Ultimate Guide to Arts Degrees and Careers

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An image of art students for our Ultimate Guide to Arts Degrees and Careers

Admission Requirements for an Arts Degree

Most artists, especially craft and fine artists, improve their skills through practice and repetition. While a career as a florist or designer doesn’t always call for a degree, some careers in art and design do. The most common degree for an artist is a bachelor’s degree. Below are several different degree pathways to landing a career in the arts. Bachelor’s Degree (BFA) A BFA or Bachelor of Fine Arts is awarded in creative fields related to art, dance, literature, music, and more. In some schools, the BFA is recognized as a BVA or Bachelor of Visual Arts. The BFA differs from the standard BA (Bachelor of Arts) in that the majority of the program emphasizes a practical studio component, rather than lecture and discussion coursework. From acting and musical theatre to computer animation and production, BFA degrees hone specific art skills through studio time. After completing the BFA degree, a student may pursue a postgraduate degree, or MFA (Master of Fine Arts). The BFA usually takes three to four years to complete. Master’s Degree (MFA) An MFA, or Master of Fine Arts, is a terminal degree in fine arts, which may include disciplines like creative writing, filmmaking, graphic design, performing arts, photography, or visual arts. The MFA is a graduate degree that is typically completed after one has earned a BFA. The MFA takes two to three years to complete, though programs vary by institution. Coursework within an MFA program depends on the nature of the discipline, but they tend to be more applied and performing in nature than a typical Master of Arts or Master of Science degree. The culminating experience of an MFA is a thesis exhibition or performance. Interestingly, the first MFA program to admit students was offered in 1940 by the University of Iowa. Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA) The Doctor of Fine Arts, or DFA, is a doctoral degree in fine arts. Doctoral programs that lead to DFAs are equivalent to a Ph.D., as both types of degrees contain the same level of knowledge. However, DFA programs tend to require more practical components and structured learning than Ph.D. programs. Some schools award DFAs to students who have completed MFAs, while others allow students to earn their MFA alongside the DFA.

The Importance of Accreditation

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredits more than 340 postsecondary institutions that offer programs and degrees in arts and design. The majority of these schools award a degree in art. The association establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees and credentials for art- and design-related disciplines. In practical terms, NASAD’s accreditation is a stamp of approval that affirms that the institution adheres to the standards set forth by the governing body. It is a sign that the institution has met an external set of criteria for the degrees and programs it offers. Attending an accredited art or design school is extremely important when it comes to funding. Art school accreditation allows students attending the institution to receive federal and state financial aid. In order to receive funds, art colleges must be accredited by a governing body that has been recognized by the Department of Education (DOE), such as the NASAD. In addition to the assurance of high-quality standards and access to financial aid programs, accreditation matters if you are planning to pursue graduate studies. In order to qualify for admission to other accredited art schools, colleges, and universities, including most MFA and doctoral programs, you must have attended an accredited institution. Accreditation also impacts transfer credits. If you plan to transfer credits toward a degree, only those earned from accredited programs are eligible. An image of an animator for our Ultimate Guide to Arts Degrees and Careers

In-demand Arts and Design Majors

Animation As an animation major, you will develop and hone your creative skills in an industry that requires artistic abilities. Common classes as an animation major include 2D and 3D character animation, design, life drawing, movement and acting, principles of animation, storyboarding, and storytelling. Storyboarding courses introduce common concepts and practices of visual storytelling, while storytelling courses cover how to write for animated films or a television series. Graduates of animation programs may pursue work as animators, graphic designers, or special-effects artists. Architecture An architecture major studies history, theory, and application of design. While getting practical experience in the drafting and creation of building layouts and infrastructure, architecture majors gain essential skills in the classroom. They study concepts in engineering, math, and other relevant subjects. In addition to foundational courses, architecture majors may take electives in unique areas like global warming, landscape design, and sustainability. Cinematography and Film Cinematography and film programs prepare students to communicate and deliver dramatic information, feelings, ideas, and moods through the creation and production of films and videos. Common courses taken within this major include computer image making, film auditing, film editing, film technology and equipment, and theory of film. Many Hollywood producers and directors have majored in cinematography and film. Documentary Production As a documentary production major, you will take a series of foundational and elective courses that prepare you for careers in this unique field. Instruction in business aspects of production, editing, film and video writing, research techniques, and videography are among the most common courses offered in documentary production programs. These programs are designed to prepare students to produce nonfiction film and video. Fashion and Apparel Design Fashion and apparel design is a program that prepares students to apply artistic talents and principles to professional design in apparel, commercial fashions, and accessories. This major covers topics in apparel design, computer-assisted design, concept planning, design with specific materials, labor and cost analysis, and more. Some fashion design programs incorporate business topics, offering students insight on how the business side of fashion works. Students may explore entrepreneurship or topics in management and operations within the fashion industry. In fact, some programs offer a business degree alongside a fashion design degree. In these programs, one may earn a BBA or MBA with a fashion design concentration. Games and Interactive Media Design Expected to be a top major over the next decade, games and interactive media design is a program that focuses on the design, development, and programming of games and interactive media. Students are required to take a series of core courses in art, computers, and math. Beyond the core curriculum and foundation classes, students majoring in games and interactive media design explore deeper topics. Common courses offered in most related programs include computing, design foundations, digital illustration, drawing, photography, and web page design. Some programs offer electives in simulation, story development, and the theory of games. An image of a graphic designer for our Ultimate Guide to Arts Degrees and Careers Graphic Design A major in graphic design includes instruction in computer-assisted art and design, as well as in color theory, imaging, and studio techniques. Depending on the school and program, the discipline may also cover topics in commercial art business, communication, and printmaking. Electives allow students to explore personal interests and take courses to enhance their career goals. 3D graphics, photography, and web design are among the most popular electives offered in graphic design programs. Interior Design The role of an interior designer relies heavily on innovation and creativity. But an interior designer is more than just creative. They enjoy making people happy. In fact, customer and client satisfaction are central to the role of an interior designer. While the courses you will take as an interior design major may vary by institution and program, there are certain requirements that must be met. As an interior design major, you will likely explore topics in computer-aided drafting and design, history of interiors and furniture, interior design graphics, and residential interior design. Music As a music major, you will study a particular instrument, such as piano, trumpet, or violin, and you will take a series of music theory and history courses. Music majors gain experience performing in front of peers and faculty. They grow comfortable performing in front of audiences as they hone their art and skill. A student studying piano, for example, may take classes in ear training, keyboard skills, piano literature, and principles of form. Most music schools are highly competitive, but those with a strong musical portfolio typically have the best prospects for admission. Theatre Arts Theatre majors study dramatic works, such as plays, and their production. They build stages and sets, create costumes, and portray characters in front of live audiences. Most theatre programs are interdisciplinary, meaning that they incorporate a variety of disciplines to help shape students for careers in dramatic arts. Classes are typically kept small, so students may achieve artistic goals through careful criticism and mentorship. Courses may include acting, basic costume technology, communication pathways, history of period styles, and scenographic techniques. Writing There are several types of writing majors. Those looking for a more technical approach to writing may choose to major in business writing, science and medical writing, or technical writing. However, aspiring authors may pursue majors in creative writing, film studies, or screenwriting. Journalism and nonfiction narrative writing are also popular majors for individuals interested in the writing industry. For example, creative writing majors may take courses in creative nonfiction, fiction, genre writing, playwriting, poetry, scriptwriting or screenwriting, and the craft of writing.

Earnings Potential for Careers in Arts and Design

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for all art and design occupations is $49,600. This number is slightly higher than the median annual wage of $41,950 for all other occupations. However, BLS breaks down the number even further by individual arts and design occupations. Below are several art and design roles and their corresponding median pay. All of the occupations listed below, with the exception of one, offer higher-than-average earnings. An image of art students for our Ultimate Guide to Arts Degrees and Careers Art Directors One of the highest-paying arts careers is an art director role. BLS reports a median annual wage for art directors of just over $97,000, and higher in some industries. In fact, art directors working in motion picture and video industries earn a median annual wage of $122,960, according to BLS. Those working in advertising, public relations, and related services see median annual wages of $99,890, and the pay is $92,870 in specialized design services. These industries pay much higher wages than the average for all other arts and design occupations. Craft and Fine Artists According to BLS, craft and fine artists earn a median annual wage of $49,120, with the lowest 10% earning less than $22,100 per year. Certain industries offer higher-than-average wages. In fact, the highest earners in this occupation see more than $112,930 annually. Industries that offer higher-than-average wages include both the federal government and motion picture and sound recording. Fine artists working for the federal government earn a median annual wage of $93,630, while those working in motion picture and sound recording industries make $76,070 per year, on average. Fashion Designers BLS reports that the median annual wage for individuals working as fashion designers is $75,810. However, the lowest 10% of earners in this occupation make, on average, $38,570. The highest 10% make over $146,000. Certain industries pay higher wages, as reported by BLS. The highest-paying industry for this occupation is the motion picture and video industry. In this industry, fashion designers earn median annual wages of $86,240. Other high-paying industries include management of companies and enterprises; apparel manufacturing; and apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers. Floral Designers The pay for floral designers is lower than most or all of the other arts occupations on our list. According to BLS, the median annual wage for floral designers is $29,140; however, the highest 10% of earners in this occupation see more than $43,150. Top-paying industries for floral designers include food and beverage stores (grocery stores), wholesale trade, and florist careers. In these top-paying industries, floral designers earn a slightly higher salary of $29,546. Graphic Designers Graphic designers, according to BLS, earn a median annual wage of $53,380. The lowest 10% working in this occupation earn less than $31,750, while the highest 10% earn more than $93,400. Two industries where graphic designers earn more than the average wages include specialized design services and advertising, public relations, and related services. In advertising, public relations, and related services, graphic designers see a median annual wage of $55,800, and they see an average wage of $54,840 in specialized design services. Industrial Designers BLS reports the median annual wage for industrial designers as $71,640. However, the lowest 10% of earners in this occupation see an average of $41,860, while the highest 10% earn over $118,440. Top-paying industries for industrial designers include architecture, engineering, and related services; specialized design services; wholesale trade; and manufacturing. In the architectural and engineering industries, people in this occupation earns an average of $80,360. Specialized design services pay an average wage of $71,620, which slightly lower than the average for this occupation. Interior Designers Interior designers earn a median annual wage of $71,640, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest 10% of earners in this occupation make less than $41,860, while the highest 10% see more than $118,440. However, one industry offers higher-than-average wages for interior designers. Those working in architectural, engineering, and related services see a median annual wage of $80,360. Special-Effects Artists According to BLS, the median annual wage for special-effects artists and animators is $77,700. The lowest-paid 10% of workers in this occupation earn less than $43,000, while the highest-paid 10% earn over $142,000. Two different industries offer higher-than-average wages. Special-effects artists working in motion picture and video industries see an average annual wage of $92,250. Also offering higher-than-average wages is the software publisher industry. In software publishing, special-effects artists see a median annual wage of $82,330. Other high-paying industries for this occupation include advertising, public relations, and related services and computer systems design. An image of art directors for our Ultimate Guide to Arts Degrees and Careers

Job Outlook for Arts and Design Occupations

The overall employment in arts and design is projected to decline over the next eight years, losing about 32,900 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The four-percent anticipated employment decline will impact some occupations more than others. BLS reports that workers will still be needed to meet the demand for animation and visual effects in movies, smartphones, television, and video games. Designers will also be needed to help create effective layouts and visually pleasing platforms for websites and other media. However, we should expect to see a decline in job opportunities for arts and design professionals in floral shops, manufacturing, and publishing. The job outlooks for specific occupations are detailed below: Art Directors A two-percent decline is projected through 2029 in employment for art directors, according to BLS. As traditional publications lose their ground to other media platforms, the need for art directors in newspapers, books, and other publishing industries will also decline. With few job openings available, strong competition is expected for these roles. However, prospective art directors with strong portfolios of creative work demonstrating visual design across multimedia platforms will have the best job prospects. Craft and Fine Artists Little to no change in overall employment is expected through 2029 for craft and fine artist occupations. In fact, BLS reports a zero-percent change in employment over the next decade. Employment growth for artists will depend largely on state and local economies. Since people aren’t willing to spend money on art during times of financial crisis and economic downturns, fewer individuals will purchase art in the upcoming years. However, a continued interest in locally made products and individually crafted goods may offset some of the employment losses. Special-Effects Artists and Animators BLS reports a four-percent increase in employment for special-effects artists and animators through 2029. This increase is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Projected growth for this occupation will be due to the increased demand for animation and visual effects in the gaming, movie, and television industries. However, job growth may be slow for some individuals. Currently, studios are looking to save money on animation, operating on tighter budgets and using lower-paid workers outside the United States. However, the industry should see about 6,900 openings for special-effects artists and animators each year for the next several years. Individuals with a robust portfolio and both specialized training and skills in certain types of animation will see the best job prospects.

Qualities Needed for Arts Jobs

In addition to education and training, certain soft skills are very important for careers in art. These skills are not always taught in the classroom, though they may be honed with experience. Below are several qualities needed for success in various art jobs. Artistic talent: No matter the discipline, artistic talent and creativity are required for success as an artist. Artists and designers create thought-provoking pieces and build visually pleasing platforms, which require significant skill and attention to detail to construct. Whether constructing a sculpture or an animation, a certain level of artistic talent is needed. Creativity: In addition to artistic talent, one must be creative in thought and craft. From animation to other forms of art, an artist must be able to generate new and innovative ideas and make them come to life on the screen or the canvas. Fine artists must maintain an active imagination in order to develop new and original ideas. Dexterity: Artists generally work with their hands. They manipulate tools and materials to create art. Having good manual dexterity is important for the role of an artist. Effective communication skills: Artists who are selling their own work must be good at communication. Customer-service skills and the ability to engage with people about their work are important for the types of artists who sell their own work. Strong interpersonal skills: Artists and designers should be comfortable working with people. On a day-to-day basis, artists work with customers and clients. They interact with gallery owners and the public. To be successful on the job, strong interpersonal skills are important.

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By BDP Staff

This concludes our article providing information about art degrees and careers.

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