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Some parents doubt that art programs offer much career potential. So it's not surprising that some students have to convince their parents that they're working towards a real job.

As a high school junior, Jose Pimienta knew he wanted to go to an art and design college. "Yes, I had to convince my parents it was a real degree. For a long time they asked me if I was sure that what I wanted to do wasn't just a hobby."

Today Pimienta is a sequential art major at SCAD. He's learning how to tell stories through art, which is what comic book illustrators and storyboard artists do.

"My dad wasn't really supportive of the fine arts degree, so I had to convince him," says Carla Aponte. She transferred from a community college to the fine arts department at Pace University. "He's OK with it now because he's seen everything I've been able to do." Aponte aspires toward a career as a documentary photographer or photojournalist.

Design and interdisciplinary art is Leah Vlemmiks' focus. She attended business school for a year before enrolling at a university for art and design.

"Four years ago, the prospect of being a designer or photographer was obscure, but now I'm seeing the various skills I have acquired through experimentation in my art practice join together in a more career-focused manner," she says.

Her family supports her new career path. "I see many possibilities," she says. "The most obvious, a graphic designer -- first within a company and then, with experience, branching into freelance work. Art direction for a magazine or program would also be a wonderful experience. Working with art programs, public and private, are also career options as these provide many avenues for employment."

Katherine Soucie attends the same university as Vlemmiks and already has her own clothing and textile design company. "My decision to receive my [fine arts] degree came after realizing how much I love learning about everything that is art and design related." She plans to pursue a master's degree in fine arts or design.

Students can learn about different fields through internships, gaining practical experience in real work settings. Pimienta interned one summer at an Oregon studio for freelance artists.

"I learned what a regular day for a freelance comic book artist and illustrator is, how many hours a day they work, how much work a day it requires out of an artist, and how many different tasks there are to a comic [book] before the final product," he says. "They also taught me comic book industry standards about scanning, printing, formatting and digital coloring."

Vlemmiks' internship helped her grow as a designer. "I was working with real-world issues, obstacles and responsibilities. I had to be accountable to a larger group than myself and my teachers. That in itself was a learning experience."

All artists need supplies, and costs vary depending on the medium.

"You can spend $200-plus on a painting class, $80-plus on a dark room photography class, $50-plus in ceramics, or nothing in a digital photography class -- assuming your school pays for printing paper and that you have a good digital camera," says Aponte. "Last year I had five art classes and spent about $500 on supplies."

Good programs go beyond the creative side of art. They offer real-world experience.

"Art school has taught me many sides of the art industry," Pimienta says. "Professionalism and social networking are just as important as learning techniques and developing a style."