Earning a Master’s in Visual Communications Online

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September 7, 2021

Should I Pursue a Master's in Visual Communications Online?

Many professionals working in industries as diverse as graphic design, advertising, and information technology find themselves wanting to return to school to earn a graduate degree. Why? They may want to advance in their current field or simply switch careers. The busy schedule of a working professional can complicate matters, but earning a master's in visual communications online offers nontraditional learners affordability, flexibility, and skills for diverse career options.

Visual communications encompasses typography, branding, design strategy, motion design, and user experience design. Earning a master's in visual communication online can broaden your horizons in these areas of expertise and bolster your credentials, all while you tailor the experience to your needs. Read on for a closer look at career and salary expectations, resources, and educational requirements relevant to a master's degree in visual communication design.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Visual Communications Graduates

Master's in Visual Communications Salary

A graduate who holds a master's in visual communications degree can anticipate comfortable earnings across many industries. In the graphic design and information technology services industries, for instance, graduates with an MA in visual communication design make an annual median salary of $80,000 and $109,000, respectively.

Experience level contributes to earnings as well. At the entry level, graduates with a visual communication design MA make $51,690, which is above the national mean for all occupations of $50,620. By mid-career, around five to nine years, this number grows to $71,000 and by late career, twenty years or more, the entry level wage doubles to $110,000.

Master's in Visual Communications Careers

The skillset graduates gain from a master's in visual communications equips them for a variety of career paths. Many work as graphic designers or as creative or communications directors at advertising or marketing companies, where they influence the company's image and ethos. Others may work in emerging tech roles, like interactive design. The following list represents common career paths taken by graduates who hold a master's in visual communications.

Graphic Designer

Annual Median Salary: $43,293

A graphic designer uses color, illustration, and font to create a visually compelling layout conveying a brand or message. This job does not necessarily require a master's degree; however, prospective employers filling higher positions may prefer those with stronger design skills -- which an advanced degree provides.

Creative Director

Annual Median Salary: $87,104

A creative director supervises designers and artists in guiding the overall look and ethos of an organization's creative output. Though the job often only requires a bachelor's, an advanced degree in visual communications covers the breadth of disciplines that a creative director's work can encompass, such as typography, web design, and copywriting.

Interactive Designer

Annual Median Salary: $57,485

An interactive designer tailors a website's aesthetics, utility, and functionality for positive interactive experience. They draw upon a strong technical framework and user interaction research to create organized and effective designs that web users can navigate easily. Interactive designers may also handle duties, such as social media, email, and branding for their clients.

User Experience Designer

Annual Median Salary: $73,040

User experience designers develop user-friendly designs for products like software applications. Their work, which endeavors to make products more functional and aesthetically appealing to users, can draw upon expertise in psychology and sociology. They convene with designers, product managers, and engineers to draft user-friendly prototypes.

Communications Director

Annual Median Salary: $67,726

A communications director manages the public image of an organization, whether in the corporate or nonprofit realm. They may craft formal communications that the company disseminates to the public, like press releases.

Source: PayScale

What Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Visual Communications Program?

The requirements for an online master's in visual communications can vary depending on the school and program. For example, some programs may prepare graduates for a specific field or industry and, therefore, may offer fewer electives or concentrations. Choose a program that fits your needs as a learner.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Visual Communications

History of Design

Students investigate the history of design from the industrial revolution to the present day. Course materials may include readings from seminal design texts and critical essay assignments. Some programs may offer equivalent credit for this course in the form of an introductory history of modern art course.

Digital Motion Design

In this course, students learn to create 2D and 3D animations using a time-based application. Topics include 3D modelling and rendering, and setting keyframes for animation. Students may also learn more advanced techniques for translating filmmaking production techniques to a digital animation context. The course may culminate with students creating an interactive story or short film.


Students explore the structure, utility, and history of typography. As students learn about typeface, they explore its aesthetics and its usage for a variety of communication purposes, along with technical concerns like orthotypography and type specifications. This course may appeal to students interested in working in publishing.

Web and User Interaction Design

This course outlines human-centered design for interactive web applications. Students study how functional, usable interactive design applies to industries such as e-commerce and education. Course assignments may include the development of interactive web pages and the creation of an alternative navigational solution for a web application or touch screen device.

Intro to Management

Many online visual communications degrees incorporate management coursework as preparation for management roles in design-related industries, for example as a creative director in advertising. Students explore organizational theory, principles of leadership, and management strategies along with their real-world applications.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Visual Communications Prepares for

Professional Organizations & Resources

Both industry veterans and recent graduates benefit from joining professional organizations related to visual communications disciplines such as printing or graphic design. Many professional organizations provide online continuing education opportunities so their members can stay abreast of practices and technologies. Events offered through these organizations, such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts design conference, allow you to network with others, keep your skillset sharp, and establish valuable professional relationships.

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