Best Online PhD Programs in Art and Design

If you love art and design, you may be thinking about going forward with an advanced degree. Dedicating yourself to these fields can have many benefits, after completing a Ph.D. program. You could discover new career options, meet personal goals, and streamline your professionalism.

While offline degree options are more popular, getting an online Ph.D. in Art can be an excellent option for someone who isn’t ready to relocate.

Finding a worthy program for getting your online Ph.D. in instruction design or art isn’t easy. However, it’s worth the effort. Online programs give you a chance to study at your own pace and earn a degree you’ve always wanted.

Let’s explore the top programs for getting an online Ph.D. in Arts and Design.

What You Study When Getting a Ph.D. in Arts or Design

Earning an online Ph.D. in arts or design offers you a wonderful opportunity to go deep into your chosen field and develop expertise in specific areas. This doesn’t just enhance your creative and critical thinking abilities but also equips you with a range of skills.

Besides gaining new career opportunities, you can enjoy substantial personal growth while connecting with people who’ve made significant contributions to the field.

Research and Methodology

With a Ph.D. in arts and design, you can dive deep into research and methodology. If you choose this direction, you will be learning advanced research methodologies that allow for conducting in-depth investigations.

You will develop skills in:

  • Conducting literature reviews
  • Gathering and analyzing data
  • Formulating research questions

You will be actively engaged in the pursuit of knowledge to contribute to the existing body of research.

Specialization and Expertise

Art and design have multiple specializations. When choosing the online program, you will also be choosing the discipline to focus on. The goal is to make a selection that suits your personal and professional needs perfectly.

Whether it’s instructional design, fine arts, or fashion design, you will be engaged in coursework and research that hone your skills and expand your understanding of the chosen niche.

Critical Thinking and Analysis

A Ph.D. in Arts or Design fosters critical thinking and analytical skills. You will learn to approach artistic and design challenges from multiple perspectives. This will involve exploring historical, cultural, and theoretical contexts.

While developing the ability to analyze the works of others, you will discover multiple ideas, theories, and concepts. You will be going through large loads of materials and pushing the boundaries of your creativity. While highly complex, this part of your studies is bound to fulfilling.

Collaboration and Communication

While your studies will be done online, you will still be participating in collaborative projects. They can be completed in a fully remote format. Alternatively, you may need to visit the campus several times a year.

Besides working on projects with your peers, you will be able to communicate with numerous faculty members. This won’t just help you streamline your learning. It will allow you to make valuable professional connections.

Even though these programs are almost entirely completed online, you will have an opportunity to engage in productive collaborations with fellow researchers and professionals.

Professional Development

In-depth professional development is a major part of any Ph.D. program. Art and Design directions aren’t an exception. While you are studying online, you will participate in various networking activities. You can attend remote conferences and present your research online. You can also contribute to article publications.

All of this will make you an excellent addition to your resume. Connections you make during networking activities in the university of your choice will help you get the job of your dreams in the future.

Overall, earning a Ph.D. in Arts or Design online is an active learning experience. Even if you don’t participate in multiple offline activities, you can easily achieve your advanced education goals.

Careers You Can Pursue After Earning an Online Ph.D. in Instructional Design or Art

After you finish your Ph.D. program, you may have to make new career choices. Even if you are already working in the field, you could explore other directions. Meanwhile, a Ph.D. could be the foundation of your rise up the career ladder. You could also look at new salary ranges.

Here are a few roles that may become available after you earn a Ph.D. in Art of Design online.

Instructional Designer

An instructional designer is an exciting role that many top learners explore after earning a Ph.D. In this position, you will be:

  • Designing instructional strategies – developing a roadmap and designing effective instructional methodologies.
  • Creating learning materials -developing instructional materials such as e-learning modules, videos, interactive activities, assessments, and job aids.
  • Applying instructional design models – leveraging established instructional design models (such as ADDIE or SAM) to guide the development process.

Besides executing your responsibilities, you will constantly be collaborating with true experts in the field.

Curriculum Developer

Curriculum developers with a Ph.D. are in high demand thanks to their top-notch skills and educational experience.

As a curriculum developer, you will:

  • Conduct needs assessments
  • Design curriculum and instructional materials
  • Develop learning objectives
  • Create instructional strategies
  • Design assessments and evaluation tools
  • Incorporate technology into instructional design
  • Research best practices in education
  • Ensure alignment with educational standards
  • Revise and update curriculum as needed

Your goal would be to develop a high-quality curriculum that aligns with educational standards.

E-Learning Specialist

E-learning is quickly becoming the “new normal.” Your online Ph.D. in Instructional Design or Art can be highly useful for becoming an e-learning specialist.

In this role, you will be responsible for developing online courses and training models for different types of students. You will be diving deeper into interactive remote learning options.

As an e-learning specialist, you could get a job in educational institutions as well as private businesses.

Art Director

Art directors lead and manage creative teams. They oversee the visual aspects of projects in various industries, including:

  • Advertising
  • Publishing
  • Film
  • Gaming.

As an art director, you will collaborate with designers, illustrators, photographers, and other artists. Your responsibilities may include:

  • Developing creative concepts and visual designs
  • Managing teams of designers and artists
  • Providing artistic direction and guidance
  • Create and maintain brand identity and visual guidelines
  • Approving designs, artwork, and layouts
  • Staying up-to-date with industry trends and incorporating them into design concepts

Depending on the organization you work for, this can be an all-encompassing position with a high-level salary.

Higher Education Faculty

Graduates of online Ph.D. in Instructional Design programs can explore opportunities in higher education as faculty members.

You can practice teaching, research, and mentorship while sharing your expertise with aspiring professionals in the field. As a faculty member, you can contribute to the advancement of knowledge while participating in research activities and publishing scholarly articles.


After earning an online Ph.D. in Instructional Design or Art, you can consider a career as an independent consultant. These specialists offer services to organizations or educational institutions.

In this role, you will offer guidance and solutions relevant to:

  • Curriculum development
  • Instructional design
  • E-learning implementation

Your responsibilities will include assessing the problem and developing customized strategies to meet your client’s goals.

Admissions Requirements for Online Ph.D. in Arts and Design Programs

When it comes to admissions requirements, each school has a different list. In some cases, these lists can be intimidating. Even if you don’t meet all these requirements, don’t give up.  Many universities are willing to be flexible about admitting candidates into their Ph.D. programs.

If you can demonstrate a true passion for learning and back it with experience, the admissions committee may overlook low GRE scores.

Academic Qualifications

The majority of universities that offer online Ph.D. programs in arts and design require applicants to hold a master’s degree in a related field, such as Fine Arts, Graphic Design, or Art Education. They also usually require a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

You would likely need to provide official transcripts from previous educational institutions. Some schools may settle for unofficial transcripts.

Statement of Purpose

To demonstrate your passion and commitment to the field, you can submit a statement of purpose. This document will list your reasons for pursuing an online Ph.D. in arts and design, outlining your research interests and career goals. It’s your opportunity to explain how the program aligns with your aspirations to prove that you are a good candidate. 

You would need to convey a clear and compelling narrative that reflects your motivation and potential contributions to the field.

Letters of Recommendation

Universities usually request one to three letters of recommendation from individuals who can provide insight into your academic abilities, research potential, and professional qualities.

These letters should actively highlight your strengths, achievements, and potential for success in the program.


Many online Ph.D. programs in arts and design require applicants to submit a portfolio or writing samples to gain insight into their previous work and existing skills. It’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your value to the program even if you don’t meet some of the other requirements.

CV or Resume

A school may ask you to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) or resume that outlines your:

  • Educational background
  • Professional experience
  • Research activities
  • Publications
  • Achievements and awards related to your field of study

A resume is one of the elements that can demonstrate your readiness for doctoral-level study.

Top Programs For Earning an Online Ph.D. in Art and Design

The time you spend selecting the right program for your educational needs is a significant investment in your studying experience and career opportunities. Here is a list of the most exciting programs that could help you achieve your goals.

Warnborough College Ireland

Warnborough College in Ireland offers a distance learning opportunity to get a Ph.D. in Fine Arts. While in this program, you will study emerging art forms, fine arts theories and practices, fine arts presentations, criticism, and much more.

To apply for the program, you need to demonstrate an MFA or MA degree in a related discipline. The rest of the requirements for foreign students have to be discussed with the admissions committee.

Warnborough College is a self-accredited institution that operates in line with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

National University

National University has an excellent program that allows you to become a Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Design. While in this program, you will develop the necessary skills to improve learning experiences.

You will find out how to evaluate design processes, explore the design of mobile and game learning, dive deep into statistics, and much more.

Admissions requirements include:

  • A master’s degree in a relevant field from an accredited university
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Transcript from institutions of previous studies (unofficial transcripts are acceptable)

The school is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University provides an excellent opportunity for students who want to earn an online Ph.D. in instructional design. After finishing their program, you will become a Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Design and Technology.

While in this program, you will learn about cognitive development, evaluation, and assessment of distance learning programs. You’ll find out how to create high-quality learning programs for many organizations, including schools and universities.

Admissions requirements include:

  • A master’s degree in a relevant field from an accredited university
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended educational institutions

The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

NC State University

NC State University has a robust program to help you earn a Ph.D. in Design. While in this program, you will be conducting investigations and advancing your knowledge through design-based practices and methods. 

You will be connecting the design research to the needs of society and collaborating with respected professionals in the field.

Admissions requirements include:

  • Official undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • GPA of 3.0 and higher
  • CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • Digital portfolio
  • Three letters of recommendation (at least one from your current employer)

The school is accredited by the SACSCOC.

University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh’s College of Art allows students from around the globe to get an online Ph.D. in Art. After finishing this program, you will have an opportunity to explore positions in international galleries, museums, and private organizations.

To learn about the program’s specific admissions requirements, you need to contact the school’s admissions committee.

Pursuing an Online Ph.D. in Art and Design

If you are ready to get a Ph.D. in Art and Design online, you have many options to consider. You could apply to a local program or study in an over-the-seas university without leaving the comfort of your own home.

When applying to these programs, pay special attention to the format. Instead of offering 100% remote learning opportunities, some schools have hybrid programs. This means that you may have to visit the offline location at least several times a year.