The 10 Best Online Art Schools in the US

You’ve probably heard the old joke. A kid goes to their parents to discuss their future plans. The parents respond in horror when the kid reveals that they want to be an artist. 

“What are you gonna do with that?” the parents ask; “how will you make money?”

An art major still conjures the image of a starving artist, a loner who lives in poverty, locked away in their room, splashing paint on a canvas. 

But the fact of the matter is that artists can have profitable careers. Thousands of people make a living with their art every day, whether they be fine artists creating masterpieces or commercial artists designing graphical user interfaces. Art is a vital part of everyday life, a fact reflected by artists’ salaries. 

How do you earn money with art? In most cases, you’ll need an art degree, going through a program that teaches you how to enhance your skills and how to make them marketable. 

That fact can be intimidating to some. After all, what if there is no good art school in your area? 

Fortunately, more and more great art schools have online programs. Sometimes, these programs focus only on arts education, commercial art, or graphic design. But an increasing amount has a full palate of degree offerings, letting people worldwide study painting, illustration, and more. 

This article lists 10 of the best online art programs in the country. Each of the schools below has excellent resources, teachers, and support staff, making it easy for you to find the right school and begin your profitable art career. 

Lindenwood University (St. Charles, MO)

Lindenwood University
Bhockey10, LwdRoemerHall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Consistently ranked as one of the most affordable colleges in the U.S., Lindwood University is the ideal school for those who want to develop their artistic skills without losing a lot of time and money. An art degree at Lindwood takes on average 2 – 4 years and costs only $475 per credit hour. 

Even better, students who already have credits from another institution can easily transfer them to Lindwood. The school partners with community colleges across the country, letting students earn their degrees without wasting prior knowledge and experience. 

Over the 120 hours of the program, students take 48 hours in foundational subjects, such as drawing, design, and the history of western art. Students also twelve elective courses, choosing specialties including painting, Photoshop certification, printmaking, and more.

Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA)

Since 1929, the Academy of Art University at San Francisco has been training artists in a variety of fields, including special effects legend Rick Baker and fashion designer Kara Laricks. But artists who want to follow in the footsteps of these greats do not need to go to San Francisco. AAU has a full slate of degrees available through its online program. 

Students can earn everything from an AA to an MFA in animation and visual effects. Taught by experienced professionals, the program provides students with technical fundamentals of design and color theory, alongside the skills to operate state-of-the-art programs. 

A photography degree from AAU teaches students traditional and digital photography. In addition to the technical skills to use industry-standard tools and platforms, the program helps students develop a varied portfolio to show off their work. 

Bellevue University (Bellevue, NE)

Bellevue University
Jared Winkler, Bellevue University, CC BY 4.0

At Bellevue University, professors know that the life of an artist is hard. To be successful, one needs to not only make great art but also be able to sell it. 

For that reason, Bellevue’s online art program emphasizes graphic design. The comprehensive online degree prepares students to enter the commercial art industry. Experienced professionals, students learn design fundamentals, how to use state-of-the-art tools, and how to navigate the business of making art. 

Programs that students learn include the industry-standard Adobe suite. Using software such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator, students construct a portfolio that they can shop to potential employers. Combined with the general education classes they take, students leave the program well-rounded and well-equipped. 

Finally, because they know that one cannot be a professional commercial artist if one has a great deal of debt, Bellevue prides itself on its affordable program. Online courses cost only $430 per credit hour. Students with military experience pay even less, only $250 per credit hour. 

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (Lakewood, CO)

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is a uniquely student-focused school. Every aspect of the institution works to improve the abilities and future of its student body, from providing them with technical skills to helping them through the job market. 

That commitment stands out particularly well with the school’s online program. With twelve separate degree offerings, the school has options for every student, whether they want to pursue commercial art or the fine arts. 

The art education degree at RMCAD emphasizes fine arts and combines it with leadership and classroom management techniques. Students learn not only how to create engaging art, but to help their students find their voice. 

The school’s unique interior design program focuses on practical schools. Building from design fundamentals, the program trains students in lighting theory, environmental human behavior, and computer-assisted design. 

Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)

Arizona State University
Titoxd, ASU Old Main, CC BY-SA 3.0

A respected state school, Arizona State University has the infrastructure and support to offer a first-class art education. Whether you want to spend your life painting masterpieces, designing logos, or creating films, ASU has an online degree program for you. 

The museum studies degree immerses students in art history from around the world. Students learn not only about the creation of art, but also the process of curating and managing museums. Graduates have gone on to educators, archivists, and more. 

ASU offers several different graphic information technology degrees. These degrees teach students how to design graphical user interface systems for a variety of applications. Classes combine technical knowledge, design fundamentals, and other technologies, helping students create interfaces that result in an efficient user experience. 

Whichever degree they choose, students at ASU have access to unparalleled resources, ensuring an effective online learning environment. 

Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester, NH)

Southern New Hampshire University
DeLarge77, RF Hall, CC BY-SA 3.0

At a mere $230 per credit, Southern New Hampshire University is one of the most affordable online schools in the country. But that lower price does not indicate a lack of quality. On the contrary, SNHU has a fully certified program, complete with all the state-of-the-art technology needed by a professional artist. 

With a wide range of degree offerings, students have plenty of options to choose from. In every option, students learn how to design and present professional quality work. They gain hands-on experience working with modern design tools and the latest in media messaging techniques. 

With this training, students leave ready to pursue a variety of careers. Alumni have gone on to be marketing specialists, production artists, graphic designers, and more. Whatever the corporate demands for art, SNHU prepares students with the answer. 

Minneapolis College of Art & Design (Minneapolis, MN)

Minneapolis College of Art and design
Patrick Shane Kelley, Minneapolis College of Art and Design Campus Birds Eye, CC BY 3.0

The online program at Minneapolis College of Art & Design puts the focus on student’s needs. Its various degree offerings involve asynchronous classes, which allow students to log in at any time and work around their established schedules. 

The school’s Master of Arts in sustainable design degree allows students to take their prior education to the next level. With small class sizes and video conferencing, the program has an emphasis on community and collaboration. Students learn how to make art of existing materials, designing sustainable works for all parts of life. 

In five weeks, students can earn a certificate in teaching art and design. Art teachers take courses in subjects such as critique, online course design, and the creative process. After completion, students are ready to use the internet to teach others how to appreciate and create art. 

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)

University of Florida
Reitz Union, Reitz Union, CC BY-SA 4.0

The online master of arts degree in art education at the University of Florida graduates more students than nearly any other program in the nation. 

U Florida enjoys this success thanks in part to its initiative to build a diverse student body. With expansive administrative support and well-trained faculty, the school can effectively recruit students worldwide and help them succeed in online education. 

The degree curriculum puts students’ expertise first. Drawing on their prior training and classroom experience, the school helps students understand the effect they have on the lives of their students. Classes approach art as a subject with real-world relevance, an important part of every aspect of life. 

Upon leaving the program, students become teachers who empower their students, giving them the tools to help students make art out of their everyday lives. 

Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)

Maryland Institute College of Art
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

One of America’s oldest art schools, the Maryland Institute College of Art has trained some of the best artists of all time. Alumni include 14 Fulbright award winners, five recipients of the Jacob Javits Fellowships, and many other winners of prestigious awards. 

But MICA isn’t content to rest on its established reputation. Instead, it keeps innovating and pushing forward, working to train the next generation of art professionals. 

Students seeking to practice art in a business context can earn a master of professional studies degree in several tracks. This degree prepares students to become business professionals in the art world, running galleries and representing artists. The various design and visualization tracks help students design user interfaces and data management protocols. 

K-12 educators seeking advanced training can earn a master of arts degree in education online. The program gives them access to experienced professionals, who help art teachers develop their creative skills and train them in pedagogy best practices. 

Savannah College of Art & Design (Savannah, GA)

Savannah College of Art and Design
Jud McCranie, Slotin Building, Savannah, GA, US, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Savannah College of Art & Design is regarded among the best art schools in the United States. So it only makes sense that its online offerings would be just as impressive. 

The school’s online faculty includes dedicated professionals who understand the demands of online education. Professor of interior design Ernest Abuin has served as a design consultant for RTKL Associates, senior designer and commercial architect at Callison-RTKL, and head of design collaboration at PIE studio. 

Art history professor Lindsay Alberts holds a Ph.D. from Boston University and has published in major outlets such as Comitatus: UCLA Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the Journal of the History of Collections. With these great teachers, students can study a range of subjects. The school offers degrees in everything from illustration to creative business leadership to preservation design.

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