When some people hear "art major" they think of art history classes
and hands-on studio courses in painting or sculpture. But today's art majors
learn an even greater variety of skills and have dozens of exciting career
Commercial artists, photographers, furniture designers and web designers
often have art backgrounds, as do many film, video and animation producers,
and video-game designers.
Students can earn a diploma at a community college (two years) where
they learn the fundamentals of fine arts. Or, they can earn a bachelor's
degree in fine arts (often four years), gaining a more in-depth education
and more exposure to different art forms. Many universities even offer graduate
degrees in fine arts.
"An art degree combines technical skill with cultural studies and criticism,"
says Charlotte Becket. She's an assistant professor and associate chair in
the fine arts department at Pace University in New York City. "Students with
art degrees understand how visual language is employed and operates in our
culture. This prepares them for an enormous range of jobs and positions in
a variety of industries."
Practical application of the arts is a strong focus at top art and design
schools. Students learn how to turn their talents and skills into successful
careers. Studio courses are still crucial, but art degrees today are about
more than making art.
"In the school of fine arts, students address the proper way to approach
a gallery, develop a business plan, run a print shop and hone their skills
in museum and gallery studies," says Richard Gere. He's the print-making department
chair at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia.
"This leads to diverse employment opportunities, including studio
artist, screen or master printer, community arts administrator, frame shop
owner, museum staff, photo editor, archivist or conservator, curator, preparatory,
art director, business owner, gallerist, museum administrator and educator."
Some students arrive at their college or university knowing the medium
they want to work in. Others haven't yet decided.
"Students take intro courses in 2-D, 3-D and digital video and graphics,
and then focus in an area they choose," Becket says. "The intro courses provide
students with a broad introduction to the methods and history of the medium,
and give them a basic skill set to build on."
Earning a major with multiple minors, or earning a double major can increase
students' knowledge and skills, as well as their career options.
Internships are also important for art students. Carla Aponte is
an art student at Pace University. She has done two internships. "The experiences
I've had and [what] I've learned couldn't be taught in a classroom," she says.
"I learned to trust my instincts and how to translate what I had learned
in the classroom into a professional setting. I also learned what I didn't
want to do in my field."
Pace offers internships with some of New York's top publishers, galleries
"Through extensive networking and faculty interaction with major museums,
galleries and design firms, SCAD students enjoy an ever-growing pool of businesses
to intern with," Gere says. "Many successful internships lead to full-time
Some schools require students to submit a portfolio for review prior
to being accepted. A portfolio contains examples of artists' work, which can
be shown to potential employers, agents or galleries.
"SCAD recognizes that talented students can come from very humble backgrounds,
and by and large do not have equal access to arts education in high school,"
Gere says. However, students are encouraged to present portfolios for possible
That's what Jose Pimienta did. Pimienta is an art student at SCAD. "After
I applied to SCAD, I also wanted to apply for a scholarship," he says. "Since
my only training consisted of a few drawing courses in high school, I had
my portfolio reviewed by a few professional artists before submitting."
There are more career possibilities for art majors than most first-year
students realize. That's why schools encourage art majors to explore many
disciplines and intern at different places.
College Art Association
Learn more about art careers, grants, internships, residencies
and other opportunities
Vocational Information Center
Peruse the center's visual arts career guide