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Guide to a Career in Art

What is an Art Degree?

"Art is the signature of civilizations"
Beverly Sills

"Art" is commonly thought of in terms of the fine arts or commercial arts, but here we will look at the Arts Degrees that are in between - taking parts of both fine and commercial art and applying them to specialist pursuits such as art history, arts education, and administration of arts. These careers include an extensive background in arts education with appropriate courses in business, teaching, or history.

Art Degree Programs

Undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs for careers in art

Having a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) is a minimum starting point for anyone wanting to specialize in art history, arts education, or arts administration and management. Preferably, you would work to obtain a master's degree in arts (MA or MFA). In 3 years or less, a master's degree can provide you with more credibility and give you an advantage in the job market at a management level; and enable you to oversee public programming.

You could start your academic training with generalist courses at an associate level that would give you a solid base of English, social sciences, liberal arts, and rudimentary history, education, or business courses, depending on your future specialization. Training in computer techniques may also be offered. Computers are widely used in the visual arts so knowledge and training is critical for many jobs in these fields.

In art history, you learn to view not only the aesthetic and technical qualities of an art piece, but you study the cultural, historical, philosophical, scientific, and religious context of the society it was created in and the individual who created it. You see the how and why. Training in art history differs from archeology and classics studies because it deals strictly with the formal visual assessment of an object of art. You develop a "visual literacy" and focus on art in high culture - what is considered to be representative of refined taste and superior intellect in any given cultural or historical context.

Most art historians will specialize in one period or region, and spend their school time taking all the supporting classes to give them that extensive knowledge. Foreign language, classical civilization, anthropology, religion, fine arts and, of course, history classes are part of the art history curriculum. The best skills to have on top of the obvious creative ones are abstract reasoning ability and visual memorization.

Arts education degrees are suited for you if you want to take your art background and work with other people. You should be creative, organized and able to inspire the creative expression of those you teach. If you want to teach fine arts at public schools you should have a teaching certificate in addition to a bachelor's degree, and a master's or doctorate degree to teach at the post secondary level. Many positions within adult education, museums, social rehabilitation, and community programs do not require additional certification. Your courses will combine principles of art with teaching concepts. Arts therapists who use exposure and individual creation of art for rehabilitation will also take specialized art courses and psychology to practice their trade.


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