Best Art Schools Online

Earning an art degree can lead to a rewarding career. Here, we outline the best art school programs.

Updated August 15, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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The best art schools online train students how to create and analyze art. Learners explore art history and studio practice. They also study contemporary issues in art. Graduates may work as artists, museum curators, or art directors.

Applicants to a bachelor's in art program need a high school or GED diploma. Prospective enrollees may need to submit a portfolio that shows skill in their chosen art form. Applicants to graduate programs in art need a bachelor's degree in art or another field.

This guide lists the best art schools online. Read on to learn about typical courses and fees. You can also explore various art careers.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Art Degrees

Q. What can you do with a college degree in art?

The best art schools online train students for jobs such as fine artist, art director, or photographer. Art students can also enroll in graduate school.

Q. What are the different types of art degrees?

Art programs usually focus on either studio art or art history. Studio majors can specialize in mediums such as painting, sculpture, and photography.

Q. Does an art degree pay well?

Some art degrees can lead to careers with above-average salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), art directors earn a median annual salary of $97,270. This figure more than doubles the annual median salary of $41,950 for all occupations. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Why Get an Art Degree?

Earning an online art degree can lead to careers in diverse fields. Graduates may work as artists, historians, critics, or curators. Students gain the skills to create and interpret works of art in various mediums.

Most students pursue art out of a passion for it. They do not choose the degree to earn a high salary. However, many art careers offer competitive wages. According to the BLS, craft and fine artists earn an annual median salary of $49,120. Special-effects artists earn $77,700.

By enrolling in art schools online, learners do not need to relocate or pause their careers.

How Much Does an Art Degree Cost?

The cost of an art degree varies by school and program. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduates at public schools paid an annual average tuition of about $18,380. Undergraduates at private schools paid about $47,420. These figures include room and board costs. Learners pursuing an online art degree do not pay for campus housing.

The cost of an art degree also depends on how long students spend in school. Learners can complete a bachelor's program in four years. A master's program takes 2-3 years. Studio art students may need to pay additional fees for materials and other in-person requirements.

How Much Do Art Majors Make?

Students who earn online art degrees can pursue a variety of careers in their specialization. Common careers include craft or fine artist, art director, and animator. Management and leadership positions usually pay the highest salaries.

Earning an advanced degree can help artists move into high-paying careers. For example, most museum curators need a master's degree.

Courses in an Art Program

Students at the best art schools online explore art history, theory, and practice. Most programs cover major art periods, movements, and techniques. Learners may also explore general concepts such as artistic practice and color theory.

Enrollees in a studio program study different artistic mediums. Most programs allow students to explore mediums before choosing 1-2 specialization areas. Common mediums include painting, sculpture, and ceramics.

Students pursuing an online art degree may take the courses below. Keep in mind that specific titles and course content vary by school.

  • Introduction to Western Art

    Most online art degrees include many courses introducing key periods in Western art history. Courses cover topics such as gothic, baroque, and neoclassical periods. Art history courses give students a broad understanding of art movements and the historical development of art.
  • 2-D Art Foundations

    This course introduces the fundamentals of 2-D art and design. Students explore visual language, organization, and color. Learners also study 2-D art media and techniques. These include painting and photography. Many courses include lecture components and studio practice.
  • Issues in Contemporary Art

    Both studio and art history students should understand the various issues affecting contemporary art and artists. This course highlights major concepts that affect the art world. Enrollees study new media and new art styles. The course may also explore issues of identity in art, such as race, gender, and class.

The Best Art Schools 2021

  1. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    Harvard offers 22 total fine arts and design programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Programs fall under the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies (AFVS); the Office for the Arts; or the Graduate School of Design. Through Harvard, students can earn a professional art degree without compromising on a liberal arts education.

    Students wishing to major in studio arts declare a concentration in AFVS during their sophomore year. By the end of junior year, AFVS majors establish a media focus to develop a professional-level portfolio. Students choose to complete either a two-semester senior thesis or a project representing their third year body of work.

    The graduate school offers professional and post-professional master's programs in design, architecture, and urban planning. Admission to the design master's program requires two years of professional experience. However, undergraduates may apply to the architecture and urban planning programs with a portfolio demonstrating their aptitude for three-dimensional design.

  2. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    The University of Pennsylvania's Weitzman School of Design offers 28 programs in fine arts and design focused on the interdisciplinary study of art as a response to societal challenges. UPenn awards bachelor's-level art degrees in fine arts or design.

    The fine arts program focuses on artmaking technique and requires six studio courses with options such as printmaking, sculpture, and animation. The design program explores the integration of design with science and the humanities. Studio courses under this major offer instruction in the application of contemporary design theory and prototyping and fabrication.

    Both undergraduate degrees include a two-semester capstone senior seminar in the final year. The seminar culminates in a public showcase of the student's portfolio. Prospective students applying directly to the art program may submit a supplemental portfolio. Current students enter the program without a separate application by meeting with an advisor to declare a major.

  3. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor, MI

    The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design (Stamps) at the University of Michigan hosts 14 undergraduate and graduate level programs with options tailored toward either a studio or an academic focus. Undergraduates choose from four art degree options: BA or BFA in art and design, BFA in interarts performance, and dual-degree options.

    In all programs, Stamps requires studio courses in drawing, design, and inquiry methods. Students must pass a sophomore review in which they present a portfolio of college work to a faculty committee. Students must also complete one course outside the United States in an approved international program unless they declare a minor.

    All Stamps applicants need to complete the Common Application or Coalition Application for U-M. Recommendations must include letters from both an academic and an art instructor. Portfolios should include 12-15 pieces representing both conceptual work and direct observation drawings.

  4. Carnegie Mellon University

    Pittsburgh, PA

    A private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University offers 17 programs in art and design through The College of Fine Arts. This includes a BFA and a BXA intercollege degree programs.

    The BFA program contains four media-based concentrations. Students can choose a specific concentration or create an individualized hybrid curriculum.The first year curriculum includes courses from all four concentrations. After sophomore year, students gain more freedom to choose their major coursework. A year-long senior studio course serves as the program capstone. Each school year ends with an exhibition showcasing senior studio work.

    When making a decision, admission officers consider an applicant's portfolio, transcripts, and test scores holistically. Portfolios must include 12-20 pieces with artist statements. Faculty recommend including work done outside of assignments to represent independent ability.

  5. Duke University

    Durham, NC

    A private research university in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University features 11 art and design programs through the Trinity College of Art and Sciences. Undergraduate students can pursue one of three BA tracks: art history, visual arts, and visual and media studies. Art history specializations include architecture and museum studies. The program also offers a combined art history and visual arts major.

    Visual arts majors choose courses from six subdisciplines for introductory and intermediate studios. The program culminates in a required theory course and a studio capstone. Visual and media studies majors must take two gateway courses within their first year. Students choose from a list of preapproved courses to serve as their capstone.

    Art program applicants only need to complete the general Duke application, but students may submit a portfolio and statement as a supplement.

  6. New York University

    New York, NY

    The private research university hosts two schools catering to visual arts. The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers art degrees in studio art, visual arts administration, art therapy, and art education. Tisch School of the Arts provides undergraduate and graduate level tracks in art and design for film.

    The BFA in studio art program begins with a year-long foundation program and ends with a senior studio capstone course. In this course, students develop a portfolio and plan their gallery showcase in small groups. The Tisch film program covers four primary stages: introductory, fundamental, intermediate, and advanced. After completing a bachelor's program, students interested in production design can apply to the MFA program.

    Applicants to the Steinhardt School must submit a 12-15 piece portfolio with a statement of purpose. Tisch portfolio requirements include a one-page resume and the choice of 10-15 images or a five-minute short film. Students must also answer three creative prompts in visual and script format.

  7. Tufts University

    Medford, MA

    Located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Tufts University offers 32 degree and certificate programs in art and design through the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

    The first year for BFA students consists of a heavy studio course load and an introductory theory course in visual and material studies. Over four years, students participate in eight review boards, presenting their semester work to a team of faculty and students. The review process helps students recognize the connection between their research projects and studio work while developing their own artistic direction.

    Applicants can choose either a BFA or a combined degree program on the Tufts application. Both programs require a portfolio submission of either 15-20 images or up to 10 minutes of timed material.

  8. Lehigh University

    Bethlehem, PA

    A private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University offers 13 major and minor programs in art, design, and architecture. The four main BA programs provide students with a foundation for a career in art or a smooth transition to graduate studies.

    The art major centers on the principle disciplines of drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography. Art majors can combine studies with a theatre major to specialize in costume design or pursue a minor in education to receive a teaching certificate. The design major includes studios combining communication through digital media with traditional artmaking. Both majors include five foundation courses in art history, two and three dimensional design, and drawing.

    Applicants need to complete the Common Application or Coalition Application for Lehigh and a writing sample. Students earning a five on the AP Studio Art exam apply eight credits toward the first year foundation courses.

  9. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    Drexel University, a private research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, awards degrees from 22 art and design programs. These programs include bachelor's and master's level instruction in design, production, and media management.

    All BS majors begin with a foundation in studio art which aims to foster student creativity and solidify design fundamentals. As students continue within their chosen discipline, they will gain professional experience through the university's cooperative education program. Students can choose a four-year study track with one co-op, usually during the third year, or a five-year track, with three co-op placements.

    The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design application includes an essay expressing the student's interest in their intended program. Some majors, such as animation, fashion design, and photography, require an 8-12 piece portfolio.

  10. Georgetown University

    Washington, DC

    Georgetown University's Department of Art and Art History offers BA options in art and art history and an MA in art and museum studies. Students can choose one of eight media specializations in a combined studio and liberal arts curriculum.

    After completing two introductory courses, students take three intermediate studios within a concentration. The four concentration options include drawing and printmaking; painting; sculpture; and photography, graphic design, and new media. Students must complete a senior art seminar to fulfill the university integrated writing requirement. The department hosts a senior art major exhibition in the spring.

    The Office of Undergraduate Admissions bases decisions on a student's general application. Applicants can submit a supplemental portfolio of up to 20 images to convey substantial artistic talent not demonstrated on the general application.

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