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Studio Arts: Career Options and Education Requirements

Careers in studio art require no formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and skill requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Fine artists, graphic artists and art directors all work in the field of studio arts. Fine artists and graphic artists create art pieces and may work with an art director, who may display their work or have a client who wants to purchase a particular type of art piece that the artist can create.

Essential Information

Studio arts students can use their degrees to practice art professionally or enter a commercial art-related industry. While some artists rely on their natural abilities and don't require formal training, a bachelor's degree in studio arts can help artists perfect their skills and learn new skills that make them more attractive to potential employers.

Career Fine Artist Graphic Designer Art Director
Required Education No formal education required, but BFA and MFA degrees help with employment Bachelor of Fine Arts Bachelor of Fine Arts and prior experience in this field
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% 1% 2%
Average Salary (2015)* $54,170 $51,640 $101,990

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Fine Artist

Fine artists specialize in one or more art forms, such as painting, drawing, ceramics or sculpture. Fine artists manipulate space, line, color, perspective and other elements to create their artwork. Artists acquire new ideas for artworks from pop culture, trends, current events and personal experiences. They sell their work through galleries and art dealers. They may receive commissioned assignments from clients or display their pieces in museum exhibits. Some fine artists also offer their services to businesses for commercial purposes.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that most fine artists supplement their income through second jobs (www.bls.gov). Some teach art classes, work in museums or galleries, become art critics or work outside the art industry. BLS data presented in 2015 reflected a salary range of $19,140 to $99,140 for most fine artists in the U.S. Most worked independently at that time, according to the BLS. The BLS predicts that employment of fine artists will increase 3% between 2014 and 2024.

Education Requirements

Although formal training isn't required for fine artists, a bachelor's degree in studio arts provides students the opportunity to perfect their talents. Prospective students can look for studio art programs that allow students to concentrate on their art specialty or offer curriculum based on a broad range of art forms. Admission to some art studio degree programs requires a portfolio of the student's best artwork. Core studio art classes might include design basics, art in society, drawing, digital art, painting and art history.

Graphic Artist

Graphic artists use technology to create visual designs, which are seen in magazines, books, album covers, billboards and more. Graphic artists do most of their creating on computers, but also use conventional art forms such as sketching. They sketch preliminary designs showing size, composition, colors and typography, create the design on the computer and incorporate other elements such as movement and sound.

Many graphic artists work on a freelance basic or for companies where they create designs for clients. Some graphic artists specialize in a specific medium, such as website design or object placement. Graphic artists use various computer software programs to create their designs and must stay updated on new technologies to remain relevant in the industry.

The BLS reported in 2015 that the average salary for graphic designers was $51,640 per year, with the top 10% making an annual wage of $81,320 or more. The BLS predicts that positions in graphic design will increase by 1% during the 2014-2024 decade, which is slower than average.

Education Requirements

The BLS reported that a bachelor's degree is typically required of graphic artists. Many schools have studio art bachelor's degree programs that incorporate computer skills. Students can look for programs that include multimedia or graphic design classes, which teach students how to use elements including sound and video as artistic tools. They also learn how to create computer-generated images and animation.

The BLS also stated that an associate's degree or certificate in graphic design can provide essential computer skills to individuals who already have a bachelor's degree, but want to learn graphic design. Graphic design classes typically include digital media, typography, photography, design and specific computer software programs for graphic design.

Art Director

Art directors are in charge of a company's visual communication. They manage art staffs that produce designs for clients or employers. Staff members are assigned to certain projects and project aspects by the art director. Art directors help develop design ideas and review designs created by the staff. They approve all the design's components, such as images, composition and text. They also negotiate prices with printing companies, photo agencies and freelancers.

Art directors meet with department supervisors and clients to determine the client's needs and budget and to get approval on the final design. Art directors may also create custom designs, but they mostly perform managerial duties. The majority of art directors earned $47,320 to $172,900 per year in 2015, according to BLS data. From 2014 to 2024, the BLS expects employment of art directors to rise only 2%, which is slower than average.

Education Requirements

According to the BLS, art directors normally start out as artists or designers. Relevant opportunities may be available at advertising, publishing or design businesses. Art directors acquire their positions through experience, talent and exhibiting supervisory capabilities. Studio art bachelor's degree programs can prepare students for entry-level art or design careers. Students can build portfolios while in school to show employers their talents and skills.

Aspiring art directors can also major or minor in arts management to acquire essential skills. Arts management blends curriculum in studio arts, art history and business. These programs might include classes in marketing management, grant writing, advertising, public relations and accounting.

A bachelor's degree in fine arts is a standard requirement for a career as a graphic artist or art director. Although a career in fine arts can be pursued without formal education, completing a bachelor's degree in this field will help these artists hone their skills and develop as an artist.


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