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Focus on Majors: Art and Design

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Arts and design
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I enjoy being creative and finding unusual solutions to visual problems?” Or, “When I see a blank page, I’m compelled to draw on it?” Or even, “Making art is the one thing I am passionate about?” If you have these thoughts or ones similar, then majoring in the arts may be for you.


The power of art is its versatility. Students are not limited in what they are able to study and can specialize in a wide variety of options, such as, painting, photography, film, animation, architecture, ceramics and more. Art is a field that allows students to explore different cultures and perspectives while also equipping them with 21st century skills needed for the rapidly changing workforce of the future. Artists create value for everyone in society by producing forms of entertainment that can be enjoyed by all. However, an artist’s creative expertise plays a lesser-known but equally essential role in many other career fields. Artists do crucial work as innovators, merging the fields of science, education, and art. For instance, artists are key to revitalizing communities through developing civic infrastructure and city beautification projects. Regardless of the schooling programs or type of degree, studying art prepares students for a career through developing and blending skills including creativity, visual literacy, critical thinking, and project management. Here are some potential pathways within the art field:


Fine Arts

comprises many different areas of study and courses depending on the specific field. Students will learn about history, skills, and methodologies in their artistic field. There are five main fine arts categories: visual arts, theater and dance, film and photography, music and creative writing. Application for fine arts programs usually requires a portfolio, which is dependent on the type of concentration a student is entering.



majors gain a variety of skills with practical applications through their studies. It is a blend of critical thinking, innovating, and teamwork. Classes in the design field can range from exhibition design to fashion to illustration and even computer programming. Graduating with a degree in design can open a huge number of career paths spanning multiple fields.


Media Arts

involves the study of film and videos. Students can focus on media history and visual aspects of film and photography but can also study production. Through media arts programs, students will learn versatile skills that build a foundation for a successful future. Graduates with a degree in media arts often enter the entertainment or communication industry, including advertising, film, or public relations.


An art institute is most appropriate for those individuals who truly wish to immerse themselves in art. They generally award a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree and will require a portfolio, or a collection of a student’s art pieces, as part of the admission process. B.F.A. programs train their constituents for art-based careers; students may prepare for a future in fashion, auto or interior design, video game development, animation, or the graphic arts. At an art institute, students will generally start with foundation courses such as basic design and history of art, then focus on an area of concentration during the later part of their studies. The emphasis of each art institute differs, even within the same medium, such as painting or sculpture. Additionally, art schools are usually located in big cities where students can have easy access to a broader artistic community.


It’s important to consider, however, that studio art classes require hours of hard work and students at art institutes have little time or opportunity to get the breadth of education that is possible at a liberal arts college. Additionally, art institutes do not offer the variety of extracurricular clubs, sports, and activities many college students seek and expect. Therefore, if you’re interested in focusing on art but would also like to explore other interests, pursuing an art major at a liberal arts college is another great option. Although students in Bachelor of Arts programs do not get the intensity of experience that BFA graduates do, they benefit from the more rounded college-life experience available at a comprehensive institution. Both the B.F.A. and B.A. programs prepare students for graduate programs in the arts. A master’s degree is generally required for those hoping for employment in museums and galleries or for teaching at the high school level. Museum curators and directors, as well as college professors, often have Ph.D.s.


Careers for Art & Design Majors

Fortunately, the notion of “the poor starving artist” no longer rings true today. The arts and culture sector is a key area in state-level economic growth, and 80% of working creatives are poly-occupational, meaning many hold more than one job at a time. All art majors should seek out internships in galleries or museums, apprenticeships with working artists, or employment in architectural or design firms in order to gain real-world experience. Art majors may go on to work in a variety of art-related fields. The major provides the initial preparation required for careers in commercial art and professions such as art therapist, art editor, critic, museum curator, art educator, art restorer, architect, or designer. However, art majors can also take their trained creativity and visualization into other career fields. You can learn more about careers in the visual arts by using the Occupational Outlook Handbook.