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Art Colleges, Schools and Degree Courses

Art schools offer a myriad of programs for students interested in a pursuing an artistic career. The range and variety of specialties are virtually endless, spanning artistic fields such as animation, ceramics, music, sculpture, dance, art history, printmaking, photography, digital media, and much more.

Career Options After Art School

There are so many options to consider upon graduating from art school. Depending on the area of interest, graduates can consider professions such as:

  • Painters

  • Sculptors

  • Animators

  • Illustrators

  • Cartoonists

  • Sketch Artists

  • Craft Artists

  • Art Directors

  • Art Teachers

  • Photographers

  • Museum curators

Approximately two-thirds of art school graduates are self-employed. Those who are employed by firms often start with entry-level jobs in fields such as advertising, publishing, film, and design services. Many simultaneously do part-time freelance work to gain more experience and build their portfolio.

Art Training and Art Education

Although formal training at a fine arts school is not mandatory, having an art degree would significantly benefit your employment prospects. There are numerous schools to choose from and they vary in size, program duration and curriculum scope. You should select a school based on your career goals and requirements, as well as the amount of time and money you have to invest in an education. Art schools offer various programs to suit the needs of different students. These include vocational programs, liberal arts programs and specialized programs.

Vocational Programs

Vocational art schools offer 2-year certificate programs, which provide students with an Associate in Arts (AA) degree. Such schools tend to focus more on practical studio work rather than liberal arts or conceptual work and aim to prepare students for employment in entry-level jobs after graduation. As some vocational schools offer curriculum similar to those at select universities, students enrolled in these schools gain credit should they opt to transfer to a 4-year university art program. This is a good option for those who prefer a 4-year program but have financial constraints, as vocational schools are considerably cheaper.

Liberal Arts Programs

Several universities have dedicated art departments offering 4-year degree programs. These programs tend to focus more on liberal arts courses and less on studio work. Enrolling in such an art school is a good option for students interested in taking a wide range of courses, in addition to art classes. Typically, universities offer a general degree in art and allow students to focus on a particular 'concentration'. However, some accrediting bodies do not accept concentrations as enough study for one to embark on a professional career in that field. Graduates of 4-year programs generally acquire a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.

Specialized Programs

Students with strong artistic capabilities or who know the specific art field they intend to pursue may prefer a fine arts school offering a 4-year specialized program, which leads to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree. These schools strongly emphasize study in the visual arts, preparing students for professional-level work upon graduation. Generally, one-third of the course work focuses on academic subjects while the other two-thirds concentrates on intensive study in art and design.

Graduate programs are gaining popularity among students seeking a Master of Fine Arts (MFA). Although not all professions require job seekers have a MFA degree, those who have obtained one have a distinct advantage. This is especially important for those interested in teaching art at any level.

Art School Accreditation

Before applying to any fine arts school, you should thoroughly research the institution and its accreditation. Properly accredited schools should have dual accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and their regional educational accrediting organization. NASAD has accredited 248 schools of art and design by ensuring they meet and adhere to NASAD's high educational and professional standards.

Students who are interested in applying to the top specialized private art schools can refer to the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). There are 36 leading private art schools in the U.S. who are members of AICAD. These select art schools offer students added incentives such as exchange programs, extra-curricular activities and small class settings, thereby ensuring a lower student to faculty ratio.

Art School Graduates' Earning Potential and Employment Prospects

The earning potential for graduates of art schools is extremely diverse. For example, the median salary of art directors was approximately $64,000 in 2004. In comparison, the median earnings of salaried craft artists were $23,520 that same year. The median annual earnings of fine artists such as painters and sculptors were an estimated $38,000.

Job prospects in most visual art fields, especially those in digital media, are expected to grow significantly in the next decade. The increasing use of visual information and communications also spells better employment prospects for talented artists in these fields. Craft and fine artists are usually freelancers and make a living just by selling their artwork. This uncertain flow of income can make it difficult for freelance artists to earn a steady living. However, those with outstanding talent can certainly receive major commissions for their work and stand to earn quite well.




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