What You Need to Know About a Fine Arts Degree

What You Need to Know About a Fine Arts Degree

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Whether you’re interested in photography, painting, sculpture, film, the digital media, or you aspire for a career in design or a coveted museum spot, a degree can help you achieve your goals. Here’s what you need to know to pursue a degree and what you can expect from your training.

Degree Coursework

The courses offered at a school are as varied as the students who decide to pursue a degree. The curricula in most schools generally feature courses in:

• Art history
• Art theory and criticism
• Performing arts
• Painting, drawing sculpture, and photography
• Digital art

Types of Degrees

If you’re interested in pursuing a degree, you have the choice of taking undergraduate as well as graduate paths. They include:

Associate’s of Fine Arts (AFA) . Like most associate’s degree programs, an associate’s degree from an online school, a community college, or technical school lays the academic foundation for a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA) . A bachelor’s degree generally takes four years to achieve, and gives students the professional and creative skills to prepare them for arts-related jobs. Most professional art positions require a BFA at a minimum.
Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) . A master’s degree further enhances a student’s understanding of the arts world–particularly management–as well as the advanced development of their creative specialty. Depending on your thesis, you can earn your MFA within two years, however, many students take longer. Generally, teaching and museum positions require an MFA.

What Are the Career Opportunities in the Fine Arts?

Many students considering a degree wonder what kinds of jobs are available after they graduate. The good news is there are a wide range of options–working as an art buyer, a creative director at an advertising agency, a museum curator, an artistic director in the theatre, or an independent multi-media artist.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industries with the highest levels of employment include:

• Independent artists, writers and performers
• The entertainment industry
• Specialized design services
• Colleges, universities and professional schools
• The publishing industry

The BLS notes that despite high competition for jobs in the studios, galleries and individual clients are always looking for talented and stylized artists.

How Much Money Can I Make with a Fine Arts Degree?

Just as there are many different types of artists working in the fine arts, there are as many salary categories. The BLS reports the following median annual wages for some fine arts careers in 2009:

• Art directors: $78,580
• Craft artists: $28,960
• Multimedia artists and animators: $58,250
• Fine artists: $44,160

Additionally, the BLS notes that earnings for self-employed artists vary widely. Beginning artists may earn a nominal amount while working to establish their names in the art world, while more experienced freelance fine artists and illustrators have the potential to earn more than their salaried counterparts.

For creative professionals, a fine arts degree from a fine art school can open the doors to a world of opportunity.