Sculpting your creative talents in an online master’s in art and art history program could help design a colorful portfolio and etch a bright future in the cultural industry. Whether your chosen medium is painting, photography, film, or ceramics, graduate art schools inspire your inner muse and expand your palette of skills for leadership careers. According to SAGE Business Researcher, the global arts market is valued at $64 billion with over 29 million jobs total. Bustling metros, including San Francisco and New York City, see artistic jobs represent one in seven openings on average. The Chicago Tribune even reported a 25 percent jump in active online buyers of artistic goods on marketplaces like Etsy. Perhaps that’s why enrollment in master’s art degrees has risen by 10 percent since 2014. Online universities can make it easier for artists and art historians to shape their success with 24/7 classes.
At Grad School Hub, we’ve used the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator to draw a ranking of cheap art and art history master’s degrees. Our staff searched the higher learning landscape for graduate schools with advanced programs in art or art history, not art education, accessed primarily via the Internet. Since art is often studio-based, our initial pool included just 15 potential prospects. Academic quality is an important component of the picture, so we ensured each was regionally accredited. Extra brownie points were given for programmatic approval from the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) too. Next, we sorted the remaining online colleges by the average in-state graduate cost published for 2016-17. Below are the 10 most affordable art and art history master’s online offerings from biggest to smallest price tag.
Ranking Low-cost Art and Art History Master’s
10. Maryland Institute College of Art
Online Business of Art & Design MPS
Average Graduate Tuition: $45,400 per year
Opened on East Lexington Street as The Athenaeum in 1826, the Maryland Institute College of Art is a private, nonprofit NASAD-accredited visual design school that’s endowed for $51 million to educate 1,872 students from 58 countries, including 14 Fulbright Scholars, at its 16-acre “Charm City” campus and online. MICA is crowned America’s ninth best graduate fine arts college by the U.S. News & World Report, 25th most diverse institution on Niche, and 460th top university overall in Times Higher Education with selective 57 percent admission. The Office of Graduate Studies accepts $75 applications until July 1st annually for the Online Business of Art & Design Master of Professional Studies (MPS). Headed by Provost David Gracyalny, the 15-month curriculum integrates accelerated, eight-week online sessions with three four-day Baltimore residencies to train tomorrow’s creative directors. Moodle courses like Social Media Marketing and Curatorial Practice end with a master’s thesis. Other low-residency MICA options include the Studio Art MFA and Information Visualization MPS.
9. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Average Graduate Tuition: $39,996 per year
Owning Thomas Eakins’ noteworthy piece The Gross Clinic, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the oldest, private art school opened in 1805 that’s enrolling 258 students both online and atop its 10-block Center City campus on Broad Street with the historic Furness-Hewitt Building. Granted the 2005 National Medal of Arts, PAFA is recognized for America’s 114th best fine arts programs by the U.S. News & World Report, 57th best art majors on Niche, and 380th most popular studio arts school by College Factual. Chaired by Professor Didier William, the Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA) blends eight-week online modules on Canvas with three summer sessions in Philadelphia. The 60-credit, NASAD-accredited curriculum develops conceptual theories and material strategies for independent studio practice. Besides courses like 20th Century Art, students can form critique groups, present visual theses in Gallery 128, and earn graduate assistantships with $1,000 stipends. PAFA’s programs of study are Painting, Drawing, Illustration, Printmaking, and Sculpture.
8. Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Master of Arts in Sustainable Design Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $10,260 per year (information provided by MCAD)
Gifting $11 million in annual financial aid, including the McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design is a private, NASAD-accredited creative college established by portrait painter Douglas Volk in 1886 that’s serving 760 artists from its 18-acre Stevens Avenue campus and online via Blackboard. Earning three AIGA Design Show awards in 2016, MCAD is applauded for America’s 37th best art programs on Niche, 10th best design majors in I.D. Magazine, and 48th top fine arts school by the U.S. News & World Report. With an 11:1 student-professor ratio, the Graduate College offers the first Master of Arts in Sustainable Design Online focused on creating eco-friendly art and products. Run by Program Director Denise DeLuca, co-founder of Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, the 30-credit, five-semester curriculum holistically blends courses like Systems Thinking, Visual Communication, and Biomimetics before the thesis project. Alumni have excelled with the US Green Building Council, Nike, Sears, Praxis Foods, and others. There’s also an Online Master of Arts in Graphic and Web Design available.
7. Savannah College of Art and Design
Online Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)
Average Graduate Tuition: $36,545 per year
Linked to 46,543 LinkedIn alumni, including Emmy winner Alex Shopov and Pulitzer nominee Sheila Springsteen, the Savannah College of Art and Design is a private, nonprofit CIDA-accredited artistry hub established in 1978 that’s teaching 12,951 Bees from Atlanta to Lacoste and online. Known for its Sidewalk Arts Festival each April, SCAD is declared America’s 180th best fine arts school by the U.S. News & World Report, 19th most liberal college on Niche, and 24th top game design university in The Princeton Review. On Blackboard Learn, post-grads with an average 3.51 GPA pursue the Online Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Animation, Fashion, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interactive Design and Game Development, Motion Media Design, Painting, Photography, or Writing. Led by Victor Ermoli, one of DesignIntelligence’s 25 most admired educators, the 90-unit program utilizes cutting-edge tools like Adobe Creative Suite to advance aesthetic expertise before presenting theses at the deFINE Art Showcase. Also consider Savannah’s Online M.A. in Business Design and Arts Leadership or M.A. in Art Preservation Design.
6. Maine College of Art
Low Residency MFA on the Road
Average Graduate Tuition: $32,542 per year
Renowned for its Institute of Contemporary Art, the Maine College of Art is a private, degree-granting AICAD Consortium member opened in 1882 that’s endowed for $6.5 million and enrolling 512 to “Educate Artists for Life” at its 200,000-square-foot Porteous Building in Portland and online via Canvas. Located in Forbes’ #1 hippest hipster neighborhood, MECA is ranked America’s 81st best design college on Niche, 82nd top fine arts school by the U.S. News & World Report, and 13th most focused visual arts university on College Factual. Open for admission until May 1st annually, the Low Residency MFA on the Road program offers a Full-Tuition Scholarship for affordably entering independent study. Organized by Adrienne Kitko, the 60-credit degree immerses cohorts of 15 into online courses like Approaches to Critical Theory with two eight-week summer sessions in Maine. Students specialize studio courses in Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Metals, Wood, Ceramics, Photography, and Digital Media. Advisors with 20+ years of experience from Calgary to Connecticut give guidance at MFA majors’ own homes.
5. Academy of Art University
Online Master of Arts (MA) Degree in Art History
San Francisco, CA
Average Graduate Tuition: $23,868 per year
Housing Richard A. Stephens’ Automobile Museum worth $70 million, the Academy of Art University is a private, for-profit innovation institution that’s become NASAD-accredited since 1929 to educate 12,608 and employ 1,437 faculty at its four-story south of Market campus or online via Canvas. Bestowed the PWC 2012 Community Engagement Award, AAU is congratulated for America’s 247th best student life on Niche, 224th best online graduate education by the U.S. News & World Report, and 30th top game design majors in The Princeton Review. Directed by Dr. Gabriela Sotomayor, the School of Art History confers the Online Master of Arts (MA) Degree in Art History for celebrating past cultural traditions. Founded in 2002, the 36-unit curriculum prepares students for art management jobs and doctoral admission with courses from Italian Baroque to High Renaissance Mannerism. After the thesis, alumni have been hired by Modern Eden Gallery, de Young Museum, Disney, and more. Other online Academy programs include the MFA in Fine Art and MFA in Visual Development.
4. Azusa Pacific University
Modern Art History M.A. Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $16,444 per year
Rooted in Wesleyan-Arminian theology, Azusa Pacific University is a private, Christ-centered liberal arts school with the Darling Hallway Art Gallery that’s endowed for $67.7 million in the PacWest to enroll 10,020 Cougars at 86 percent retention on its 42-hectare San Gabriel Valley campus and online via the Learner Portal. Distinguished with a 2013 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award, Azusa is named America’s 281st best value in Forbes, 143rd best university by Washington Monthly, and 59th top Christian college on Niche. The NASAD-accredited College of Music and the Arts launched the Modern Art History M.A. Online for exploring the roots of modernism. Chaired by Dr. Angela George, a former Smithsonian curator, the 36-credit program accepts $45 applications from bachelor’s grads with minimum 3.0 GPAs. Online courses like Writing Art Criticism and Visual Culture are taken one at a time with financial aid, such as the $8,000 Watson-Wong Scholarship, for thesis completion within 24 months. Creative minds might also pursue Azusa’s Screenwriting M.A., Music Entrepreneurship, or Art Education M.A. Online.
3. Lindenwood University
Online Master of Arts in Art History
St. Charles, MO
Average Graduate Tuition: $8,790 per year (information provided by the University)
Attracting 2,842 post-grad Lions to 41 programs, Lindenwood University is a private,
liberal arts school opened in 1827 that’s endowed for $143.4 million to educate atop its
500-acre St. Charles campus with the 1,200-seat J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts and
online through Canvas.Reporting a 20-year net ROI of $179,000 on PayScale, Lindenwood was
honored for America’s 157th top online graduate education by the U.S. News & World Report, 312th best service in Washington Monthly, and 364th most conservative students on Niche. The School of Arts, Media, and Communications is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to present the Three-Year Fast Track BA and Online Master of Arts in Art History. Coordinated by Dr. James Hutson, the 36-credit program builds research skills for exploring centuries-old artistic expression. Featuring a thesis or non-thesis/applied project option, the curriculum requires GPAs above 3.0 for eight- and sixteen-week courses like Classical Myth, Early Modern Gender Studies, and Baroque Art. Also offered in the school are online degrees in Fashion and Business, Game Design, and Digital Art.
2. Radford University
M.F.A. in Design Thinking Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $10,958 per year
Generating an annual economic impact of $313 million, Radford University is a public, civic-oriented doctoral institution of the Big South that’s grown since its 1910 founding to confer 100+ degrees to 9,410 Highlanders from its 204-acre, Georgian-style campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains and online via D2L Brightspace. Awarded the prestigious HHMI Grant in 2017, Radford is designated America’s 253rd best public school on Niche, 166th top university by the Social Mobility Index, and 81st best bang for the buck in Washington Monthly. The “College of Distinction” houses an M.F.A. in Design Thinking Online program in the NASAD-accredited Department of Art and Design. Headed by Dr. Margaret Devaney in Trinkle Hall, the 60-credit, two-year terminal degree nurtures artistic problem-solving abilities for studio leadership. Admitting graduates with minimum 2.75 GPAs until March 15th or October 1st, the program integrates courses like Creative Digital Imaging and International Art History before a thesis. Radford’s M.F.A. in Studio Art could have a hybrid online format also.
1. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Online Master of Arts in Art
Average Graduate Tuition: $8,580 per year
Celebrating 133 years of excellence, Northwestern State University of Louisiana is a public, coeducational UL System constituent and USDLA nonprofit member that’s endowed for $52 million to enroll a record-high 10,572 Demons on its 916-acre Natchitoches campus with the Orville Hanchey Gallery or online via Moodle. Labeled “Military Friendly” in G.I. Jobs Magazine, NSULA is declared America’s 187th best student life school on Niche, 79th best liberal arts value by College Factual, and 181st top research university in Washington Monthly. Charging our list’s lowest in-state price, the NASAD-accredited Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts started an Online Master of Arts in Art with only one three-week summer session. The 33-credit, low-residency program directed by Professor Matt DeFord deepens understanding on the manipulation of diverse media. Preparing for the thesis involves emphasis-specific courses like Advanced Problems in Painting and Research in Art History. Alumni have found careers with Kern Studios, the Alexandria Museum of Art, Insite, Kent State University, and more.
Which Careers Benefit From Master’s in Art and Art History Online Degrees?
Online master’s in art and art history are considered terminal programs where post-grads are left qualified for virtually all upper-level creative jobs, except sometimes university professor. The degree will prove professionals’ powers of inquiry and leadership for diverse applications across media, especially when combined with certifications. For example, the American Art Therapy Association can turn master’s students into Board-Certified Art Therapists (ATR-BC) after passing a $75 exam. The Association of Medical Illustrators recognizes multimedia artists with 5+ years of experience in anatomical drawing for the Certified Medical Illustrator (CMI) title. The National Kitchen and Bath Association reserves the Certified Master Designer (CMKBD) distinction for members with 100+ coursework hours who maintain 20 CEUs biannually. Art historians could also take the Certified Archivist exam from the Academy of Certified Archivists at eight U.S. locations each August. Let’s look into some common job descriptions fulfilled by art and art history master’s online grads:
Art Director- Noticed on Business Insider for America’s fourth best high-paying creative job, art directors are visual design gurus who choose the stylistic approach for advertisements, TV shows, packages, newspapers, and more. Completing a master’s in art and art history online would equip directors for sketching plans, pitching client proposals, understanding audience targets, reviewing budgets, shooting on location, and editing final products.
Museum Curator- Museums around the globe, such as the Smithsonian, Le Louvre, Prado, and Uffizi Gallery, rely on art and art history master’s online graduates to oversee masterpiece collections that inspire tourists. Curators purchase artwork, catalog acquisitions, assemble visually appealing exhibits, learn historical contexts, design tour themes, interview staff, write grant proposals, plan educational events, and enhance visitor experiences.
User Experience Designer- Perhaps your online art and art history master’s would serve well in PayScale’s fourth best creative job refining product, app, or website layouts to maximize customers’ enjoyment. User experience designers research target clients, translate concepts into mockups, sketch prototypes, track user journeys, identify flaws, code improved functions, refigure graphics on Photoshop, and ascertain customer feedback.
Multimedia Artist- The United States has 73,700 multimedia artists who illustrate films, video games, websites, comic strips, and other media with computer-generated imagery. Online master’s in art and art history degrees might prove useful for drawing electronically, using software like Autodesk, mapping out storyboards, animating graphics, editing visual effects, tracking timelines, handling production budgets, and assembling printer proofs.
How Much Would Online Art and Art History Master’s Online Grads Earn?
Shopping for cheap art and art history master’s online programs is smart because Fortune named MFAs the #1 worst graduate degree with median income of $46,600. Expected salaries for artists are generally lower than the mean master’s wage of $69,732 published by SmartAsset. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, art occupations reward aesthetic eyes with median pay of $44,410. Fine artists like painters and potters earn a mean annual profit of $57,410. Graphic designers reap revenue of $52,290. Multimedia artists animate their way to $72,200 on average. Master’s study could push you into creative director jobs worth a median wage of $89,820. On Salary.com, top-level art averages are $104,988 for technical directors, $94,919 for historians, $67,437 for exhibit designers, and $62,490 for videographers. The Chief Creative Officer (CCO) title unlocks mean pay of $196,460.
What is the Employment Outlook After Online Art and Art History Master’s?
Getting a master’s in art and art history online isn’t necessarily risky because the National Endowment for the Arts predicts nearly fast-as-average 11 percent job growth. From 2008 to 2018, the hiring of artists rose by 136,600 for total U.S. employment of 2.196 million. Graduate school enrollment jumped by 5.7 percent this decade because master’s degrees are the new baccalaureate. The Department of Labor shows the biggest growth of 14 percent for museum curators and conservators through 2026. Other jobs with favorable 10-year outlooks are multimedia artist at 8 percent, creative writer at 8 percent, landscape architect at 6 percent, and art director at 5 percent. According to Bustle, the five most art-friendly cities are New Orleans, Atlanta, San Juan, Portland, and Memphis. Job prospects can enlarge after an online master’s in art and art history degree to avoid starving for business.