What is a Fine Arts Degree?

People that pursue a fine arts degree possess an artistic flair, prefer collaborating with other creative people, and are often comfortable working on their own.

If you are a creative person, a degree in the fine arts will allow you to explore your creativity to a greater extent and will expose you to present and past artistic styles and techniques. It will also give you valuable feedback on your work from your teachers and peers, which will help improve your work and expose you to new ideas.

Fine art is created more for aesthetic value rather than for practical purposes. For example, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree will offer students specializations in things like: design, writing, dance, acting, drawing, animation, graphic design, illustration, visual arts, interior design, music, media, painting, photography, printmaking, ceramics, and sculpture.

Program Options

Fine arts colleges can either be specialized institutions or programs within a larger university. Many schools offer an Associate in Fine Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Master of Fine Arts. Each school has its own specialties, facilities, and curriculum. Students are able to fine-tune their educational and career goals as emerging commercial artists, craft artists, fashion designers, performers, or writers.

Associate Degree in Fine Arts - Two Year Duration
Whether someone is seriously considering a career in the fine arts or is just wanting to get a taste for a number of different creative fields in the liberal arts, an associate degree is a great starting point. An Associate in Fine Arts degree program gives students a foundation in basic drawing, colour theory, 2D and 3D design, figure drawing, printmaking, and photography.

For those wanting to look for immediate employment after graduating, work can be found as assistants or tour guides for museums or art galleries. For those wanting further education, first- and second-year art and general education courses can be put towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) - Four Year Duration
A Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is the standard degree for students seeking to develop a foundation in arts theory and history and to develop their skills in a particular area of interest. A typical Bachelor of Fine Arts program in the United States consists of two-thirds study in the fine arts, with one-third in more general liberal arts studies.

The first year or two of schooling will most likely (depending on the program) consist of courses in both history and foundational work in different art practices. During the remaining years of the program, students are required to study a specialization in fields such as: painting, graphic design, photography, or animation—which naturally steers the types of courses that need to be taken. By graduation, students will have completed a portfolio of original work, and will be able to apply for positions such as art directors and graphic designers.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) - Two Year Duration
A Master of Fine Arts degree is the highest degree program that one can complete in this subject area, and is considered a terminal degree. Students that are interested in running a gallery or museum, are interested in teaching at a college or university, or just want to continue to hone their craft would want to pursue this degree.

Degrees Similar to Fine Arts

Art / Art Studies Degree
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
Students study the history and development of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, filmmaking, and architecture.

Visual and Performing Arts
Visual and performing arts students typically focus on a single discipline such as art, design, music, theatre, or dance.

Theatre Arts
This artistic pursuit includes studies in acting, directing, drama theory, set design, and backstage technical concepts.

This degree can be very diverse - one student of an English degree program may be reading, discussing and writing about English literature and culture, another may be learning about the history, linguistic structure, and use of the English language. And still other students may choose to combine studies of both literature and linguistics.

Interior Design
Architectural drafting, color theory, lighting design, and materials sustainability are the primary components of interior design degree programs.

Rhetoric and Composition
This arts degree program is focused on the study of literature, poetry, journalism, scholarly writing, composition theory, and public speaking.

Digital Arts
As the name suggests, the curriculum for this degree is computer-focused, introducing students to web video, 3D modeling, and animation.

Fine and Studio Arts Management
This degree is targeted at art history buffs interested in the business aspects of the art world. Graduates of these programs typically work in roles relating to legal issues, financial issues, marketing, sales, fundraising, and human resources.

Commercial Art
This degree also has a dual artistic and business focus. It gives students a background in branding, account planning and management, as well as the aesthetic concepts of color theory and composition.

Students take classes in music theory and aural skills, music history, music technology, and solo and ensemble performance. The typical curriculum also includes liberal arts elective courses.

Fashion Design
Fashion and apparel designers, like painters and sculptors, are obsessed with creating the perfect piece of art. In the fashion industry, that piece just happens to be wearable art.

Skills You’ll Learn

Employers are increasingly looking for job candidates with hybrid skills, which are a combination of soft and technical skills. Fine arts graduates come out with a well-rounded transferrable skill set that can be used in a variety of occupations.

Examples of skills that graduates of a fine arts degree have are:

  • Persistence
  • Patience
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • Dexterity
  • Exploration
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Discipline
  • Focus
  • Collaboration
  • Risk-taking
  • Observation
  • Self-expression
  • Open-mindedness
  • Self-confidence
  • Color techniques
  • Drawing skills
  • Knowledge of art materials
  • Rules of perspective and proportions
  • Composition skills
  • Knowledge of theories and techniques
  • Ability to take criticism
  • Knowledge of art history
  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Positive attitude
  • Team player
  • Problem-solving
  • Coping with pressure
  • Flexibility
  • Strong work ethic

What Can You Do with a Fine Arts Degree?

Graduates with a fine arts degree are able to be employed in many areas, such as:

  • Museums
  • Art galleries
  • Exhibit work
  • Magazine publications
  • Teaching
  • Medical illustration
  • Scientific illustration
  • Political illustration
  • Sports illustration
  • Forensic illustration
  • Tattooing
  • Ceramic/pottery studio work
  • Art direction
  • Archives
  • Sewing/textile work
  • Furniture making
  • Jewelry making
  • Sculpting
  • Videos
  • Cartoon work
  • Curation
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Printmaking
  • Advertising
  • Landscape and portrait work
  • Glass blowing
  • Stained glass
  • Etching business
  • Graphic design
  • Mural design
  • Videography


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