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10 Best Degrees for Artists What to study for a career in the arts

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Carrie Sealey-Morris has covered bootcamps, careers, and higher education for College Consensus since 2017. Carrie is a graduate of the University of New Mexico where she earned a B.A. in American Studies. 

Artists are going to be in demand for at least the present decade. Occupations in the arts are projected to grow by 14% from 2020 to 2030, so now is a great time to pursue a degree in the arts. These careers are in high demand, and the best way to make sure that you stand out in the crowd is to pursue a degree in your chosen field. This is highly important because the arts require you to be artistic and creative, but there is also a lot of advanced technology that professionals are using these days, and the best place to learn about this equipment is a college or university campus.

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The following is a list of the best 10 degrees for artists:

1. Fine Arts

A fine arts degree gives you an education in the visual arts. You may decide to focus on painting, drawing or printmaking. With this degree, you will be introduced to oil painting, the media of watercolor and drawing techniques. You may also choose concentrations, such as photography and sculptural practices.

A degree in printmaking, drawing or painting will provide you with the skills you need to demonstrate your ability to draw with several types of media. You will also have the knowledge to recognize major works of art, and you will be able to interpret these works. A degree in photography will give you the experience needed to create a portfolio of your work. With a portfolio, you will be able to seek a job as a photographer, and the portfolio will demonstrate your prowess to potential clients. A degree in sculptural practices gives you experience in working with wood, plaster and metal. You also learn how to use the tools of your profession with expertise.

Some of the courses you will be able to take in the fine arts major include introduction to art software, drawing studio, painting studio and design studio. The major also requires that you take some art history courses, including survey of Latin American art, survey of non-European art and American Indian and ancient American art.

With a degree in Fine Arts, you are qualified to apply for several careers. Just a few include an artist, photographer, art director, multimedia designer, web developer, software developer or a craftsperson.

2. Graphic Design

If you enjoy sending messages to people and using a visual medium to express them, you are using “graphic design.” This can encompass several types of artistic media, including photographs, paintings or drawings. The product of this type of work ends up in menus, magazines, books and television commercials. People create graphic designs to perform several functions, including attracting people’s attention, persuading them to buy things, stimulating a desire and persuading them to perform an action.

A graphic design degree will demonstrate to your future employers that you have an extensive education in graphic arts technology and that you know how to use it. Therefore, it will let them know that you are familiar with several art software applications. This degree also gives you an education in applying analytic strategies in the design process. Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to assemble a portfolio that showcases your strengths in the design and media that you have chosen as your concentrations.

You may believe that the obvious career that you can pursue with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design is as a graphic designer, but this degree does not limit you to that one career. With a degree in graphic design, the doors are open for you to pursue a career as a multimedia artist or animator, marketing specialist, art director, product developer, production artist, user interface (UI) designer, user experience (UX) designer or a creative director. If you would like to work as a freelance artist, your degree will give future clients the confidence that they need to trust that you are an expert in your field.

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3. Business

You may not have expected to find a business degree on this list, but a business degree is actually a very valuable degree for an artist to have. When you are an artist, you will be in business because you are going to want to sell the product that you create. This requires that you put yourself out into the marketplace, but you are going to need to be prepared to do this.

As an artist, you are going to do the same things that sellers of other products need to do. For example, you will need to identify your audience. In addition to that, you will need to price your work so that you can make a profit and sustain your business for the long term. Therefore, you will also need to have an understanding of marketing and sales practices. These are all concepts that you would acquire as a business major.

The program you choose will offer you a broad look at the business world, so it will easily be relatable to your career as an artist. Some of the courses you will be required to take include business management, business law, accounting and financial management, and introductory economics. The educational institution that you choose may give you the opportunity to select a specialization. One example that you may wish to choose as an artist would be “entrepreneurship.”

Important skills that you will learn as a business major include the best way to set goals, how to remain ethical in your business practices, knowledge and experience of the marketplace, strategic thinking and how to build relationships. These skills will be instrumental in helping you build your career as an artist.

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4. Digital Arts

Digital art is art that you produce with technology. It is the type of artwork that you may produce entirely on a computer. If you are a fan of drawing, don’t think that you cannot participate in digital art because you can. You will only be required to scan your drawn images and upload them onto your computer. Then, you will finish them with software. Digital art includes several different technologies, so it is a highly expansive field of work for someone with the penchant to be creative. It will be a great major for you if you are just as interested in technology as you are in producing art.

The degree in digital arts gives you a complete education that will prepare you for several career opportunities. For example, you will learn about sound, interaction design, illustration, digital 3D, animation, video and graphic design. Along with the courses listed above, the degree also provides you with general education courses that will round out your experience. For example, you may wish to take art history courses, math, philosophy, science or writing.

After earning your degree in digital arts, many doors will open up for you to apply for several positions. These include as a camera operator for a television program, a producer of television programs, an art teacher, photographer, a painter, sculptor or illustrator, an animator, a graphic designer, a film or video editor, a desktop publisher, a commercial or industrial designer, or an art director.

Your digital arts degree will show employers that you have experience with the newest technological equipment in a field that is growing quickly. Employers are looking for people with knowledge of the appropriate equipment and the ability to use it in the creative process, so your digital arts degree will place you at the top of the list of qualified candidates.

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5. Game and Interactive Media Design

Video games are big business, and a game and interactive media design degree will give you the opportunity to enter into this massive field. If you are a fan of video games, you may know that the big budget games make massive amounts of money, but you can step into this genre without ever having to work on a big budget project. According to Variety, mobile games make even more money than the big budget type. This gives you plenty of opportunities to enter into the gaming industry.

After you receive the game and interactive media design degree, you will know how to develop the core design of a game with storytelling expertise. Your courses will teach you everything about writing, music, audio, gameplay, art and animation skills. With this knowledge, you will be able to produce mesmerizing and interdependent games. The skills you will attain from studying for this major will include the ability to tell stories, manage your time efficiently, communicate effectively, think critically and be adaptable.

The courses you will be able to choose include creative writing, digital foundations, application development with JavaScript, communication, culture and media, fundamentals of video production, graphic animation and filmmaking. After you earn your degree, you will be able to pursue a career in media production, emerging interactive media, augmented/virtual reality, story design/writing, game design or programming.

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6. Cinematography and Film/Video Production

Cinematography encompasses the art of making a motion picture by capturing the story visually. Since cinematography is also a technical craft, it can be defined as “the art and the science of recording light either electronically onto an image sensor or chemically onto film.” The skills you learn from studying cinematography include camera movement, camera placement, shot composition, camera focus, shot size and lighting.

You may not have considered filmmaking to be an art form, but it definitely is. The cameras allow you to manipulate images so that you can express yourself artistically, and this is the definition of creating art. A lot of technological decisions go into your ability to create movies, so the technology that you will learn in your degree program is also very important to the filmmaking process. Some of these courses include film cinematographer fundamentals, cinematic lighting, introduction to digital cinematography and cinematography for 2D animation essentials. You may also have the opportunity to study scriptwriting and film history.

After you have your degree in cinematography and film/video production, you will be prepared to begin a career as a cinematographer. In this career, you will be in charge of the way that every scene in the movie is created. Your options will go beyond just making movies because you will be able to work on television shows, commercials and videos as well. You will also be qualified to be a film producer. As such, you will be in charge of the entire process of making a movie.

7. Theater Arts

A degree in the dramatic arts gives you a broad education in the area of theater. If you are interested in acting, you will have the opportunity to study the history of theater as well as performance and production. Along with acting, you may choose to concentrate on theater technology, design, playwriting, directing and creative drama.

Theater requires that a multitude of people come together to produce a work of art, and if you have a degree in theater, it will demonstrate to employers that you have experience working as a team with several people. A degree also increases the chances you have of being hired in this industry. As you may know, the competition is extremely tight, but because of your degree, you will have experience working with others, knowledge of appearing in front of a live audience and knowledge about all that is involved in the theater.

The theater arts major also equips you with several important skills. For example, you will have the ability to make presentations and control your voice and body when you are in front of an audience. Other valuable skills include listening introspectively, thinking critically, solving problems creatively, working on projects collaboratively and concentrating intensively. The training you will receive will also help you become accustomed to working independently as well as collectively and give you the ability to meet deadlines, work under pressure and remain on point when the unexpected occurs. With a theater arts degree, you will be able to apply for jobs as an actor, director, writer, or a set and costume designer.

8. Fashion Design

If fashion design is your passion, you can obtain a degree in fashion design in several different areas. For example, fashion design degrees exist for fashion marketing, fashion merchandising, fashion visual merchandising, fashion product development, fashion styling, footwear and accessory design, costume design, textile design, knitwear design and design. Courses you will be privileged to take include drawing for fashion, color science and fabric technology, and applied textiles.

An undergraduate student will gain valuable knowledge of the fashion industry that will take you anywhere you want to go in the industry. For one, you will develop an expansive vocabulary of fashion terms that will help you express your ideas verbally as well as in written works. Your education will also include the technology that professionals use in the industry today. This includes the software that you must be familiar with to be seen as a professional.

The fashion degree also gives you what you need to be able to create an impressive visual presentation of your designs. As a fashion designer, you will need to be able to communicate your design concepts, and you will learn how to do this in your courses at fashion design school. Most importantly for a designer, you will have learned how to produce your own original designs and create them according to the concept that you envision.

Fashion designer is one career you can pursue with a fashion design degree, but there are many others if you don’t wish to become a designer. The fashion design degree also leads to a career as a product designer, a purchasing agent, sales representative or a fashion editor.

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9. Commercial and Advertising Arts

The commercial and advertising arts major is a field in the visual arts. If you are interested in using your artistic desires to communicate with people in the commercial or advertising realm, this degree would be just right for you. You will learn how to use artistic techniques to inform a business or a consumer audience about products with print, digital media or illustrations. You will be introduced to several fascinating topics, such as computer graphics, collage, painting, cartooning and drawing, offset, lithography, silkscreen, etching and engraving.

The courses that you will take for the commercial and advertising arts degree include a wide variety of subjects, including mathematics, management, drawing, design and applied computer science. Your education will prepare you to become a copywriter. As a copywriter, you will have the opportunity to create advertisements. Specifically, you will be able to work on a team that creates radio commercials, television commercials and brochures. You may also be called on to create websites for clients.

Another career that a commercial and advertising arts degree can prepare you for is as an art director. Art directors are in charge of the images and concepts that advertisers place in television ads, on book covers, and in newspapers and magazines. You may also work for an advertising agency where you will manage the entire design department.

10. Architecture

Architecture is an excellent choice for you if you are both a right-brained and a left-brained individual. It requires that you are creative, but it also involves knowledge of mathematics and science. Architecture can stretch you in many different directions. For example, you may choose to build shopping centers, healthcare facilities, restaurants or residential dwellings.

In the past, architects used drafting paper and a pencil to create their designs, but times have changed, so you will be introduced to the new mode of doing things. For example, architects are now using Computer-Aided Design and Drafting or CADD and Building Information Modeling or BIM. Even so, you will still need to know how to draw sketches so that you can present your ideas in an initial meeting. You will also need this skill when you need to present your sketches on sites where computers are not accessible.

Mathematics is very important for the architecture degree. For example, you may be required to take calculus and analytic geometry. You must also study the history of architecture, environmental technologies, structures and design.

This degree will send you on the road to becoming an architect, but you also have many other options. For example, an architecture degree can also take you toward a career as a property manager, a real estate agent, an interior designer, a community planner, a landscape architect, an architectural manager, a management analyst or an appraiser.

Related Resources:

Guide to Online Communication Degrees

Ready to start your journey?

Earn your degree while pursuing your passion

Ready to start your journey?

Earn your degree while pursuing your passion