5 Most Affordable Master’s in Multimedia Design Online

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Updated March 17, 2021

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Submitting portfolios for online master's in multimedia design programs can help full-time artists broaden their palette of skills using diverse mediums like text, sound, images, and video for impactful messages. From Madison Avenue to Hollywood, graduate-level multimedia design training gives imaginative minds the advanced techniques and tools to animate their career prospects. In 2014, Artists Report Back showed that roughly 16,000 MAs and MFAs graduate annually in comparison to the 91,000 undergrad art majors. Joining this elite master's-trained group can aid promotions in the United States' $698 billion art sector. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, today's creative industry produces 4.7 million jobs and 4.32 percent of our nation's goods/services. As of April 2017, there were 673,656 organizations countrywide focused on the production and distribution of artistic works! Affordable online multimedia design master's provide excellent economic value while finding your style POV.

Top 5 Most Affordable Master’s in Multimedia Design Online

#1 Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana, PA
#2 Academy of Art University San Francisco, CA
#3 Laguna College of Art and Design Laguna Beach, CA
#4 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester, NY
#5 Harvard University Cambridge, MA

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These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.


The Grad School Hub staff accessed the Institute for Education Sciences' NCES College Navigator database to frame our colorful list of cheap multimedia design master's programs. We checked the box for distance education when searching for advanced degrees related to digital, web, and multimedia design/management. Since it's historically a face-to-face major, our initial pool included just seven colleges forging new MFA and specialized master's online. Our team paints accreditation as the foremost selection factor, so we checked each for regional accreditation accepted by the U.S. Department of Education. Preference was also given for programmatic approval from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Lastly, we ordered the universities according to their in-state graduate tuition averages for the most recent 2016-17 year. We've outlined the five least expensive online multimedia design master's marrying technology and art below.

Ranking Low-Cost Multimedia Design Master's Online

  1. Indiana University of Pennsylvania

    Indiana, PA



    Renowned for its Kipp Art Gallery in Sprowls Hall, Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a public, coeducational teaching-oriented PASSHE member that's endowed for $47 million to charge our list's lowest price for 12,853 Hawks from 41 states and employ 770 faculty at its 62-building, red-brick campus in Greater Pittsburgh or online via D2L Brightspace. IUP is applauded for America's 165th highest graduation rate in Washington Monthly, 236th best public education on Forbes, 198th top fine arts majors by the U.S. News & World Report, and 46th most minority graduates in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. The CAEP-accredited College of Education & Communications brings 40+ years of experience to its unique Online Instructional Design and Technology M.A. Led by Dr. Jacqueline McGinty, the 36-credit curriculum takes 24 months full-time or 36 months part-time to develop multimedia design skills specifically for distance adult education. Courses like Web Design Theory, Learning Management Systems, and Electronic Field Production end with a thesis or portfolio review. There's a hybrid format for the Communications Media and Instructional Technology PhD too.

  2. Academy of Art University

    San Francisco, CA



    Home to seven of the 12 World of Warcraft Student Art Contest winners, the Academy of Art University is the largest private, for-profit NASAD-accredited creative institute that's been owned by the Stephens family since 1929 and teaching 12,608 Urban Knights from its four-story New Montgomery Street campus near the Letterman Digital Arts Center. Academy of Art is ranked America's 224th best online graduate school by the U.S. News & World Report, 38th most ethnically diverse university on College Factual, 18th top choice by Business of Fashion, and 552nd safest campus on Niche. Coordinated by "Space Cadet Pinball" creator Ryan Medeiros, the School of Web Design & New Media has a 14:1 student-faculty ratio for a Master of Fine Arts Online that builds digital tech acumen. The 63-unit, portfolio-based program utilizes Canvas and the latest DSLR cameras to cover topics from Principles of User Experience to Motion Graphics Design before the thesis presentation. Similar online opportunities include the MFA in Game Development, MFA in Graphic Design, MFA in Industrial Design, and MFA in Sound Design.

  3. Laguna College of Art and Design

    Laguna Beach, CA



    Adjacent to the Suzanne Chonette Senior Studios, the Laguna College of Art and Design has a four-acre beachside campus in Orange County as a private, nonprofit AICAD Consortium member founded in 1961 that "Empowers Creative Leaders" with a diverse student body of 550 in 11 academic degrees. LCAD is deemed America's 21st best design college on Niche, 199th best fine arts school by the U.S. News & World Report, second best art value on PayScale, and 17th most focused design institution by College Factual. Open for admission until May 1st yearly, the Graduate School offers a two-year, terminal Online Art of Game Design MFA. Organized by Sandy Appleoff, the 60-unit, NASAD-accredited multimedia master's curriculum uses a low-residency format to minimize California trips during courses like Game Mechanics Analysis, Comparative Engine Technology, and Game Narrative. Industry partners, including Microsoft and the USC GamePipe Lab, provide cutting-edge tools for completing the thesis game. Graduates might consider pursuing Laguna's Drawing MFA, Painting MFA, and Dual BFA/MAT in Art Education too.

  4. Rochester Institute of Technology

    Rochester, NY



    Linked to 110,230 LinkedIn alumni, including jQuery founder John Resig and Kinect developer Alex Kipman, the Rochester Institute of Technology is a private, computer-savvy doctoral AITU institution that's endowed for $750 million to instruct 16,842 Tigers atop its 1,300-acre Monroe County campus and online via myCourses. RIT is crowned America's 20th best design college on Niche, 36th top mid-size employer in Forbes, 36th best information technology school in Business Insider, and 85th best private value by Kiplinger's. Founded in 2001, the ABET-accredited Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences extends beyond its Entertainment Lab with the MS - Game Design & Development Online. The 33-credit, two-year program directed by Dr. David Schwartz considers post-grads with cumulative GPAs above 3.25 until March 31st. Cohorts gain interactive multimedia expertise through topics like Digital Audio Production, Artificial Intelligence, and Gameplay Prototyping before creating working game software in the team-based capstone project. Also consider Rochester Tech's online Human-Computer Interaction MS, Product Development MS, or Communication and Digital Media Certificate.

  5. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA



    Gifting $186.8 million in annual financial aid, including the Extension School Grant, Harvard University is an esteemed private, nonsectarian Ivy League and AAU member founded in 1636 that's affiliated with 10 Oscar winners and educating 21,000 Crimson from its 210-acre Cambridge campus northwest of Boston. Harvard is declared America's 22nd best media school by LinkedIn, second best private value in The Princeton Review, 10th top university in Washington Monthly, and seventh best ROI college on PayScale. Chaired by Dr. Huntington Lambert, the Division of Continuing Education offers 800+ live online courses via Canvas for 24 graduate degrees, such as the Online Master of Liberal Arts in Digital Media Design. The 36-credit, application-fee program mandates a minimum 3.0 GPA throughout 12 courses like Introduction to Game Development and Dynamic Web Applications. Before the capstone proposal, post-grads must attend just one three-week summer or May session in Massachusetts. Other Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) specializations online are Dramatic Arts, Creative Writing & Literature, and Museum Studies.

Which Careers Benefit From Online Multimedia Design Master's Degrees?

Completing a multimedia design master's online would qualify artists for a wide swath of careers blending traditional and digital media into creations that entertain or educate. The "many" in multimedia alludes to the vast number of disciplines to choose from, including photography, user interface design, fashion merchandising, architectural design, and ceramics. In 2016, 59 percent of multimedia designers were self-employed, which isn't surprising since telecommuting workers represent over two-fifths of the population according to the New York Times. Adding a terminal MFA to one's résumé could even open online or on-campus professorships for collegiate teaching at the more than 1,210 art schools nationwide. Master's degrees might also be supplemented with industry credentials, such as the Toon Boom Storyboard Pro Certification for animators. Scroll through some of the following sample job descriptions for multimedia design online master's graduates:

Video Game Designer- Labeled the 33rd best job by CNN Money, this electronic arts career lets gamers oversee the entire life cycle from conception to production of best-selling video games like Super Mario and Minecraft. Video game designers with a multimedia design master's online would experiment with interface ideas, develop plots, write fiction storylines, shape characters, map difficulty levels, set scoring systems, and debug glitches.

Cartoon Animator- Rendering IMDB‘s most popular animated films like The Incredibles and The Lion King can take over three years and $50 million. Finishing a cheap multimedia design master's could train cartoon animators to design 2D models, sketch storyboards, illustrate narratives, draw characters, establish sequence paces, add CGI effects, overlap dialogues/soundtracks, meet production budgets, and do frame-by-frame editing.

Desktop Publisher- Online master's in multimedia design graduates could be suited to join the 14,800 desktop publishers listed on CareerOneStop who create online newspapers, blogs, brochures, and eBooks. Job responsibilities include creating cohesive designs, importing graphics, embedding videos, adjusting text fit, checking color schemes, correcting content errors, converting media files for print, and presenting final pages to clients.

Graphic Designer- Pictures really are worth 1,000 words because 90 percent of the brain's synthesized information is visual according to HubSpot. Graphic designers might need an online multimedia design master's to better present innovative concepts, ascertain audience response, create digital illustration, sketch layouts, select details like typeface, use Adobe software, incorporate client edits, collaborate with advertisers, and review results critically.

Web Developer- Getting a master's in multimedia design online could prepare for the U.S. News & World Report's #8 best technology job building useful, eye-catching World Wide Web pages that generate traffic. Web developers design page layouts, create efficient HTML code, improve user navigation, integrate e-commerce applications, test browser views, remedy bugs, register domain names, edit online videos, and abide copyright laws.

Applications Designer- Business 2 Community reported that 268 million app downloads generated $77 billion in 2017, so an online master's in multimedia design would come handy here. Applications designers analyze mobile market needs, create engaging interfaces, write clean code, set development timelines, optimize graphics, conduct UI tests, troubleshoot bugs, generate app instructions, coordinate updates, and stay abreast of new technologies.

Visual Merchandising Manager- Falling under the marketing category as Forbes‘ #1 best freelance career, visual merchandising strives to turn consumer traffic into profitable sales with enticing product displays. Managers with an online multimedia design master's would define branding strategies, maximize floor plans, create promotional signs, choose lighting, change seasonal themes, plan product launches, supervise production staff, and negotiate budgets.

What is the Salary ROI on a Master's in Multimedia Design Online?

Money shouldn't be the sole motivation for art school, but Fortune warns that master's in multimedia design online programs have the eighth lowest returns and an average satisfaction rate of 60 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that multimedia artists have a mean annual wage of $72,200, or $34.71 per hour. Game designers reap median pay of $81,600. Web developers click toward a mean wage of $72,150. Fine artists using multiple media sculpt median income of $57,410. Graphic designers bring home less at $52,290 on average; however, art directors with 5+ years of experience earn $89,820. On Salary.com, the median profit listed for creative services managers is $85,525. Other averages for multimedia design master's online jobs include $51,619 for cartoonists, $67,437 for set designers, $62,490 for videographers, $82,190 for film editors, and $67,790 for industrial designers. Multimedia marketing gigs pay visual merchandising managers $81,354 and social media directors $96,642 annually.

How is the Job Outlook for Multimedia Design Master's Online Graduates?

World Creative predicts that 29.5 million artistic jobs will fuel the global economy with $2.25 trillion, which is approximately 3 percent of the GDP worldwide. Cheap multimedia design master's training could pay off because fast-as-average job growth of 8 percent is expected by the U.S. Department of Labor. By 2026, studios will hire 6,200 multimedia artists for a hiring jump from 73,700 to 79,900. Today's digital age will spark a 15 percent increase in web design and development positions. Graphic designers can expect slower 10-year growth of 4 percent yet nearly 278,000 total jobs. Master's-level arts management hiring will rise by 5 percent from 2016 on. Industry statistics indicate a 7 percent uptick in openings for illustrators too. The AIGA ranked San Francisco, New York City, Bridgeport, Framingham, and Los Angeles as the most designer-friendly cities. An online master's in multimedia design gives the flexibility to relocate while plotting the next step for a multidimensional innovation career.

Additional Sources:

Artists Report Back
Motion Picture Association of America
College Navigator
U.S. Department of Education

This concludes our ranking of the top five most affordable master's in multimedia design online programs.

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GradSchoolHub.com 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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