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Art Careers: Why Earning Your Degree is Worthwhile

Get the training you need for a career in the art world.
A happy art student works at his desk

If you have the desire, talent and ability, with the right training and education you can enjoy one of a number of truly satisfying careers in art.

Employment for artists is growing, especially in the areas of game design, graphic design and multimedia and web design.

Some visual artists find jobs in art galleries and museums, and in the business sector in career fields such as advertising, marketing and publishing. Teaching, art therapy and arts administration careers are other paths to staying relevant within an industry where it's often difficult to find work due to supply and demand.

However, keep in mind that the arts are highly competitive, in both salaried and freelance work.

Hands-On Training for Careers in Art

Vocational schools, community colleges, independent art schools and some colleges and universities offer associate's degrees in the arts. Typically, an associate's program focuses less on academics and more on hands-on, practical aspects of art creation. Specialty schools include the following:

  • Animation schools
  • Fashion design schools
  • Interior design schools
  • Photography schools

Benefits of a Formal Education

Working as an artist today is easiest if you've taken professional arts courses at the college level. Formal education allows you to refine your talent and learn how to market your art and/or performance skills. In job fields as competitive as careers in art, talent and creativity are crucial. Most designers need a bachelor's degree, and candidates with a master's degree typically hold an advantage. Because computers are so used widely in the visual arts, you'll also need up-to-date knowledge and training in computer graphics and other visual display software.

Surpassing Supply and Demand Limitations

So, once you've earned your BA or BFA you'll need to consider an area in the art industry in which to practice your craft. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Outlook publication suggests the following career fields with promise within the art industry:

  • Public relations specialists
  • Writers and authors
  • Editors
  • Graphic designers
  • Multi-media artists and animators
  • Photographers
  • Producers and directors
  • Technical writers
  • Reporters and correspondents

For those who have chosen niche career fields with limited shelf-life, such as dancers, you'll need to consider the reality of your choice. Using your art degree to leverage the skills you've gained—or taking additional classes in business, education or management—may help you find work in related careers within your industry, such as running a dance studio or teaching dance at a school. Many fine art graduates specialize in an art form, such as painting or sculpture. For these artists, self-employment, residencies or commission work may be the way to go, though it can take time to establish your reputation as an artist.

Assemble an Impressive Portfolio

Evidence of your talent and skill will be displayed in your portfolio or demo reel. A portfolio is often the single most important factor in hiring a designer for a job. Assembling a successful portfolio requires skills usually developed in a bachelor's degree program or through other postsecondary training in art or visual communications. Internships also provide excellent opportunities for you to develop and enhance your portfolio because you'll be working on actual projects and meeting with clients—both of which are prestigious accomplishments and crucial components of the job.

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