Art Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in art? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and art programs.
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Studying Art: Degrees at a Glance

It may take years for an artist to build a reputation and earn a living selling paintings, sketches or sculptures. In the meantime, training in art can prepare you for positions in museums, communications and education. Although it is not required that artists have any formal training, many pursue degrees in fine arts to be competitive. In addition, complementary coursework in digital design and communications can help artists apply their skills in a wider range of settings.

Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of craft and fine artists is expected to grow only five percent from 2010-2020. At first glance, the job outlook for individuals with art degrees may appear bleak, but those who complement their skill set with technological or communications training will have the best chances of putting their art education to practical use (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? - Individuals interested in a career selling art
-Individuals wanting to pursue further studies in art or design
- People interested in art-related careers
-Individuals wanting to work for a museum
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Craft artist ($27,000)*
- Fine artist ($45,000)*
- Multimedia Artist or Animator ($61,000)*
- Art Director ($81,000)*
- Museum technician ($38,000)*
- Secondary School Art Teacher (54,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4-5 years
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
-Art portfolio
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Art

As an artist, you have the opportunity to touch people's lives and evoke emotion by creating something from your imagination. Usually an associate's degree in printmaking, sculpture or drawing is categorized as a degree in fine arts or studio arts. Craft arts may be included, or may be a related major. With an associate's degree in fine or craft arts, you can create and sell art for museums, galleries and personal collections.

Artists have a reputation for living a meager existence as they await popularity and fame. However, you can translate your art skills into more stable careers as you gain recognition. With your associate's degree in art, you can become a multimedia artist, working for movie studios and production companies as well as video games companies. In addition, an associate's degree can be a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree that can lead to better opportunities in multiple industries.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Illustrators with computer skills can find freelance and full-time opportunities with media and advertising companies.
  • Expected employment growth for multimedia artists is due to a growing demand for visual effects in video games, movies, and television.
  • Electronic tools such as image editing software and computer-assisted drawing have made it possible for artists to apply their skills to a wider area of mediums.

Cons

  • Some employers prefer multimedia artists with a bachelor's degree; you will be competing with individuals with varying degrees for jobs, as well as animators who work overseas.
  • Employment of animators is expected to grow by 8 percent through 2020, slower than the average for all occupations, but faster than craft and fine artists.*
  • Artists often work part-time or rely on additional jobs to support them in conjunction with their art.
  • Craft artists face competition from mass produced items designed to look like handmade crafts.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

Your coursework will include general education courses and introductory art courses, which may be able to be transferred to a bachelor's degree program. Studio work is usually a large component of arts programs, and you may be able to focus on a particular area of fine arts, including printmaking, sculpture or drawing.You can also expect to take classes in:

  • Art history
  • Figure drawing
  • Three-dimensional design

Online Degree Options

You may have a hard time finding associate's degree programs in art or illustration that are available online. The coursework for your online program will be similar to the that of an on-campus program. You may take classes in drawing, printmaking and lithography. Professional artists often lead these courses.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

There are steps you can take to make your art degree applicable to a broader area of careers.

  • Take courses in digital design. Some of the courses available to you may include computer assisted design, web design, graphic design or multimedia design. These courses will teach you how to apply art principles to electronic art used for marketing materials such as websites and online advertisements. In addition, you can apply your skills to multimedia design.
  • Build a portfolio. A portfolio is like an artist's resume. Admissions departments, clients and employers will look at your portfolio to understand the type of work that you do. Work with your advisor to develop a strong portfolio. Consider creating an online portfolio as well.
  • Create a buzz about your work. Craft and fine artists rely heavily on reputation and word of mouth to make sales. Don't wait until after graduation to begin promoting yourself. Create business cards and send press releases announcing your work.

Bachelor's Degree in Art

Since you do not need a bachelor's degree to be an artist, you will be competing with novices and hobbyists as well as world-renowned artists to exhibit and sell your artwork. You can expect to rely on an additional job as you build your reputation. A bachelor's degree in studio art will give you instruction on the technical aspects of art, as well as the history, which can help you expand your opportunities into more consistently lucrative fields that require an artists' background. You can pursue work as a museum technician, an art director or a web designer. With a bachelor's degree in fine arts you may also be able to work as a curator in a smaller museum. It is likely that you will need to submit a portfolio to be accepted into the art school.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Most new art direction positions are expected in advertising, public relations and specialized design services, where 2,600 jobs will be added between 2010 and 2020*.
  • Employment of curators was expected to grow 25 percent from 2010-2020, faster than the average for all occupations.* Many curators have master's degrees, but some smaller museums will hire individuals with a bachelor's degree.
  • Due to an increase in attendance over the coming years, many museums should remain financially healthy and may schedule building and renovation projects that could create opportunities for museum personnel as well artists*.

Cons

  • Charitable giving decreases when the economy slows, threatening the employment of museum personnel and decreasing the number of artists exhibitions by museums.
  • Art is considered a luxury sales item and art sales tend to slow in times of economic downturn. *
  • Art curators face high competition when seeking employment.
  • Employment of art directors is expected to increase by 9 percent from 2010-2020, slower than the average for all occupations (although faster than the rate for fine and craft artists).*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

When pursuing a bachelor's degree in studio art, you will have the opportunity to take core art courses in drawing, color theory and art history. You may be able to choose electives such as computer graphics, light studies and photography. Additionally, you may be able to choose electives that relate to digital media or designing for communications. Concentrations in ceramics, painting, sculpture or printmaking are often available. You can expect some of your courses to take place in a studio, where you create your art and receive instruction and guidance from a professor or teaching assistant.

Online Degree Options

You will find a few options for pursuing an online bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Some programs may specialize in a specific area, such as illustration. Those programs usually follow the same curriculum as on-campus courses, and you can expect curriculum that includes drawing, art history, painting and sculpture. Prior to enrolling, it would be prudent to ensure that you have the technical requirements to submit art projects electronically.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

In a field with such slow employment growth, it is important to maximize opportunities to become employable.

  • Pursue an internship. Some programs offer internship opportunities or opportunities to study abroad. Both the work experience and international influences on your own work will provide a competitive edge. Museums look favorably on individuals who have experience in collection management, exhibit design or research.
  • Take advertising courses. You can apply your art skills to designing advertising, marketing materials, product packaging, posters and other creative marketing tools. These courses can help you understand what marketing is and how art can be used in the industry.
  • Pursue a teaching certificate. With a bachelor's degree in art, you may be able to become an art teacher. Requirements for a teaching certificate vary for each state. You may find programs that allow you to take a test or teach while simultaneously earning your certificate.

Degree Alternatives

Graphic design is the use of images, words and symbols to convey a message. Graphic designers will be needed to design graphics for websites, mobile devices and video games. According to the BLS, the rate of employment is expected to grow 13 percent over the next eight years -- higher than the rate for craft and fine artists as well as art directors. Art degrees are so closely related to graphic design degrees that you will often see art schools offering graphic design programs as well. It is likely that your program will include courses found in art programs such as art history, drawing and design. You can expect more courses that focus on technological skills including web and digital design, and typography and photography is also usually covered.

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