Grad School Hub - Most Affordable Online Programs-01
Sketching oneself into online master's in visual communications courses can help full-time digital design innovators with their eyes on the prize of upper-level management jobs. Visual communications M.A./M.S. programs instill the advanced skills needed to powerfully convey clients' messages through graphics, photographs, animations, videos, and other media. According to Forbes, visual communication has reshaped corporate branding because 91 percent of consumers prefer interactive content over paragraphs. More than half of marketers add visual media for each post to grab people's short attention span of eight seconds. For 2017 marketing campaigns studied by Business 2 Community, visual communication dominated because illustrated internet articles had 94 percent more views than plain-text counterparts. Perhaps that's because science published by Social Media Today shows the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster with two times better context comprehension! Demand is high for visual communications master's online grads to strut their creative talent into a digital marketing sector worth $131 billion.

Methodology

The Grad School Hub staff used the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator as our canvas for painting a well-researched picture of cheap visual communications master's online programs that maximize artists' budgets. We checked the box for distance education when searching for advanced degrees in visual communication, design, and media at nonprofit graduate schools. Our team views regional accreditation as vital, so we judged the 17 online colleges' current status using the U.S. Department of Education database. Nationally accredited schools, i.e. Full Sail University, were excused from our list. Though not mandatory, we also gave extra kudos for Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) approval. Our final stage was recording 2016-17 average tuition data for in-state graduates and eliminating those over $20,000. For example, the Academy of Art University had its Online MFA in Visual Development removed for missing the mark with a $23,868 price. The following are the 10 remaining affordable master's in visual communications online offerings.

Ranking Low-Cost Online Visual Communications Master's

10. Quinnipiac University

Master of Science in Interactive Media and Communications Online

Hamden, CT

Average Graduate Tuition: $18,450 per year

Hosting a Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society chapter, Quinnipiac University is a private, civic-engaged master's MAAC research institution opened in 1929 that's endowed for $388 million to serve 10,290 Bobcats with a 16:1 student-faculty ratio in Hamden, New Haven, North Haven, and via eLearning on Blackboard Collaborate. Honored with the 2017 OLC Digital Learning Innovation Award, Qunnipiac is ranked America's 28th best game design college by The Princeton Review, 35th best online graduate education on the U.S. News & World Report, and 172nd best affordable elite school in Washington Monthly. The NEASC-accredited School of Communications accepts $45 applications with Google Drive portfolios each fall and spring for the Master of Science in Interactive Media and Communications Online. Directed by Dr. Ewa Callahan, the 30-credit, internship-optional program trains on cutting-edge software tools like Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro to develop visual design expertise. Capstone plans are customized based on students' specializations in Social Media, User Expertise Design, and Digital Storytelling.

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9. Lynn University

Online Web Design and Technology M.S.

Boca Raton, FL

Average Graduate Tuition: $13,150 per year

Attracting 3,010 Fighting Knights from 93 countries with a mean 3.03 GPA, Lynn University is a private, global-oriented nonsectarian institution established in 1962 that's endowed for $21.27 million and granted SACS approval to deliver 35 degrees via iPad-powered learning on Blackboard or face-to-face in Palm Beach County. Granted a 2015 Stevie Gold Award, Lynn is recognized for America's 96th most valuable tuition on WalletHub, 243rd most faculty awards in Washington Monthly, and 189th best online graduate education by the U.S. News & World Report. Once called Digital Media Arts College, the Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn College of Communication and Design has launched the Online Web Design and Technology M.S. for internet media discovery. Led by Dr. David Jaffe, the 33-credit, portfolio-based curriculum integrates courses like Visual Design Management with one three-week J-term experience and the capstone. Other Lynn offerings include the Communication and Media M.A., Visual Effects Animation MFA, and Media Management MBA.

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8. Hodges University

Master of Visual Communication (MA) Online

Naples, FL

Average Graduate Tuition: $11,880 per year

Generating annual revenue of $28.85 million, Hodges University is a private, tax-exempt Hispanic-serving higher education hub named for Earl and Thelma Hodges in 2007 that expanded beyond Naples and Fort Myers to educate 2,055 adults in 44 academic programs on Blackboard. Giving the Dr. Harold Russell Excellence in Diversity Award, Hodges is named America's 141st most popular technology school on College Factual, 242nd best student life college by Niche, and 346th top master's research institution in Washington Monthly. The SACS-accredited Fisher School of Technology headed by Dr. Tracey Lanham created the Master of Visual Communication (MA) Online with an average cohort size of 14. Following the UPower model, the 36-credit, design-specific curriculum begins year-round with unlimited access to studio content every six-month session. Online students undertake media experimentation in courses from Social Media Messaging to Organizational Innovation before the culminating thesis. Another Hodges online degree to consider is the Master of Science in Information Systems.

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7. National University

Online Master of Arts in Digital Journalism

San Diego, CA

Average Graduate Tuition: $11,232 per year

Linked to 72,312 LinkedIn alumni, including media stars like Lloyd Bryan Molander Adams and Marti Emerald, National University is a private, WSCUC-accredited nonprofit school that's endowed for $558 million to help 11,820 post-grads "Live Through Learning" at the 28 California campuses or online via Blackboard. Bestowed a 2017 Nonprofit Colleges Online Student Before Profits Award, NU is designated America's 22nd best virtual school on Niche, 18th best college for adults in Washington Monthly, and 50th top institution by OnlineDegreeReviews.org. The School of Professional Studies houses an Online Master of Arts in Digital Journalism coordinated by Dr. Sara Ellen Amster for multimedia communication expertise. Starting with an eight-hour Photoshop CS3 tutorial on Lynda.com, the 63-unit, non-thesis curriculum broadens graduates' portfolios with courses from International Reporting to Marketing the News before the final project. National University confers the Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, Master of Fine Arts in Digital Cinema, and Master of Arts in Film Studies online too.

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6. Asbury University

Master of Arts in Communication: Digital Storytelling Online

Wilmore, KY

Average Graduate Tuition: $10,242 per year

Known for its Production Design Studies Center and John DeCuir Collection, Asbury University is a private, nonprofit Wesleyan-Holiness CCCU member opened in 1890 that's endowed for $27.6 million to enroll 1,956 Eagles from 35 countries atop its 17-department Lexington Metro campus and online through Moodle. Boasting four 2017 NATAS Ohio Valley Student Production Emmy Award recipients, Asbury is deemed America's 79th best communications school on Niche, 179th best-loved college in Forbes magazine, and 224th top online graduate education by the U.S. News & World Report. Featuring 84 percent retention, the School of Communication Arts offers funding like the Henry Clay Morrison Scholarship to afford nine majors, including the Master of Arts in Communication: Digital Storytelling Online. The 30-credit, five-semester plan organized by Dr. Elizabeth Jones immerses students with minimum 2.0 GPAs into courses like Viral Marketing and Media Ethics before an apprenticeship. Those lacking media experience can first fulfill the prerequisite Multicam Digital Field Production course in Wilmore within two weeks.

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5. Bowling Green State University

Online Master of Arts in Media and Communication

Bowling Green, OH

Average Graduate Tuition: $9,397 per year

Gifting $73.86 million in annual financial aid, such as the Florence K. and Jesse J. Currier Scholarships, Bowling Green State University is a public, state-funded doctoral institution founded in 1910 that's teaching 2,899 post-grad Falcons, publishing the Mid-American Review, and running an eCampus on Canvas. Chosen for the 2017 NCAA Award for Diversity and Inclusion, BGSU is proclaimed America's 53rd best college on the Social Mobility Index, 28th top value by WalletHub, and 155th best master's university in Washington Monthly. Also ranked 45th nationally for research output by NatComm, the ACEJMC-accredited School of Media & Communications expands beyond Kuhlin Center for its Online Master of Arts. Directed by Dr. Laura Stafford, the 30-credit, non-thesis program offers the Strategic Communication specialization online or Intercultural/International Communication and Social & Interactive Media tracks on-site. Seven-week online courses like Audience Research and Visual Multimedia Production take working media practitioners to the culminating exam in two years part-time.

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4. Liberty University

Master of Arts in Visual Communication Design Online

Lynchburg, VA

Average Graduate Tuition: $8,430 per year

Socially active with over 79,700 Twitter followers, Liberty University is a nonprofit, conservative Baptist doctoral institution owned by the Falwells since 1971 that's endowed for $1.29 billion to ignite 110,000 Flames in 289 online programs on Blackboard from its 7,000-acre James River campus. Granted a 2016 Evangelical Press Association Award for Excellence, Liberty is designated America's 242nd top research college in Forbes, 35th best master's school by the Institute of International Education, and 229th best communications university on Niche. The School of Communication & Digital Content in Green Hall is chaired by Dr. Bruce Kirk with 13 programs, including the Master of Arts in Visual Communication Design Online. Accepting up to 15 transfer credits, the 30-credit, non-thesis curriculum starts eight times yearly for well-rounded design experience from a Christian perspective. Eight-week online courses like Digital Imaging and Contemporary Art culminate with a portfolio review. Check out Liberty's Online M.A. in Strategic Communication, M.F.A. in Graphic Design, or M.A. in Promotion and Video Content too.

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2. University of Valley Forge

Master of Digital Media Communications Online

Phoenixville, PA

Average Graduate Tuition: $7,650 per year

Housing a Mobile Media Command Center (mMCC) with Pro Tools, the University of Valley Forge is a private, nonprofit faith-forward institution opened by the Assemblies of God in 1939 that's attracting 1,130 Patriots into 57 MSCHE-accredited programs in Phoenixville, Woodbridge, and online via Blackboard Learn. Employing the 2015 Outstanding Citizen of the Year, UVF is named America's 101st best religious institution on Niche, 142nd most diverse school by College Factual, and 249th top baccalaureate college in Washington Monthly. Chaired by Dr. Leone Bilotta, the Department of Digital Media Communications has created an accelerated, Christian Master of Arts Online for completion in 18 months. The 33-credit, fifth-year program considers bachelor's grads with minimum 2.75 GPAs for integrative visual communication projects with just one week-long residency in Pennsylvania. Online courses like New Marketing, Aesthetic Development, and Media Literacy culminate with a graduate-level production. Valley Forge confers an Online Music Technology (MM) and Organizational Leadership (MA) also.

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1. Spring Arbor University

Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership

Spring Arbor, MI

Average Graduate Tuition: $7,217 per year

Affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, Spring Arbor University is the Wolverine State's second-largest private, nonprofit Christian NCCAA member founded in 1873 that's endowed for $13.3 million to educate 2,940 Cougars in 70+ majors at 19 locations from Gaylord to Petoskey and online via Blackboard. Bestowed the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency's Gold Level Status, SAU is applauded for America's 133rd highest paid advertising graduates by College Factual, 113th most conservative students on Niche, and 131st best value in Washington Monthly. Charging our ranking's lowest price, the School of Arts & Sciences pairs Online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership post-grads with industry influencers for ePortfolio development. The 38-credit, non-GRE program headed by Dr. Paul Patton requires a MacBook for courses like Digital Media and Visual Communication that lead to a thesis in 18 months. Alumni have excelled at Toledo Medical Center, Lonestar College, the Illinois House of Representatives, and more. Spring Arbor grants a Master of Arts in Management and Organizational Leadership too.

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Which Careers Are Available for Master's in Visual Communications Online Grads?

Online master's in visual communications curricula trains open-minded, versatile artists equipped with the latest software tools to share eye-pleasing information in advanced careers. Since visual communications is a broad-based major, graduates can experiment to find art forms that suit their tastes from magazine spreads to 3D animations. Kissmetrics found that companies most used images, videos, infographics, and memes to reach their audience. Job opportunities are virtually endless in diverse disciplines, such as graphic design, web development, public relations, copywriting, visual merchandising, technical illustration, commercial art, typography, and even data visualization, especially with industry credentials. For instance, the Global Communication Certification Council offers the Communication Management Professional (CMP) title to members who pass a three-hour, $400 exam. Here are some potential job descriptions where portfolios with a visual communications master's online could be useful:

Marketing Communications Director- Master's in visual communications online grads could enter the 69th best job with top pay of $148,000 on CNN Money to manage corporate media interests. Marketing communications directors shape desired brand images, give editorial oversight, hire designers, approve promotional campaigns, develop market research, monitor advertising budgets, optimize visuals for SEO, and maximize exposure.

Interactive Media Designer- Picked among the United States' 15 most in-demand creative jobs by Monster, interactive media design is a multifaceted field where visual styles mix to create cohesive, attention-grabbing projects. Getting a cheap visual communication master's could prepare designers to sketch concepts, pitch client briefs, utilize digital technology, implement visual effects, test user responses, and lead collaborative teams.

Digital Photojournalist- Following in the footsteps of famous photojournalists like Sara Krulwich and Lynsey Addario highlighted by The New York Times in today's new media age could be easier with an online visual communications master's. Digital photojournalists tell news stories via pictures, travel to filming locations, harness their subjects' feelings, use Photoshop to realistically edit, write captions, and pitch images to internet publications.

Advertising Media Planner- According to AdWeek, U.S. digital advertising will grow rapidly by 15.9 percent for revenue of $83 billion this year, so online master's in visual communications degrees could be applied here. Advertising media planners choose apt visual platforms, identify target audiences, brainstorm branding strategies, present campaign proposals, select release dates, cover the media spectrum, and edit promotions before debut.

Mobile App Designer- TechRadar recognized Yoink, Streaks Workout, Bandimal, and Playground AR as 2018's best iPhone apps, but visual communications master's online graduates could be the masterminds behind future popular downloads. Mobile app designers visualize interactive user interfaces, build prototypes, create quality code, tweak original algorithms, infuse visual graphics, create in-app purchases, test functionality, and update platforms.

What is the Salary ROI for Online Master's in Visual Communications Degrees?

Business Insider may have called it the #8 most useless graduate degree, but cheap visual communications master's programs can give online students rewarding returns with a median salary of $75,000. That's quite higher than the media industry's overall mean annual wage of $54,780. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, interactive media designers earn $72,200 on average. Advertising broadcast producers snag mean profits of $93,840. Creative directors bring home median pay of $89,820. Film and video editors make average pay of $82,190. Marketing communications directors boast mean compensation of $144,140 yearly. On Salary.com, visual communication managers report a median wage of $101,895. Other six-figure averages include $115,825 for mobile application engineers, $157,975 for interface design directors, $153,456 for web content executives, $112,232 for brand managers, $127,323 for retail store design directors, and $108,663 for product design managers.

How Does the Job Outlook Look After Visual Communications Master's Online Programs?

Pursuing a master's in visual communications online could be a much-needed push into a digital marketing sector where MediaVillage predicts annual spending growth of 15 percent to $157 billion by 2020. Visual communication courses apply in highly diverse niches of a media industry that's poised for an overall 6 percent jobs gain of 43,200 according to the Department of Labor. Marketing managers can expect a 10 percent hiring increase for 22,100 openings through 2026. Faster-than-average growth of 17 percent is projected for film and video editors. Interactive media designers will see a 10-year jump of 8 percent for total employment of 79,900. Hiring of advertising broadcast producers will also rise quickly by 12 percent this decade. HubSpot surprisingly declared Austin, Denver, Houston, Raleigh, and Boston as the five top U.S. cities for starting communications careers. Regardless of where artistic media magicians reside, these career-boosting online master's in visual communications programs are accessible.

Additional Sources:

Forbes
Social Media Today
College Navigator
U.S. Department of Education

GSH Staff
July 2018

This concludes our ranking of the top 10 most affordable master's in visual communications online for 2018.