How Artists Can Benefit From Visual Arts Degrees

A visual art degree is a fine arts degree that trains you as a fine artist or craft artist in your chosen medium. If you have an artistic talent and are looking to advance that talent into a career, a visual arts program can help you make your dream of a career as an artist a reality.

What Are the Different Types of Visual Arts Degrees?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a visual arts degree is offered as either an associate’s of fine arts (AFA), bachelor’s of fine arts (BFA), or master’s of fine arts (MFA) degree. An AFA takes anywhere from one to three years to complete. The prerequisite is a high school diploma. A BFA typically takes four years to complete. The prerequisite is a high school diploma and a beginner’s portfolio of your work. A MFA takes two years to complete. The prerequisites are a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree, a well-developed portfolio of your work, and significant work experience in the field.

Coursework in visual arts programs concentrate on studio work. An AFA program concentrates mostly on studio work in painting, sculpting, illustrating, or another craft. A BFA or MFA program combines studio work with general education courses as well as major courses in art history and theory. Much of your success upon graduation is dependent on how dedicated you are to building your portfolio while in school. A portfolio in this field is just as important as a resume or interview.

According to the BLS, although a college degree is not necessarily required in this field, it is significant to note that 36 percent of craft artists and 42 percent of fine artists had some level of college education.

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What Careers Can a Visual Art Degree Prepare Me For?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 60 percent of artists are self-employed. Therefore, earnings vary greatly depending on the individual artist. The median salary for fine artists in 2009 was $44,160. Employment from 2008 to 2018 is expected to grow 7 to 13 percent. The median salary for craft artists in 2009 was $28,960. Employment from 2008 to 2018 is expected to grow 7 to 13 percent.

The top industries for fine artists who were not self-employed were:

Motion picture and video production

Specialized design firms

Colleges and universities

Publishing houses

States with the highest employment were Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia, New York, and Minnesota.

The top industries for craft artists who were not self-employed were clay product and refractory manufacturing, museums, glass product manufacturing, and other miscellaneous store retailers. States with the highest employment were Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Maine, and Hawaii.

If you are dedicated to making a career as an artist, try a visual arts course at your local college and see if a visual art degree program is for you.