What is a Ceramics Degree?

Ceramics degree courses and programs teach the creative art of sculpture, usually with clay. The typical curriculum aims to develop both technical skill and artistic style and is composed of some classroom lectures and many hands-on studio hours.

These are some of the fundamental topics covered:

  • Use of a pottery wheel
  • Glazing, decorating, and firing pieces
  • Mold-making and casting
  • Ceramics / clay chemistry
  • Testing materials
  • Wheel throwing
  • Hand building
  • Kiln operation

The curriculum at some schools includes opportunities to participate in student competitions and exhibitions and to engage with visiting professional potters, sculptors, and other artists.

Program Options

While some schools offer distinct degrees in ceramics, many offer a concentration in ceramics within a fine arts program. Students who choose a school where ceramics training is part of a wider Fine Arts Degree curriculum also take courses in art history and other visual / studio arts like painting and illustration.

Associate in Ceramics / Associate of Fine Arts, Ceramics – Two Year Duration
Bachelor’s in Ceramics / Bachelor of Fine Arts, Ceramics – Four Year Duration

Below are some examples of classes that may be offered as part of both the associate and bachelor’s curriculum. In the four-year bachelor’s degree program, students take a greater number of these courses at a more in-depth level.

  • Introduction to Ceramics – a broad introduction to hand building and wheel throwing processes, forming methods, glazing, and firing
  • Wheel throwing – how to use the wheel to create hollow forms; how to fire electric and gas kilns; an introduction to materials used in glazing and surfacing
  • Hand building – the ancient pottery-making technique of creating forms without a wheel, using only the hands, fingers, and very basic tools
  • Technology – ceramic materials and technology; formulating glazes and clay bodies;
  • Sculpture / Design / Effects – contemporary ceramics methods; current design practices; the social and cultural context of ceramics
  • Kiln Building – kiln building methods and materials; how different types of kilns can produce different aesthetic results; maintaining and repairing kilns
  • Mold making – mold-making and slip-casting; the use of molds in artistic expression; possible materials including plaster, clay, and rubber; introduction of the concepts of series, spatial reversibility, appropriation, mirror image, and convex/concave alternates
  • Ceramics: Studio Art – an examination of the relationship between ceramics and other studio arts including painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography
  • Ceramics and Printmaking – using ceramic paints, enamels, and glazes to print and transfer images; etching, lithography, silk-screening, and digital printing
  • Architectural Ceramics – an examination of the relationship of ceramics to architecture; through large-scale work and public art

Master’s in Ceramics / Master of Fine Arts, Ceramics – Two to Three Year Duration
At the master’s level, students focus on the advanced aesthetics and techniques of ceramics and explore personal expression through the art as they prepare to write their thesis.

Here is a typical sequence of ceramics degree courses for master’s students:

  • Graduate Studio – extensive in-studio work
  • Studio Technology – modeling software, visualization, lighting for presenting work; exploration of color, pattern, texture
  • Research Methods
  • Thesis Research – readings and discussions in art history
  • Creative Flow – strategies to generate ideas
  • The Business of Studio Art – portfolio development and management, pricing, marketing, networking

Here are a few examples of thesis topics:

  • Early Islamic Pottery
  • Patterns of Imperial Wheel-thrown Pottery
  • Meroitic ( 3rd century BC to 4th century AD) Fine Ceramics

Doctorate in Ceramic Engineering – Four to Five Year Duration
Most doctoral programs in the ceramics field are in ‘ceramic engineering.’ Some schools also offer the Ceramic or Ceramics Engineering Degree as a Master of Science. Very few offer it as a Bachelor of Science degree.

Ceramic engineering is important because ceramics play significant roles in electronics like computers and cell phones; in transportation (roads and vehicles); in defense systems; and in environmental technologies. Doctoral programs in ceramic engineering prepare students to work as researchers in government labs, as university professors, and in industry as designers of improved ceramic materials.

Coursework includes math, chemistry, physics, and engineering. The curriculum combines lectures with laboratory sessions.

Thesis projects commonly focus on developing new and improved ceramics.

Degrees Similar to Ceramics

Fine Arts
In addition to sculpture, the fine arts provide several other related degree options. Painting, photography, and drawing/illustration are some examples.

Archaeology is the scientific study of the material remains of past human life and activities. The typical curriculum includes classes in archaeological theory and methods, Chinese dynastic history, Egyptology, survey of world prehistory, and origins of new world civilizations.

Arts / Art Studies
This is an interdisciplinary degree, which combines the investigation of historical, cultural, and anthropological components with the study of art from an aesthetic and compositional perspective.

Art History
Individuals with a Degree in Art History have completed the academic study of the history and development of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, filmmaking, and architecture.

Therapeutic Recreation
Degree programs in therapeutic recreation train students how to plan and implement recreational activities, such as gardening, pottery, fishing, or horseback riding, that encourage the health and well-being of patients with physical, mental, or emotional challenges.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Creativity
  • Artistic Sensibility
  • Observation
  • Self-expression
  • Focus
  • Discipline
  • Perseverance
  • Confidence

What Can You Do with a Ceramics Degree?

Most professional ceramicists work as freelancers. They may have their own studio or may share a co-op space with other artists, where they create and sell pieces.

Ceramics graduates may also work with or for:

  • Art studios
  • Art councils
  • Museums and galleries
  • Historical societies
  • Auction houses
  • Public and private art schools
  • Community center education programs
  • Rehabilitation and retirement centers (in a recreation therapy role)
  • Interior design firms
  • Jewelry design firms
  • Mass ceramic production companies


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