Art & Design Degrees

art-design-degreesIn our society, it has become a popular misconception that everyone with an art or design degree is doomed to live as a starving artist.

Even though art degrees may not be as financially secure as healthcare or STEM-related degrees, the valuable “soft” skills developed in these programs are tough to monetize. Not only are art majors encouraged to transform their creativity into artwork, but they also learn how to communicate, take criticism, stay focused, brainstorm project ideas, and be resourceful. All of these professional abilities are extremely marketable and rare to find in many different industries.

Art degrees can also lead to some of our economy’s fastest-growing fields, such as game design, software publishing, web animation, graphic design, computer imaging, and art direction. In this section, we’ll explore how you can draw the most value from your art or design degree.

Types of Art Degrees

Artistic degree programs are abundant across all academic levels for students to select their specialized medium of choice. Associate-level degrees are commonly offered by community colleges and art institutes to prepare students for entry-level work or further education. Associate of Art (A.A.) programs can be concentrated in areas like culinary arts, baking, fashion design, graphic design, web design, industrial design, video production, interactive media, photography, or interior design. Four-year universities provide a wide range of Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs that cover everything from fashion marketing and dance to digital film-making and sculpture. Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) and Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) programs are also popular in various disciplines.

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Whether leading to a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.), graduate schools tend to allow practicing artists an opportunity to develop a more intense career focus with advanced courses. You could choose to specialize in art history, art therapy, music education, ceramic engineering, architecture, illustration, animation, painting, film production, musical theatre, entertainment business, interior design, creative writing, and much more. Doctoral degree programs are rather rare, but Doctor of Arts (D.A.), Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.), and Doctor of Music (D.Mus.) can be found for those interested in teaching at the university level.

Online vs. On-Campus Learning

Once you’ve decided to follow your passion in art or design, you’ll need to decide whether you should attend a traditional on-campus program or follow the rising trend in online education. Online art schools are more convenient for working adults needing to fit coursework around their busy schedule. Programs like art history or web design can be easily completed over the Internet because the bulk of coursework involves studying in textbooks or completing online design assignments. However, more applied majors like woodworking, lithography, and painting will need access to studios on-campus to get the most from the degree.

For some great online art and design degree options, check out these ranking lists:

Taking the traditional route is typically advised for students needing more structure and guidance while exploiting the unparalleled resources found on campus. Online art education is best left to independent self-starters who possess the motivation needed to handle additional responsibilities and complete their degree on their own. If you decide earning your art or design degree online is a good fit, you’ll likely save extra money by cutting costly housing, parking, dining, transportation, and art studio fees from your budget.

Financial Aid Opportunities

Despite the fact that tuition keeps rising, you shouldn’t let this scare you away because financial aid opportunities are abundant to make higher education more affordable. Unless you’re among the lucky minority that has money socked away in a 529 college savings plan, chances are you will need help paying for college.

Your first step towards finding financial aid resources should be filling out the FAFSA form before the deadline to see which funding programs you qualify for. Many art students depend on Federal Student Aid through Stafford Loans, Direct Loans, PLUS Loans, FFEL Loans, and private loans from other independent lending parties to pay their way through. Since you don’t want to set yourself up for a default by borrowing too heavily, always keep in mind that these loans must be repaid starting six months after receiving your diploma with interest.

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There are numerous other financial aid options that won’t need to be repaid, so make sure you check into these to avoid large mountains of overwhelming debt. Our U.S. federal government offers over 1,000 federal grant programs that you could be eligible for, such as the Pell, FSEOG, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants. While completing your art degree, you may want to participate in a federal work-study (FWS) program to earn money for on-campus jobs and pay education expenses. Be on the prowl for any other financial aid resources offered through your university, state government, or local non-profit organization to lower costs.

Money-Saving Scholarships

Whether merit-based or need-based, scholarships are often referred to as “gift aid” because they provide free tuition assistance that never needs to be repaid. Ranging in value from $100 to full tuition coverage, scholarships are a major source of funding that offers millions of dollars to qualified students each year.

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Since they’re offered through all kinds of organizations, you simply have to know where to look. Make an appointment with your financial aid office and your academic advisor to learn what art-related scholarships could fit your unique situation. Some great national scholarships in art and design include:

Daring Young Artists to Dream Scholarship – Through the WorldStudio AIGA, this award is granted annually to provide up to $6,000 to offset tuition for minority and economically disadvantaged youth seeking accredited degrees in art or design disciplines full-time.

• Design Sponge Scholarship – Each year, the Design Sponge Scholarship is awarded to nine selected high school, undergraduate, and graduate students for up to $2,500 apiece to provide financial support for creative endeavors in art and design.

National Art Honor Society Scholarship – The NAHS offers this scholarship annually for $5,000, $10,000, and $20,000 to three graduating high school members with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 to lower tuition costs of an associate’s or bachelor’s degree related to fine, visual, performing, applied, or decorative arts.

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Art and Design Career Paths

Pursuing an art or design degree can translate into numerous different creative career paths with potentially lucrative salaries. Most people associate art degrees with careers like painter, sculptor, musician, sketch artist, printmaker, jewelry maker, illustrator, furniture maker, and graphic designer.

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Outside the box, other high-paying careers include multimedia artists, animators, filmmakers, screenwriters, interior designers, industrial designers, fashion designers, art directors, curators, architects, web designers, and editors. In short, an art-related degree is a valuable investment for anyone seeking a niche for unleashing their creative talents.

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