Valuable Online Degree Programs in Children’s Literature for Authors and Illustrators

You can go back to school for a degree in writing or illustration even with a busy schedule! Read on for a full breakdown of how to start your journey.

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Thinking about going back to school for a degree in writing or illustrating children’s books but unsure if you can fit your dream into your busy life? An online degree might be the answer for you! It is totally possible to go to college and earn a degree from the comfort of your own home — or wherever you can connect to the internet.

If you’ve never been to college before or you’re new to the concept of attending school remotely, you are likely to get lost in the sea of search results about this at first — but we’re here to help break it down for you. And while we’re at it, we’ll even recommend some top-notch programs to look into! In this blog, we will cover:

  • What Are Children’s Literature and Illustration Degrees?
  • Collaborating With Peers and Publishers
  • Benefits of an Online Degree
  • Understanding Undergraduate Programs
  • And What About Grad School?

What Are Children’s Literature and Illustration Degrees?

Discovering the power of words and images to entertain and teach children!

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A formal education in children’s literature or illustration is about much more than writing picture books with amazing illustrations. In fields spanning classic and contemporary works, folklore and mythology, poetry, and global and multicultural literature, college degree programs offer a structured environment where you can explore the characteristics and components that are commonly found within popular works written for children and adolescents. Many of these characteristics are repetition, illustration, fantasy, optimism, instructional qualities, the perspectives of young people, and so on. While you learn how to interpret children’s literature for critical analysis and critique, you can hone your artistic skills and improve your techniques in composition, color theory, character design, storytelling formats, visualizing narratives, pacing and spacing, and enhancing the reading experience for young readers.

Collaborating With Peers and Publishers

Networking for Success

Whether as an author or illustrator (or both!), these college programs grant you the opportunity to work with notable writers, editors, and publishers. This added advantage of closely collaborating with successful authors and understanding the perspectives of publishers can greatly boost the quality of your work to the level that publishing houses are looking for among the mountain of submissions they receive every year. With professionals in the industry sharing their insights into publishing trends, market demands, and secrets of the craft, you are sure to build a strong portfolio that showcases your abilities.

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The added cherry on top? Networking opportunities! During your studies, you can gain meaningful connections with peers, agents, and publishers. Check out our Bookstr Blog The Remarkable Benefits of Workshopping With Other Writers to discover how a workshop with your peers can enhance your literary career. Speaking of networking and publishing, many universities also operate their own publishing houses!

Benefits of an Online Degree

Study from the comfort of your own home — or wherever!

The benefits behind getting your degree online are numerous, but here are the most important ones. The flexibility to study at your own pace allows you to fit your coursework around YOUR schedule. You save money, too. Think of the dollars you won’t have to spend on commuting to class, for one thing. You can also enhance your focus and increase your productivity by studying from that familiar setting you call home — or anywhere else in the whole world that provides you with the internet and a comfortable place to work!

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Developing valuable skills for the digital age, focusing on ideas and content at a speed that suits you, and broadening your worldview and cultural understanding by interacting with a diverse array of students from around the world — these are all the bountiful benefits of earning a degree online. And, because online learning demands self-discipline and motivation, you can guarantee that you will boost your drive to succeed. If you are going back to school for a career change, then an online degree is a convenient way to acquire new skills and qualifications without quitting your day job (until you’re ready, that is!).

Understanding Undergraduate Programs

The Difference Between Certificates and Bachelor’s Degrees

Undergraduate certificates are structured courses of study that prioritize a focus on specific trades and careers. Providing targeted training in a chosen field in a relatively short amount of time, they are most useful for those seeking to acquire certain skills without committing to a full degree program. They are designed to prepare you for specific careers, enhance your qualifications in your industry, or even complement other college majors.

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The duration of obtaining a bachelor’s degree varies by field of study, but typically it takes about four years if you are a full-time student and longer if you are attending part-time. While each college or university will have its own specific requirements for admission, you can count on almost all of them to require a GED or high school diploma at least. Some programs may ask for your GPA from high school, but honestly, that doesn’t really happen much anymore. There are three types of bachelor’s degrees:

Bachelor of Arts (BA): This is the degree type you earn when you major in humanities or the social sciences (History, Psychology, English, Communications, etc.). These programs focus on critical thinking, communication skills, education, and teaching.

Bachelor of Science (BS): Studying the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields will earn you a (BS) degree that emphasizes quantitative skills for STEM-related careers.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA): If you are majoring in fine, visual, or performing arts, then this is the degree you can obtain. Whether it’s creative writing, theater, drawing, or graphic design, a BFA program is most prestigious for those in the arts-related fields.

Undergraduate degrees provide students with specialized knowledge and skills, boosting their access to job opportunities and broadening their horizons through exposure to new ideas. Here are some outstanding — and 100% online — undergraduate programs for Children’s Literature and Illustration from two world-renowned schools.

University of California San Diego

UC San Diego offers two comprehensive programs — Children’s Book Writing and Children’s Book Illustration — for children’s literature career enthusiasts. Completed entirely online, both of these programs are affordable, and they take 12-18 months to complete, or less if you complete them together.

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The Children’s Book Writing Certificate is designed to provide you with the skills and tools you need to be a successful children’s book writer. Of course, you’ll learn the techniques and styles that most engage a young reader’s imagination while introducing them to a greater understanding of the world, but you’ll also learn how to communicate with publishers, navigate the children’s book market, and use a variety of media to boost your book-writing career.

The Children’s Book Illustration Certificate will help you gain the education and skills aspiring illustrators need to create captivating imagery for children’s literature. You will learn how to translate text into imagery that children can process and enjoy. And like the Book Writing certificate, this program includes courses aimed at improving the chances of getting published and finding success in your career.

Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD)

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RMCAD offers an online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration with a concentration in Children’s Books. Taught by an experienced faculty who are also working professionals, students in this program learn the technical aspects of illustration and how to be an innovative storyteller. By the time you graduate with this BFA, you will have a fully developed portfolio, tech-savvy self-promotion skills, and knowledge of the business practices needed to be successful in the industry.

And What About Grad School?

After completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, the next phase of formal education is grad-school, which is designed to give students an in-depth advancement within their specific discipline. There are many types of graduate programs out there, but for writers and illustrators of children’s books it is best we stick to discussing certificates, master’s degrees, and the MFAs.

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A postgraduate certificate is an educational credential for specialized training at the graduate level. Just like undergraduate certifications, these are quicker and more affordable than full graduate programs, while still allowing you to study core courses at the graduate level to advance your career. Oftentimes, they are also designed to complement other graduate programs, like teaching certificates, for example.

MA vs. MFA:

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A Master of Arts degree (MA) is a full graduate-level degree featuring study in a field of art that is heavy on analysis, writing, and research. In addition to raising your earnings and leading potential in your line of work, MA programs serve as stepping stones for deeper academic pursuits. Because an MA is not a terminal degree, that would mean going on to an MFA, PhD, or Doctor of Education (DoE or EdD) to get one. Plus, they typically have fewer credit requirements than MFAs.

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a terminal degree that places the heaviest emphasis on refining artistic skills through practice and peer review. Some research is still involved, but the majority of the curriculum centers around actively honing skills rather than analysis of them. Many professional artists have an MFA. It is also noteworthy to mention that terminal degrees are required to be a fully-fledged professor in almost every case. An MFA is one route to take to get there!

There are several amazing grad schools the world over that offer fully remote programs. Here are some highly reputable postgraduate certificates and master’s programs from three distinguished universities.

Penn State World Campus

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Ideal for educators, librarians, and aspiring children’s writers and illustrators, this program explores classic and contemporary children’s literature while you learn about the role imagination plays in the lives and hearts of children. Master how to shape children’s reading experiences; gain knowledge of theories and genres of literature for children and young adults; expand your understanding of issues of race, class, gender, and disabilities for young readers; and be able to teach children’s literature as an educator — all with Penn State’s online graduate certificate in children’s literature, which can be completed in as little as one year.

Eastern Michigan University

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With the MA in Children’s Literature from Eastern Michigan University, you can gain master-level competency in all the major areas: folklore, mythology, literary theory, illustrated texts, children’s culture and diversity, media, and multicultural literature. This degree is a great choice for authors and editors of children’s books, librarians, aspiring teachers, and college professors. Enroll in this program and work closely — but fully online! — with nationally recognized professionals and scholars who support you the whole way as you work on your career in writing and publishing, librarianship, or primary and secondary education.

University of Roehampton London

Folks, we aren’t limited to schools in the United States! You can live anywhere in the world and earn an MA in Children’s Literature from the University of Roehampton in London. Students are introduced to critical approaches, psychoanalysis, and new ideas about the challenges of childhood and the approach to texts aimed at young readers through the study of picture books, short stories, innovative texts, and even fairy tales.

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As an added bonus, students of Roehampton also become members of the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature (NCRCL), Britain’s premier institution for the research and teaching of children’s literature. Here’s something even better: the University of Roehampton is also home to its very own in-house publishing firm, Fincham Press.

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From picture books to middle-grade novels, children’s books are about more than just creating pretty pictures and writing cute stories. Studying from the comfort of your home and enrolling in an online degree program in Children’s Literature or Illustration exposes you to a network of professionals, diverse storytelling, knowledge of book layouts and text placements, how illustrations and words interact to tell a story, and so much more!


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