Art Degree and Training Program Information

Oct 24, 2019

Individuals wishing to pursue a career in visual art may seek degrees in fine arts at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. Aspiring artists receive technical training and theoretical knowledge needed to qualify for employment.

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Essential Information

For admission into a two-year associate's or four-year bachelor's degree program, students must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Community and junior colleges often require general education courses as part of their associate's degree programs, whereas, independent postsecondary art schools may focus on studio work exclusively. Bachelor's degree programs in art offer multiple areas of concentration, including graphic design, drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography, and illustrating. For acceptance into a bachelor's program, applicants have to submit a portfolio displaying their skill, creativity, and style.

To enter a master's program, applicants need a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) with a concentration in visual art, along with the submission of an art portfolio. Bachelor's degree holders in other disciplines must display an extensive knowledge and proficiency in art to be accepted. Graduate programs generally take two years to complete and result in a Master of Fine Arts or Master of Arts, which are the terminal degrees for professional art training. Before graduating, students participate and display their work in an art exhibition.

Associate's Degree in Fine Arts

Associate degree programs in fine arts prepare students for pursuing higher art education and careers as visual artists. The program in fine arts offers a wide range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional studio art education, including painting, photography, sculpture, computer design, and ceramics. Students develop fundamental skills and techniques through introductory art classes and hands-on studio coursework. Associate degree programs offer a variety of classes, including:

  • Color theory
  • Drawing
  • Art history
  • Graphic design
  • Printmaking
  • Watercolor

Bachelor's Degree in Art

In addition to studio courses, students study multiple areas within the visual art field, including history, criticism, appreciation, and interpretation. Some programs require students to take broad introductory art classes for the first few years of study. Studio and history classes may include:

  • Intermediate photography
  • Ceramics
  • Metalsmithing
  • Art criticism
  • Eastern, European, and American art

Master's Degree in Art

Graduate study in fine art focuses on developing a deep and critical understanding of art theory and practice, as well as further developing advanced technical art skills through seminars and independent study. Along with advanced studio work, students develop extensive professional quality portfolios. In addition to their major studio concentration, students take advanced courses in art history. Students may also be required to put on an exhibition of their accumulated artwork. Through academic internships and advanced classes, students study:

  • Advanced art history
  • Art theory and practice integration
  • Preparation of art exhibition
  • Independent studio work
  • Advanced art criticism

Popular Careers

There are many job opportunities for a graduate with a fine arts degree. Established visual artists freelance creating original artwork for museums or art buyers. Firms, businesses, and organizations that have artistic needs, may hire artists. Common job titles of visual artists include:

  • Illustrator
  • Painter
  • Sculptor
  • Cartoonist
  • Printmaker

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The visual art field is highly competitive, and an artist must showcase unique creativity and talent to stand out among other artists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that many visual artists begin their careers with full-time jobs in other fields and freelance their artwork in an effort to become established and experienced ( Once an artist earns a reputation, more creative job opportunities become available. The BLS reported that fine artists including painters, sculptors, and illustrators can expect a 1% increase in jobs between the years 2018 and 2028, and the annual median wage for fine artists in 2018 was $49,380.

Continuing Education

To further hone their craft and develop a professional portfolio, students can complete a bachelor's and master's degree program in fine arts. Community colleges also offer noncredit continuing education courses for artists and students.

Associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in art train students in a variety of painting, sculpting, drawing, and theoretical skills to give them a solid foundation in different forms of art to pursue a career, often with specializations in different kinds of media. Degree programs in fine art are available to enhance a graduate's learning, as are noncredit continuing education courses.

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