College Major of the Month: Fine Arts
Did you know you can make a living with a fine arts degree? Today creativity and art skills are needed in many businesses and careers. We invite you to take a closer look at this month’s College Major of the Month: Fine Arts.
What are the fine arts? A college major in fine arts can prepare you for a career as a professional artist or for a variety of design fields. Fine arts encompass disciplines such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, drawing and photography. The fine arts are the foundational skills for related majors such as graphic design, interior design, fashion design and other arts and design fields.
A fine arts degree could lead to a career as a professional artist, a museum or gallery director, illustrator or art director for a publication. With the appropriate teaching licensure as required by your state, it could lead to a career as an art teacher.
What education and experience is required for fine arts majors? While formal schooling is not required for self-employed artists, even they can benefit from a college education. Self-employed artists must understand how to run a business, so taking courses not only in art to improve your skills, but also in business and/or marketing, will help you throughout your career.
If you prefer to work for a company (such as museum or publisher), a bachelor’s degree is typically required or preferred. For specialized art-related fields, such as medical illustration, a master’s degree may be required. To become an art teacher, you need to take courses that meet teaching licensure requirements in your state.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits fine arts programs at colleges and universities.
How much money do fine arts majors make? In 2013, the average starting salary for students with visual and performing arts majors was $35,600, according to the National Association of College and Employers’ September 2013 Salary Survey. In 2012, the median pay for fine artists was $44,380 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The 2014 Creative Group Salary Guide (which has more specialized creative job salary data), reports a low-end annual starting salary for general illustrators is $39,500, medical illustrators is $64,500 and technical illustrators is $67,500.
How should I prepare in high school to major in fine arts? Take as many art courses as you can. You may even want to take computer courses to learn programs that artists use such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Flash. Also consider taking business courses, especially it it’s your goal to be a professional, self-employed artist.
Most fine arts colleges will require you to show a portfolio of your artwork for admission and/or to receive merit scholarships. To help create a great portfolio, check out events run by the National Portfolio Day Association. At these events, which typically occur between September and January each year, you can have your artwork reviewed, talk with colleges about their fine arts programs and learn about professional careers in art.
What college scholarships are available for fine arts majors? Many colleges offer merit-based college scholarships based on a review of your artwork portfolio. Ask colleges you’re interested in attending what specific scholarships they have for art students.
Other local and national organizations also offer college scholarships. In particular, check with art supply manufacturers, museums, arts-related nonprofit organizations, arts associations and creative businesses (such as advertising or design agencies) for scholarship opportunities.
For example, Krylon offers a nationwide $1,000 Krylon Clear Choice Art Scholarship each year and the Virginia Museum of Fine Art offers $4,000 scholarships to undergraduates studying art at a Virginia institution.
Learn more about fine arts majors in the My College Guide Sophomore Edition or get more advice and information on choosing a major.
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