There are several types of graduate degrees in graphics and multimedia, which makes exploring options especially important. Distinctions between degrees are often keys that open up doors to very different career paths.
The technological shifts from print to online publication, and filmmaking to digital video production, have reshaped the field of graphics and multimedia in exciting ways. And while Atari now invokes the thought "vintage," the term "gaming" brings to mind everything from Wii to Second Life to World of Warcraft. Indeed, few fields of study offer the balance between technological expertise and artistic expression that a PhD in art & design with a specialization in graphics and multimedia does.
How to Choose a Graduate Degree Program in Graphics and Mulitmedia
Step 1: Compare Graduate Degree Programs in Graphics and Multimedia
Obtaining a Master of Fine Arts degree or a Doctor of Philosophy in graphics and multimedia can be a creative, challenging, and rewarding endeavor. While the MFA can lead to teaching positions in the profession, it is specifically designed as a degree for practicing artists; whereas, the PhD lends itself to conducting research and/or pursuing tenure-track teaching positions at universities and colleges that offer graduate programs in graphics and multimedia.
Graphics and multimedia labs are populated with 3D rapid "prototypers," audio systems, video cameras, editing booths, and virtual worlds inhabited by artificial humans. So, while these are laboratories for research and development, the extraction of maximum creativity and human engagement are the desired results of the "experiments."
Due to the innovative and dynamic nature of the field itself, these campus and online graduate degrees can take numerous names and paths, such as:
- MFA in Graphic Design
- MFA in Interactive and Digital Media
- MFA in Multimedia and Visual Communications
- PhD in Multimedia Arts and Practice
- PhD in Computer Science with a creative concentration.
Master of Fine Arts and Doctor of Philosophy programs usually have different requirements for entry and exit. Some MFA programs do not require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admission, whereas many doctoral degree programs do. Master's degree programs usually take two to three years to complete and require some combination of exhibition, portfolio, and thesis to graduate. While nearly all graduate degree programs require independent research, this undertaking will likely be substantially more extensive, self-motivated, and specific for completion of the doctorate degree. Doctoral programs usually require four to seven years to complete.
Step 2: Weigh Campus-Based Graduate Degree Programs Against Online Degree Programs
One reason to attend a campus-based program in graphics and multimedia is access to top-of-the line professional facilities. Acquiring the tools of this trade requires significant investment, so look for access to the following types of equipment:
- 3D rapid prototypers, omni haptic arms, and scanning equipment for 3D modeling
- Robotics labs with electronics components and construction equipment
- Macintosh Pro labs with Adobe CS3 Suites
- Video cameras, SLR Cameras, and projectors
- Digital imaging, Pro-Tools and Final Cut Pro labs
- Microphones and Audio Monitors
- Production studio capabilities with green screens, lighting kits, etc.
If you already work as a freelancer or staff member at an online publication or multimedia production company, then access to professional equipment may not be an issue for you. In this case, an interesting point to consider is that obtaining an online graduate degree in graphics and multimedia provides yet another perspective on how creativity, teaching, and learning are conducted on computers and the Internet, which is where most of your profession takes place.
Graphics and Multimedia Careers: Where Present, Virtual, and Future Meet
Step 3: Research the field and define your interests in graphics and multimedia
Internships, campus visits, and meetings with practicing professionals are good ways to assess the types of graphics and multimedia jobs that appeal to your interests and talents. Below is a glimpse of research, development, and criticism at the forefront of graphics and multimedia.
Advanced research in graphics and multimedia stretches across a wide range of cutting-edge specializations. A joint venture between one university and the U.S. Army, for example, explores the limits of artificial intelligence and virtual humanity. Other revolutionary projects working to shape the field of graphics and multimedia include:
- production of gaming-style prototypes that hone leadership skills
- creation of simulations to train pilots and foot soldiers for military engagement
- development of virtual exposure therapies to aid recovery from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- teaching military personnel skills ranging from war strategy to machinery maintenance and repair
- Engineering virtual humans to be interactive museum guides that assist patrons with learning
about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Computer gamers, computer scientists, educators, filmmakers, book, magazine, and news publishers across the country and around the globe are interested in answering the question of how to use graphics and multimedia to create more engaging, realistic, and fantastic games, publications, stories and systems of governance.
Programs in graphic design and multimedia are often interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary, emphasizing intellectual inquiry, high level collaboration, and innovative approaches to theory and practice. Museum exhibitions, critical analyses, and socio-cultural implications, all come into consideration here. Thesis projects and research topics might consist of anything from wearable computing to digitally articulated sculpture; computer sensing and physical interface production to augmented reality; electronic music and sound to hybrid architectural and media environments.
Professional Organizations Dedicated to Graphics and Multimedia
Attend events sponsored by, inquire with leaders of, and research professional organizations, such as the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). This can generate excellent leads to careers and companies of interest, as well as funding sources for graduate education.
Founded in 1914, AIGA boasts 64 city, state, regional and local chapters with as many as 22,000 members, according to its Web site. The organization outlines standards of professional practice for graphic designers, which detail the following:
- Responsibility to clients
- Responsibility to other designers
- Ethical and forthright fees
- Honest publicity
- Claims of authorship
- Responsibility to the public
- Responsibility to society and the environment.
Among its many activities, AIGA publishes two trade journals, one titled Voice: AIGA Journal of Design, the other titled Gain: AIGA Journal of Business and Design; provides scholarships and fellowships for emerging and outstanding designers; promotes environmental and democratic stewardship for designers; and lists design jobs.
How to Apply for PhD and MFA Programs in Graphics and Multimedia
Step 1: Create a Shortlist of Graduate Degree Programs in Graphics and Multimedia
As you conduct research on careers and schools, brainstorm, in writing, the areas of graphics and multimedia in which you are most interested in working: Virtual worlds, multiple player video games, citizen and online journalism, digital design, and sculpture are just a few of many options.
As you find online and campus-based degree programs that match your personal interests, financial and academic means, create a "short list" of schools numbering no more than 10, to which you would like to apply. Realistically, applying to five graduate programs should provide sufficient opportunity to begin an MFA or doctoral degree program at the time of your choosing.
Step 2: Verify Application Details for Graduate Programs in Graphics and Multimedia
For your graduate schools short list, be sure to carefully review the Web sites of online and campus-based graduate programs in which you might be interested. You can also let WorldWideLearn.com have graduate degree programs contact you.
As you research various doctoral and master's degree programs, confirm the following information:
Accreditation of Postsecondary Schools
A graduate degree program's accreditation status is an important benchmark in higher education, whether you choose to pursue a PhD or an MFA. Accreditation status can affect your ability to receive financial aid and transfer credits between undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs.
Institutional accreditation is conducted by third-party agencies that can be regional, national, or international in scope. Accrediting agencies assess and authenticate an academic program's rigor.
Learn more about accredited graduate degree programs and educational institutions by visiting:
- The U.S. Department of Education's database of accredited graduate degree programs
- WorldWideLearn.com's Web page explaining the accreditation process, or
- National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)
Entrance Exams for Graduate School
Whether or not the GRE is required for admission depends upon whether or not you choose to pursue an MFA or a PhD, and the admissions requirements of the college or university you'd like to attend. If you are required to take the GRE, try to schedule your test at least two to three months in advance of your graduate school application deadlines. If English is not your first language, you may also need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Additional Graphics and Multimedia Graduate Program Admission Requirements:
- Application form and application fee
- Artistic and/or digital video portfolio
- Statement of purpose and/or intent
- Three letters of recommendation
- Transcripts from all graduate and undergraduate institutions attended
- Significant experience working with computers, graphics, and multimedia equipment.
Just as you'll likely need to budget your finances to complete a doctorate or master's degree of any kind, you may also need to budget your time to conduct research, gather application data, visit educational and research facilities, and define your own purpose for graduate study.
Step 3: Join the Graphics and Multimedia Academic Community
While becoming a member of the academic community isn't required for admission to a graphics and multimedia program, it can introduce you to leading minds in the field, to the newest ideas across the discipline, and to some of the successes and challenges that professors, researchers, and PhD students face. To interact with and talk to graphics and multimedia professionals, attend local, regional, or national conferences.
If you're unable to attend conferences on a regular basis, subscriptions to graphics and multimedia journals may prove useful. Journals often discuss research findings and other topics that were presented by scholars at said conferences.
Fortunately, you have chosen an exciting field in which to pursue your doctorate or master's degree. The graphics and multimedia profession offers opportunities to express artistic creativity, stay abreast of and utilize emerging technologies, and entice a wide range of audiences to interact with art, news, and narrative.
Take your educational and professional goals from virtual to reality. Pursue your PhD in graphics and multimedia today.
- National Association of Schools of Art and Design, Accreditation Overview
- Rhode Island School of Design, Curricula, Facilities, and Museum
- University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies
- U.S. Department of Education, Accreditation in the United States
- U.S. Naval Institute, Simulation: The (Almost) Real Thing, by Art Pine
- U.S. News and World Report, Best Fine Arts Schools: Graphic Design and Multimedia/Visual Communications