The rise of digital technology over the past 30 years has drastically altered how content is created, shared, and consumed. Today, digital media exists at the intersection of technology, communication, and design, blending theories of mass communication with contemporary media practices, while spanning diverse fields from videography to commercial advertising.
Digital media professionals require advanced levels of technical knowledge and design skills in order to understand how to create media (e.g., film, animation, websites) that reaches specific, targeted audiences. Individuals in the industry work in a broad range of sectors, including software development, web design, journalism, entertainment, e-commerce, and more. Bachelor’s degree programs in digital media blend study of graphic design and communication principles with hands-on instruction in contemporary visual media production, preparing students for future work as media specialists, documentarians, news producers, digital media marketers, user experience designers, or digital illustrators, to name just a few of the possible career options.
Classification of Bachelor’s in Digital Media Programs
Digital media is a relatively new major that can be found across a range of academic departments, including schools of communication, fine art, journalism, English, or information technology. While traditionally offered as a standalone major in a larger undergraduate Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree program, it may also be available as a concentration or specialization option within a program in a related subject such as communications, journalism, fine arts, or technology.
The B.S. is considered a science-based, professionally oriented degree, providing students with hands-on skill development in their chosen field. These programs tend to emphasize studies in the major (e.g., illustration, user experience, design theory), instead of a broader focus on humanities-based coursework commonly found in Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs. However, some colleges and universities offer B.A. degrees in Digital Media as well.
To give students a better understanding of what this degree entails, below is a list of some examples of bachelor’s in digital media programs:
- The Universities at Shady Grove: Bachelor of Science in Digital Media and Web Technology
- Prairie View A&M University: Bachelor of Science in Digital Media Arts
- Liberty University: Bachelor of Science in Digital Media and Journalism
- Southeastern University: Bachelor of Science in Digital Media & Design
- University of Houston: Bachelor of Science in Digital Media
- Texas Tech University: Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media and Professional Communication
Note: For some universities, the distinction between B.A. and B.S. degree programs may depend more on the college or department that offers the program than its actual curriculum. Therefore, students should always be sure to compare course offerings in their programs of interest in order to ensure they choose one that best fits their academic needs and professional goals.
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Curriculum Details for Bachelor’s in Digital Media Programs
Most universities require students to complete a total of approximately 120 credit hours in order to satisfy their bachelor’s degree requirements. However, the actual number of credits will vary by program, curriculum requirements, and the type of academic calendar the school uses (e.g., semester or quarter system). Curriculum in digital media bachelor’s programs is typically spread across multiple areas of study, such as:
- General education courses: 50 – 66 credits
- Digital media major course requirements: 30 – 36 credits
- Elective classes: 28 – 42 credits
- Specialization courses: 12 – 15 credits
For schools that use the semester system, students generally need to enroll in at least 15 credits each semester (anywhere from four to five courses) in order to finish their degree in four years. During the first two years of undergraduate studies, students typically complete core curriculum requirements (e.g., humanities, social sciences, English) and take introductory classes in the digital media major (e.g., introduction to motion graphics, UX/UI design, digital illustration). They then shift to completing their major requirements, electives, specialization courses, and, in some cases, a capstone requirement in the final two years before graduating. Capstones are applied learning experiences in digital media that allow students to apply their classroom-based instruction to real-world situations.
In some programs, students may also have the option to add a specialization (or “concentration”) to their digital media major. Examples of potential concentrations include:
- Video production
- Audio production
- Media production
- Production graphics
- Video game design
Below is a list of sample classes students might take while completing an undergraduate program in digital media Note: This course list is intended for example purposes only, as each school will have its own unique curriculum.
- Digital Design and Layouts: Explores the theoretical concepts and principles of layout and design across different media production types and provides students with an introduction to professional design tools and techniques.
- Introduction to Interactive Design: Serves as an introduction to the theories, techniques, and different programming languages used in the development of interactive digital media for multiple mediums (e.g., mobile, web, gaming).
- Fundamentals of Digital Media: A review of common design practices utilized in everything from motion graphics to app development, covering professional considerations such as user experience and accessibility.
- Digital Media and Web Technology Trends: An analysis of current and projected issues in the digital media industry (e.g., web technology, mobile media design, video production), providing students with insights into emerging and next generation tools, techniques, and concepts in the field.
- Digital Media Management: Offers insights into the competitive landscape of the media industry, teaching students about advanced media segmentation and modern project management approaches, and helping build industry-based leadership skills.
- Digital Media Content Strategy: An overview of the concepts behind digital media content strategy, including pre-planning, budgeting, deadlines, industry considerations, client interaction, and more.
The table below includes an example course of study for major courses in a bachelor’s in digital media program (Keep in mind, students will also need to complete core curriculum and other credit requirements in order to earn their degree.)
Online Bachelor’s in Digital Media Programs
For students with family or work commitments that make it difficult to regularly commute to campus for classes, an online bachelor’s in digital media program could be a good alternative. Online programs can also beneficial for students who do not live within commuting distance to an institution that offers a program in the major, and who cannot relocate to pursue an undergraduate degree.
Digital media is a rapidly growing field. As such, more and more schools are beginning to offer online degree options for students interested in pursuing their studies at a distance. These online programs share similar curriculum formats and requirements as their on-campus counterparts. Like most undergraduate degree programs, they typically accept recent high school graduates attending college as first-year students, transfer students from another four-year institution, or associate degree holders from community colleges seeking a bachelor’s completion option.
Additionally, online and on-campus digital media programs generally share the same admission requirements. For first-year applicants, schools often require students to submit either SAT or ACT scores (although not all programs require standardized test scores for admission), official high school transcripts, and a personal statement/essay, as well as meet certain minimum GPA requirements. Transfer students usually only have to satisfy college credit requirements and minimum GPA levels.
In an online digital media program, courses are typically managed through an online learning management system such as Canvas or Moodle. From either their computer or mobile device (depending on the program), students can log into their account to watch lectures, participate in class discussions, access course materials, submit assignments, and communicate with instructors or classmates.
Career Paths for Graduates with a Bachelor’s in Digital Media
As mentioned above, digital media is an ever-expanding field, with applications in industries ranging from government and education to commerce and entertainment. Undergraduate programs in the major offer students a chance to develop skills in the latest tools and techniques used in today’s media workspace. From graphic and interactive design to video production, graduates of these programs can apply their skills in diverse career avenues in education, marketing, business, entertainment, and more.
With their knowledge and abilities across design mediums (e.g., graphic design, print production, video game design, software development), individuals with bachelor’s degrees in digital media might pursue professional opportunities in fields such as:
- Video game design
- Advertising and marketing
- Public relations
- App development
In particular, a bachelor’s in digital media is well suited to prepare graduates for positions like Digital Media Specialist, UI (User-Interface) Designer, Videographer, News Producer, Motions Graphics Artist, or Wed Designer. Below is an overview of several other common career paths in the field:
- Graphic Designer: Uses creative and design skills to draft layouts or produce visuals for a wide range of applications in both print and online mediums.
- Digital Illustrator: Produces drawings and illustrations for books, advertisements, product packaging, and more, either as a self-employed designer or in an in-house role for a company and other organization.
- Video Game Designer: Creates the visual style and art concepts found in video games, using computer animation software to design characters, level layouts, cut scenes, and more.
- Digital Media Strategist: Responsible for analyzing consumer behaviors and industry trends in order to devise and develop media strategies (e.g., advertising campaigns, online media content) to advance a brand’s awareness, sell products, etc.
- User Experience Designer: Studies and evaluates how technology applications look and feel (e.g., websites, apps, software) to consumers, and uses that data to organize information and system interactions to create the best experience possible for users.