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The 10 Best Online Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) Graduate Schools

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Updated: February 20, 2024, Reading time: 26 minutes

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Although many creatives or artists depend on their natural abilities to make art, an Online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree equips you with the competency for the profession. Artistically inclined students, such as sculptors, interior designers, painters, writers, and photographers, can pursue an Online MFA degree.

While pursuing an Online Master of Fine Arts program, students participate in virtual classroom discussions and practical learning experiences. Some graduates also work as art directors, illustrators, or art teachers. As part of the program requirements, students must submit projects that will eventually serve as their portfolios when applying to potential gallery managers or companies.


Overview:
Several opportunities are available for graduates who hold an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts or a related discipline. Fine Arts professionals work in art museums/galleries, publishing companies, photography studios, production companies, creative departments in large corporations, and design firms. Many also venture into their businesses by selling artworks from their homes or establishing their studios.

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Average Salaries Vary in the Field of Fine Art

Career growth for craft and fine artists is projected at 4%, indicating an as fast as average growth compared to other occupations in the country. The 2022 average income is $53,140 per year for these professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the contrary, art directors earn an average yearly income of $105,180.

Specializations to Consider

Online MFA programs provide students with the opportunity to improve and showcase their artistic proficiencies, develop their creative pursuits, and fine-tune their techniques within a particular concentration. A graduate program in fine arts encompasses a variety of specialties, including but not limited to the following:

Some online graduate programs in fine arts may involve management roles, including arts administration or theatre management. The majority of online MFA programs will require students to have an undergraduate degree. As part of the enrollment process, some programs also require an audition or portfolio.

METHODOLOGY

As a Fine Arts major, advancing to a master’s degree demands intensive dedication to excel and move further up in the field. By enrolling in a highly reputable online Master’s of Fine Arts, students emerge as dedicated and competent professionals who excel in their field of discipline in the industry they choose.

Our Best Online Master’s of Fine Arts Graduate Schools were put together to help students decide on graduate school. These factors were considered:

Below are our picks of the Best Online Master of Fine Arts program, featuring a variety of specializations and all the essential pieces of information to help you find the perfect MFA program for you.


Best Online Master’s of Fine Arts Graduate Schools

master's of fine arts

Albertus Magnus College

Albertus Magnus College

: 700 Prospect Street, New Haven CT 06511
: 800 578 9160

Online Master of Fine Arts in Writing

Albertus Magnus College is a 4-year, private, degree-granting college that offers 60+ undergraduate and graduate programs. It was established in 1925 by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Located on a 50+ acre campus in Prospect Hill, Albertus Magnus College is headquartered in a cultural, cosmopolitan center with distinguished museums, prestigious art galleries, and award-winning theatres.

Standout Features:

Albertus Magnus College’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program is a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. The school offers two learning formats for students interested in pursuing an MFA in Writing program, with an appropriate schedule aligned with their family and professional life.

With personally invested professors, students will have interdisciplinary perspectives as well as an emphasis on collaborative learning. The school also provides students with several internships and professional experiences.

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About 95% of the Albertus Magnus College graduates are either employed or enrolled in a graduate school six months after graduation. On the contrary, 90% of undergraduates have completed at least one practicum, study abroad, internship, or another experiential learning program.

Albertus Magnus College also has one of the oldest college traditions. Since its founding, every year’s Candlelight Ceremony highlights the senior class welcoming new students into its tradition of learning.


Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University

:  New Montgomery St., San Francisco CA 94105
: 800 544 2787

Online Master of Fine Arts

Academy of Art University is one of the country’s biggest private, accredited art and design institutions in the U.S. Since 1929, many designers, artists, and other creatives have considered the university as their home. Established in San Francisco and family-owned, the Academy of Art University is first and foremost a professional school.

It is a specialized institution of higher learning that helps students master their artistic abilities as they prepare for professional roles as designers and artists.

Standout Features:

Academy of Art University’s Master of Fine Arts program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. It is a holistic graduate program that teaches students various aspects of art and design, including visual communication, communication skills, planning and conceptual development, and printmaking.

The university’s School of Fine Art provides graduate students with world-class facilities, exhibition galleries, and studio space.

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Academy of Art University is headquartered in one of the world’s most creative metropolises, San Francisco. Its neighbors include big names in web design, game development, communications, architecture, animation, and advertising.

The university was founded by Richard S. Stephens, a fine arts painter and Creative Director for Sunset Magazine. His wife, Mrs. Clara Stephens, was assisted and opened the new institution in a rented loft to teach advertising art.


Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design

: 342 Bull Street, Savannah, Georgia 31401
: 800 869 7223

Online Master of Fine Arts – Motion Media Design

In 1978, the Savannah College of Art and Design was established by Paul E. Poetter, May L. Poetter, Paula Wallace, and Richard G. Rowan to provide college degrees that aren’t readily available in southeast Georgia. The school prepares talented graduates for creative professions through collaborative learning and teaching in a university-oriented setting.

Standout Features of Savannah College of Art and Design’s Online Master of Fine Arts – Motion Media Design Program:

The Rookies have ranked the Savannah College of Art and Design as the #1 motion graphics school worldwide for four consecutive years. SCAD highlights the collaboration between departments and global brands, including FOX Sports, advocating diverse creativity among students.

As a graduate student of Motion Media Design, SCAD provides you with comprehensive tools for learning. The school also hosts popular events, including TVFest and SCAD Savannah Film Festival, so learners can meet prestigious guests, garner international press, and expand their professional network.

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A frontrunner in creative collaborations, the Savannah College of Art and Design has collaborated with FOX Sports Media Group in the Super Bowl XLVIII Opener animation. The opener occupied 30 seconds of airtime.

The SCAD Alumni on the FOX Sports staff utilized Studio 408’s creative concepts to develop additional elements for the broadcast of the Super Bowl XLVIII.


Liberty University

Liberty University

: 1971 University Boulevard, Lynchburg, VA 24515
: 800 424 9595

Online Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design

Although distance learning has become more popular, Liberty University is one of the universities that paved the way in online education since the 1980s. Its program started in 1985 as the Liberty University School of Lifelong Learning. LU’s online learning programs began as correspondence classes.

The university would send VHS tapes loaded with course content to students. In return, students would send tests and assignments checked by an instructor.

Standout Features of Liberty University’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Graphic Design Program:

Although Liberty University’s MFA in Graphic Design program features 100% online courses, the curriculum includes a valuable internship. Students will accomplish a 180-hour internship under the supervision of a professional within the graphic design field.

Aside from the internship program, students will also gain relevant experience in a 90-hour practicum, completing a diverse range of creative projects.

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Several institutions recognize the university for its academic accessibility, affordability, and quality. Liberty University’s tuition for its Online MFA program hasn’t increased in six years.

Students at LU can network with other MFA students through the affordable MFA program and engage in a virtual community of professional artists. They will also have access to Adobe products, including the Creative Cloud Suite.


Regent University

Regent University

: 1000 Regent University Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia
: 800 373 5504

Online Master of Fine Arts in Film-Television

Established in 1978 and headquartered in the 70-acre Virginia Beach, Regent University comprises two colleges and seven schools. With a population of 11,000 students, Regent offers undergraduate and graduate degrees from a Christian perspective in over 150 areas of discipline, including psychology, healthcare, leadership, law, government, education, divinity, business, and technology.

The university derives its regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Standout Features of Regent University’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Film-Television Program:

Regent University’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Film-Television degree is a terminal degree that will educate students to share and create inspiring stories through the television and film industry. Each course is taught from a faith-based perspective.

An instructor of industry experts mentors students as they learn the several facets of film and TV production, directing, and scriptwriting. It is a holistic program that executes all components of directing.

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Regent University is ranked among the Top 10 Best for Vets Colleges: Online & Non-Traditional by Military Times. Its School of Communication and The Arts has been a recipient of more than 600 international, national, and local student film awards.

It has also garnered recognition as a Military-Friendly Spouse School.


Brenau University

Brenau University

: 500 Washington St. SE, Gainesville, GA 30501
: 770 534 6100

Online Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design

Brenau University was founded as the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary by Dr. Wilkes. It is a non-sectarian, privately owned institution of higher learning. Brenau University comprises the Undergraduate School and the Sidney O. Smith Graduate School. A part of the Undergraduate School, The Women’s College has provided academic excellence in single-gender education since 1878.

Today, Brenau offers undergraduate and graduate programs on five campuses across Georgia.

Standout Features of Brenau University’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design Program:

Students pursuing the Online Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design at Brenau University participate in a small studio featuring an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Every instructor in the university’s Brenau Interior Design Department has real-world professional experience in the interior design field.

It is one of the best student-centered interior design programs completed in an asynchronous learning format.

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Brenau University is one of the Best Regional Universities in the South and one of the Best Colleges for Social Mobility. The university has also received distinctions from other organizations and publications, including one of the best colleges to work for. For more than 100 years, eight presidents have administered Brenau and have a rich educational tradition.


Goucher College

Goucher College

: 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21204
: 410 337 6000

Online Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction

Goucher College provides superior hands-on teaching and academics. With a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, professors can identify their students by name. Over its rich history, the school has established a strong, innovative tradition of liberal arts studies that provides five unique advantages – excellent outcomes, a global perspective, a welcoming community, top-tier academics, and a national reputation.

Goucher College offers 60+ student-run organizations, excellent community-based learning and leadership opportunities, and various internship programs.

Standout Features of Goucher College’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction Program:

Goucher College’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction program is well-suited to a writer’s development, offering them personalized supervision with a faculty mentor.

Since the MFA program’s start in 1997, both alumni and students have published 110+ books and have become Pulitzer winners and finalists of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the New York Book Festival Award for best historical memoir, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and the Alicia Patterson Fellowship.

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Prestigious organizations and publications give Goucher College’s list of recognitions. The U.S. News & World Report considers the school a leading innovative Liberal Arts college with impressive study abroad programs.


Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University

: 901 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, CA 91702
: 626 969 3434

Online Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art

Headquartered 26 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California, Azusa Pacific University is a comprehensive Christian university offering 150+ undergraduate and graduate programs. The university is a leader in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, steadfast in academic excellence.

Aside from the main headquarters in Azusa, APU’s seven Southern California regional campus in Murrieta, Monrovia, High Desert, Inland Empire, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County offers baccalaureate and master’s degree for working professionals. The university also offers several online degree programs for non-traditional learners.

Standout Features of Azusa Pacific University’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art Program:

The Azusa Pacific University – Online Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art program is officially accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. It is the first art graduate art degree within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, encouraging learners to combine the essential aspects of their art, life, and faith. 

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Azusa Pacific University is one of the largest Christian universities in the country today. In 1899, a group of women and men passionate about establishing a place for Christian studies gathered to form the Training School for Christian Workers.

It was considered the first Bible college on the West Coast to prepare men and women for service and ministry.


The University of Texas at El Paso

The University of Texas at El Paso

: West University Avenue, El Paso, Texas 79968
: 915 747 5000

Online Master of Fine Arts – Creative Writing

The University of Texas at El Paso is one of the biggest and most successful Hispanic-serving universities in the U.S., with a student population that is more than 80% Hispanic. It caters to almost 25,000 students in 168 undergraduate and graduate programs in nine schools and colleges.

With over $100M in overall annual research expenditures, the university is an R1 research institution. It is a recognition given to the Top 5% of institutions of higher learning nationally. UTEP ranks 5th in Texas for federal research expenditures at public institutions.

Standout Features of The University of Texas at El Paso’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program:

UTEP’s Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is one of the best programs of its kind, committed to helping graduates become effective writers at their own pace. The university is one of the few schools offering an optional low-residency program every summer in Europe, including Madrid, Paris, and London. UTEP’s Career Center offers graduates the resources to succeed in their career aspirations.

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With intensive research work, UTEP is designated as R1 by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Formerly known as The Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, the university opened its doors in 1914, located on Fort Bliss. In 1916, the campus was destroyed by fire, and the university moved to its current location in El Paso.


Full Sail University

Full Sail University

: 3300 University Boulevard, Winter Park, Florida 32792
: 407 679 6333

Online Master of Fine Arts – Media Design

In 1979, Full Sail University started as an audio recording workshop in Dayton, Ohio. It provided unmatched opportunities for students to familiarize the industry through real-world experience in professional studio settings. In 1989, Full Sail eventually transferred to Central Florida, planting roots in the current location.

Today, Full Sail offers various undergraduate and graduate programs designed for emerging industries across technology, art, media, and entertainment.

Standout Features of Full Sail University’s Online Master of Fine Arts – Media Design Program:

Since accelerated learning is available, Full Sail University allows students to receive their Online MFA in Media Design degree in as little as 12 months. Students enjoy access to the university’s Project Launchbox™, which provides learners with powerful technology to help create various projects.

All files, coursework, and portfolios will become available 24/7. Some of the components included in the Project Launchbox™ are Apple MacBook Pro, Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office 365, a 3-year AppleCare Extended Warranty, and a 3-year LoJack – Theft Prevention Subscription.

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Full Sail University offers a distinct approach to education, from accelerated

online programs to tuition that includes lab fees and books. One of the benefits that students enjoy at Full Sail includes the locked tuition. In most traditional schools, tuition expenses become more expensive from year to year.

At Full Sail University, students’ tuition is set for the duration of the entire program, so they can understand the cost of their studies from the day they enrolled.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the standard curriculum of an Online Master of Fine Arts program?

When offered online, a Master of Fine Arts degree program provides more flexibility in the course requirements and content than its undergraduate equivalent. Students must complete anywhere between 36 to 72 credit hours and accomplish practical studio work.

Students enrolled in an online MFA program commit 12 to 36 months to complete theory and studio courses while also accomplishing their thesis projects. The thesis requirement depends on the program’s specialization. Graphic designers, for instance, can create a diverse range of advertisements or brochures for marketing specific products, while painting majors may be required to paint a comprehensive project of visual art.

Online design and art graduate programs in fields of discipline, including fashion design, painting, or illustration, can be required to submit their portfolio for their professor’s deliberation. Some online MFA programs in certain specializations, including interior design, will have a low-residency requirement. These students may have to visit the campus to participate in design labs and seminars/workshops.

Graduates with an Online MFA degree can use their graduate credentials to become eligible for advanced roles in design firms, creative businesses, or large corporations. On the contrary, other graduates can use their degrees to strengthen their artistic gifts to develop masterpieces and other works of art for display or sale. Graduates entering more specialized areas of design and art can qualify for management positions with their graduate credentials.

Is an Online Master of Fine Arts degree worth pursuing?

Many students eventually pursue an Online Master of Fine Arts degree as an opportunity to strengthen and diversify their creative talents. Whether you’re an actor/actress, filmmaker, writer, or graphic designer, finding ample time to improve your creative endeavors can be challenging. An Online MFA program offers well-structured and mentored learning to fine-tune your skillset and opportunities in the future.

Online MFA programs help graduates gain a comprehensive understanding and build professional networks, especially if they aim for the entrepreneurship side of fine arts. Screenwriters can network or collaborate with producers, alumni, and colleagues to help them find momentum in the profession. Creative writers will learn how to find connections in the publishing industry.

A graduate degree in fine arts can help you find a profession related to facilitating art exhibits or productions, handling galleries or publications, teaching fine arts students, or leadership positions in the related industry.

Finding an appropriate online MFA program is an excellent option for students juggling between personal and professional responsibilities but interested in receiving professional guidance and diversifying their proficiencies throughout the creative industries. Although some MFA programs are naturally fit for distance learners – motion design and creative writing, most of them are well-suited for students as long as they have the essential resources and technical tools.

What are some of the career opportunities for graduates with an Online Master of Fine Arts degree?

Depending on students’ areas of specialization, career aspirations, education, and previous work experience, online MFA graduates can pursue various career opportunities. Occupations related to arts and design are projected to increase by 2% between 2022 to 2032.

Approximately more than 95,800 new jobs are expected to be added. In May 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported for the arts and design occupations the average yearly salary was $51,150. It is higher than the average yearly wage for all occupations in the country of $46,310.

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, MFA graduates become directors, graphic designers, interior designers, craft and fine artists, special effects artists, and animators. The major sectors for students with an Online MFA degree include the following:

Since an Online MFA program offers more advanced training in Fine Arts, graduates become eligible to teach at a college or university after graduation. MFA credentials can be mandatory for some teaching professions. Fine and Applied Arts teachers can earn a median yearly wage of $56,206.

Some online MFA graduates prefer administrative positions in public arts institutions, theater departments, or art galleries. Others will work as creative directors or art directors for movie and TV productions, theater performances, publications, or corporations.

Art Directors’ median annual wage is $105,180; however, the industry can be competitive, and students’ previous work experiences may be required. According to BLS, the employment outlook for art directors is 6%, indicating faster than average compared to other occupations in the country.

The fields of advertising and marketing is another well-known industry for online MFA graduates, integrating their creative abilities to apply in the business sector. Several creative directors and marketing managers within marketing departments enroll in an MFA program to complement their professional experience and academics in business and communication. Marketing, promotions, and advertising managers’ average salary is $138,730 annually, with an employment rate of 6% from 2022 to 2032.

Depending on students’ chosen specialization, graduates of digital/visual design programs may become special effects artists, animators, UX designers, interior designers, or graphic designers. Online MFA graduates with writing specializations can find work related to screenwriting and publications.

Authors and writers earn an average salary of $73,150 per year, with an employment growth of 4% between 2022 to 2032.

Film production or photography graduates often work in offices or studios, earning an average yearly income of $62,420. The need for these creative professionals is projected to increase by 7% between 2022 to 2032.

What are some of the courses in an Online Master of Fine Arts program curriculum?

Although the courses in an online Master of Fine Arts program differ by artistic field, most programs have similar objectives and themes to strengthen students’ creative abilities. Creative writing students, for instance, will become effective communicators through dialog.

Painters will refine their abilities by practicing and exploring various techniques, styles, and materials. Online MFA students will gain exposure to constructive feedback from colleagues and instructors. Below are some of the common courses found in the curriculum of an online MFA program:

While learning from industry-standard programs, students will learn the basics of creating 3D motion graphics. Practical learning experiences will introduce learners to rendering animations and graphic objects as well as storyboarding.

Instructors will introduce the emergence of different writing genres and their histories. Students can read notable literary or investigative journalism, nature writing, travel writing, and memoirs. They can write their samples and receive feedback as a class during virtual discussions. 

Although there are online programs entirely dedicated to digital photography, MFA students often have introductory courses in the subject. Students will explore how digital cameras work, apply a variety of light effects, and use a photo-editing program to improve their photos.

Fiction Workshop provides a short introduction to fiction writing through history. Each learner showcases their work during class discussions, where colleagues can also give constructive feedback. Students pursuing a concentration in fiction can utilize these workshops to improve their culminating requirement, which is often the completion of a book-length manuscript. 

The faculty will discuss drawing as preparation for sculpture and painting and as an art. Students learn how to use shadings and lines to portray proportion and perspective. Instructors may use live models to discuss the complexities of drawing human forms and figures.

Learners start discovering how to create 3D figures. Instructors will explain the variety of best practices/techniques as well as available building materials for shaping. Most students will accomplish weekly assignments and develop larger masterpieces as a culminating project.

The course is a practical, application-oriented format that helps students learn the essentials of CSS, HTML, and other programming languages to develop websites. Students’ technical skills will be supplemented with an overview of visual design and usability.

Since it is a workshop type of class, it focuses on students’ writing abilities and classroom feedback. Instructors will assign reading materials from different styles and eras. Discussion points include changing tastes, rhyme, rhythm and meter, and point of view.

Almost all MFA programs offer the Principles of Design course. Students learn how to use the principles of design and formal elements, especially colors. They will also explore the basics of typography. Decision-making and problem-solving are essential skills that art and design students develop through the course.

Instructors will discuss scriptwriting, including dialogue, character building, general page counts, and proper format for screenplays. Students explore the different genres and how they’ll fit into a standard three-act format.

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