online Art Degree Programs
Q. What is the online art degree application process?
Online students should check the admissions requirements for their chosen programs. In some cases, online applications may possess different requirements than on-campus requirements.
Q. Are there online art degree scholarships available?
Potential students should inquire with their chosen art department to find out about scholarships that could offset the cost of the degree.
Q. Is an art degree worth it?
Students can take many different paths with an art degree. Graduates can leverage their skills to work in a variety of industries and make an average of around $61,000 per year1. Art degrees also teach creative thinking, problem-solving, and soft skills that employers look for in the job market.
Q. Are online art degrees available?
Students can certainly complete art degrees online, including the concentrations listed. Students can also complete hybrid programs that shorten the amount of time they must spend on campus.
Q. Is it possible to make a living with an art degree?
Art degrees may not seem to translate directly to employment, but students can use their skills to find jobs that require quick minds, creativity, and unique perspectives. If graduates are willing to network and look at how art might apply to different industries, they can spin their art degree into a rewarding, long-term career.
 PayScale. (2021). Bachelor of Arts (BA): Fine Arts Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Bachelor_of_Arts_(BA)%2C_Fine_Arts/Salary
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Occupational Employment and Wages, Artists and Related Workers, All Other. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271019.htm