The Complete Guide to Art Schools Explore Art Degree Programs in Technology, Administration and the Fine Arts

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Although many who pursue a career as an artist are innately talented, those who really succeed also take the steps to become educated in their preferred medium. Raw talent alone is not always enough to help an artist build a promising career. Coupled with a solid educational foundation gained from an accredited art school, however, they are better equipped for success. In this guide, prospective art students can find comprehensive information on how to choose the best art school, the various types of art degrees available, and which careers they can expect to enter post-graduation.

Find Art Schools Near You

When choosing the right art school, many factors are a part of your decision. Does the school have the right degree? What degree level are you pursuing? Will your classes be small or will you sit in a hall with 500 other people? And last but not least, you have to consider the cost. The following search tool does the work for you. Select your preferences and you’ll see a list of schools that fit your criteria.

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Popular Art Degrees and Program Options

Be it in music, fashion, or visual arts, prospective art students will find a program that caters to the medium that gets their creative juices flowing. Art school is a rewarding undertaking, and one that can help students nurture their artistic abilities and expression, while simultaneously learning the profession’s best business practices. There are a number of schools and degree programs designed to impart this wisdom and move students closer to their dreams of an artistic and creative career. Explore some of the most popular art fields for an idea of what is available:

Art School Learning Center

Online Art Schools, Financial Aid, Scholarships, Career Path Options and Practical Art Degrees

What Makes An Art School Great?

Getting a solid art education requires attending a high quality school and program. Depending on a student’s individual needs, care and time must be taken to ensure that the correct match between student and school is made. Because entering into any type of art program is a huge undertaking–requiring often great commitments of both time and money–due diligence must be taken to ensure neither will be wasted. Below are factors each student should carefully consider when on the search for a quality art school.


Prospective students should look at the professional backgrounds of the faculty members of each program they’re considering. This is especially helpful for students who want to specialize in a certain area of the artistic field, because the more faculty members who have expertise in that concentration, the more a student may benefit from the department. In addition, students should look into professors’ educational experiences to ensure that they studied at reputable institutions.

Class size

Depending on what students wish to study, they may want to consider the class sizes of prospective institutions. For example, if students are studying art history, small classes may not be as important, but those studying sculpting may find that a lower student-to-professor ratio gives them more quality time with actual materials in their hands.


Students who have an opportunity to visit different campuses should pay special attention to the facilities and equipment at each school they tour. For example, someone who is getting a degree in graphic design will want to attend a school that has the latest software programs. The more up-to-date the resources are at a school, the better equipped students will be to learn what they need to know, and therefore become successful in their careers.


Schools that undergo the accreditation process are held accountable for their educational standards. Students who attend art schools that have been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design have the best chance of receiving a high-quality education. In addition, there ae also accrediting organizations for some specific art concentrations, such as the National Architectural Accrediting Board, the National Association of Schools of Music, the National Association of Schools of Dance, and the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

Art Degree Timeline

Depending on one’s career goals, the amount of time it takes to get an art degree varies. The sections below review the different levels of education, the degrees offered, typical courses and associated popular careers.

Two-Year Associate Degrees

Whether it be design, photography or fashion, associate degrees in arts gives students a chance to build a solid foundation in the field of choice. Graduates can enter entry-level jobs that may lead them to their dream career The table below gives a few examples.

  Coursework Popular Careers
Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Photography

The associate degree in photography gives graduates entry-level skills with camera equipment, digital tools, etc. Courses include development, old school pics and stuff, and more.

  • Portrait photographer
  • Commercial photographer
  • Aerial photographer
  • Fine art photographer
  • Wedding photographer
Associate of Arts in Fashion Design

When an Associate of Arts in Fashion Design degree, they understand the process, skills, and language of fashion design from concept through production. Courses include art history, basic drawing, draping, patternmaking, sewing, and tailoring to haute couture and specialty techniques.

  • Assistant fashion designer
  • Fashion intern
  • Fashion merchandiser
  • Fashion marketer
  • Fashion buyer
  • Fashion production
Associate of Arts in Interior Design

With an Associates Degree in Interior Design, students are able to design, draft and obtain the necessary business skills needed to pursue their career.

  • Interior design assistant
  • Independent interior designer
  • Interior design intern
Four-Year Bachelor Degrees

Bachelor of Arts degrees provide students with more in-depth skills and understanding of the basics and theory in their field. As you see below, some degrees are highly sought after while others can offer flexibility.

  Coursework Popular Careers
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Graphic Design

Upon graduation, students will have a solid understanding of design basics to and be apply to apply them to a variety of mediums. Courses likely include fundamental design, branding, interactivity, web page design.

  • Web designer
  • Art director
  • Graphic designer
  • User experience designer
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Acting

Graduates get a thorough foundation in the subject with courses like acting technique, acting for camera, improvisation, singing, and speech, giving them an advantage in a competitive career field.

  • Stage manager
  • Broadcaster
  • Actor
  • Small theater director
  • Advertising
Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing

A Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing hones graduates’ writing craft through practice and constructive criticism. Courses may include literature courses and writing workshops.

  • Technical writing
  • Author
  • Commercial copy writer
  • Journalist
  • Business writer
Advanced Degrees in Art

For graduates interested in high-end art careers or teaching at the college level, a Master of Fine Arts or Master of Arts degree may be the right choice. The table below gives a few examples of how an advanced degree in art can result in a career as an art curator or university professor.

  Coursework Popular Careers
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Curatorial Practice

This degree lets students to take their passion and knowledge about art to the next level. Courses include contemporary art & theory, production and discussions about the relationship between artists, critics and curators.

  • Museum curator
  • Museum director
  • College or university
  • professor
Master of Arts in Art Education

In a MA Art Education program, students take classes special populations, creative leadership, and curriculum planning.

  • Art professor
  • Museum director
  • Curator
  • Art teacher
Master of Arts in Dance

Students receiving their Master of Arts in Dance degrees spans history, theory, technique as well as special seminars. It is not uncommon for dance students to combine their studies with another field for broader job opportunities.

  • Dance school teacher
  • Dance school director
  • Non profit director
  • Theater director
  • Theater teacher
  • College or university
  • professor

Interview with an Art School Administrator

What does it take to get accepted into an art school? Peter Byrne, the administrative chair at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences discusses what admissions departments expect. Though Byrne’s insights are specific to RIT, prospective art students can still use his feedback to get an idea of the admissions process and expectations of applying to art school.

What are the admissions criteria for students who want to attend art school?

To enter into any of the undergraduate programs in our school of design, students need to submit a portfolio of creative work. From the perspective of the school of design, we seek students that demonstrate a commitment to creative growth and a potential for the design program area they are applying for. Each college, school or university has other set requirements usually listed on their websites.

How can students make the best use of their time before they apply?

We recommend that students work on building up their portfolio of creative work. Engaging in an exploration of media and ideas, refining drawing skills and becoming more proficient with the use of materials will benefit them greatly as they prepare to submit a portfolio.

What makes an art applicant really stand out to an admissions counselor?

At RIT, we look for prospective students who demonstrate a potential to grow, a commitment to their visual and design skills, a strong dedication to the craft of creating, an innovative problem solving approach, and individual creativity through strong visual skills in drawing, design and form.

What can students expect when they attend art school?

When students attend the School of Design at RIT, they enter into a program that is nationally accredited and nationally ranked. The curriculum is robust and created to support rigorous development in art and design throughout the four years of study. Students work predominately with dynamic full-time faculty who have national and international reputations. With a balance between technological and theoretical approaches, students explore the latest methods and resources pertinent to their career focus, striving to generate new solutions to design problems. The community of learning is exciting, challenging and fulfilling. Wonderful connections with faculty, alumni and the design community are available for students to become involved with. In entering into an art and design career, students will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their area of study–and on the society in which we live.