Master’s programs in this field lead to a master of fine arts (MFA) degree, which is a terminal degree in creative fields, meaning graduates are qualified to teach at a university level. Students develop work in both physically interactive communication–like urban graphics, icon systems or bookforms–and virtually interactive communication, like websites, interactive media or motion graphics.
Programs typically take two years to complete, though some can take as long as three years. The first year is usually made up of core curriculum, educating students in different techniques in a seminar setting. Students also critique each other’s work, usually in a workshop setting. Students develop original research projects, and the degree culminates in a thesis. Students can expect to spend a lot of time in design studios throughout the degree.
Theses for these programs can either be a written document, multimedia presentation, a designed artifact or a combination of the three. The selection and defense of the thesis, which aims to address current problems in the field, is overseen by a committee. Committees usually consist of two to four faculty, although sometimes professional mentors are allowed.
Students who wish to apply to MFA programs in visual communication design must have a bachelor’s degree. Students should also expect to submit GRE scores, college transcripts, letters of recommendation and a portfolio of work. As with most MFA programs, the portfolio is often given the most weight during the admissions process.
Courses often combine visual communication design theory with workshops, studio time and thesis hours. Here are some courses you might see in these programs:
Critical theory in design
Design and society
Advanced motion graphics
Popular Career Options
Those who graduate with this degree usually take one of two career paths: graphic designer or post-secondary educator. It should be noted that while this degree qualifies graduates to teach college design courses, most professors are accomplished designers. Here are examples of some specific jobs graduates might have:
What Visual Communications Master’s Degrees Can I Earn?
Many universities and colleges offer a master’s degree in visual communications. Often under the degree of a Master of Fine Arts, visual communications prepares you for working in a business or organization providing artistic design in print and electronic formats. Colleges may also offer the visual communications major as a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree or part of a technical communications degree program.
What Will I Learn?
Master’s degree programs in visual communications teach you how to design different types of visual aids for companies. These may include websites, digital images, illustrations and print advertisements. This program introduces you to design techniques and research skills that may be applied in the workplace. You’ll also learn typography, presentation skills and technical writing. Most master’s degree programs in visual communications require a thesis prior to graduation.
In the M.A. program, you’ll spend more time on communications than the visual aspect. Ethics in communications, journalism and mass media are often covered, as is photojournalism, magazine publishing and photo editing. Master of Fine Arts students usually spend time in studios, designing and looking at art techniques. They may also study how media influences society, communications theories and psychology in communication.
Can I Earn This Degree Online?
While not as common as campus-based programs, visual communications programs can be found over the Internet. Visual communications is typically a concentration or a standalone course in an online technical communications program. Studying technical communication builds on writing and editing skills and familiarizes you with a number of multimedia communications. Like visual communications, technical communications teaches you how to convey meanings and feelings through images. You’ll also learn how to strengthen your interviewing skills to obtain the career you desire.
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