Studio, Design, Art History: Finding a Focus in General Arts

The arts is a very broad category, encompassing studio art, graphic design, fashion design, interior design, industrial design, metalworking and welding, new media, animation and applied arts and design. Art students will need to use previous knowledge and expertise to develop, create and execute artwork and expect to pursue careers as creative directors, artists and other creative professions.

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General Arts Degree Information

Studio art uses materials and new media to create paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs by practicing critique and honing skills and technique. Design arts cover graphic design, interior design and fashion design, which apply artistic and creative elements into a more technical field. Other art degrees focus on a liberal arts training that includes in-depth knowledge of art history. Students wishing to apply to art school need to prepare a portfolio of work.

Choosing An Art Degree In A College Or University

Art education is best coupled with experience in places other than the classroom or studio. Students should seriously consider opportunities at local art galleries and museums. Combining a degree in art with another major, such as business, education or communications can make the job search easier after graduation.

If a student decides to enroll in art school instead of a liberal arts college or university, he should look for programs with a specific focus that peaks his interest instead of general art. Studio space and teachers per student is also important. Schools near museums and galleries are ideal, as they provide a built-in network for internships and jobs. Find programs that showcase art in student shows or give students the chance to manage a budget, publicize the show and choose a space. Also, look for study abroad programs that can enhance and expand upon art knowledge as well as a variety of professors that can teach different perspectives on similar subjects.

Choosing An Art School

Art school is a term coined for educational institutions that center primarily on visual arts, particularly graphic design, painting, photography, illustration and sculpture. While other schools offer liberal arts degrees that include an art component, art schools require more studio time, allowing students to work solely on artistic projects as coursework.

Finding an accredited art school is important. Some of the top art schools in the country often share connections to other schools. For example, the Rhode Island School of Design is partnered with Brown University and the Maryland Institute College of Art is with John Hopkins University.

The Yale School of Art, the California College of the Arts, Moore College of Art, Maryland Institute College of Art, Otis College of Art and Design and the New York Academy of Art are all examples of prestigious art schools offering BFAs and/or MFAs. Other colleges and universities offer large art and design departments, like the College of Design at Iowa State University or the College of Fine & Applied Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Coursework for art students working towards a BFA includes foundations and advanced techniques in studio art throughout all four years and several classes in art history. Studio art classes consist of drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking as well as graphic design, digital art and photography. After studying the fundamentals, students will be able to choose a specialization in a particular field or medium.

Bachelor's Degree

Students at art school or studying fine arts will earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts, or BFA. Programs that award a BFA include more time in a studio and intensive visual arts work, unlike other majors that focus on art and design in lectures and discussions with some studio time. A BFA degree usually needs an area of specialty like ceramics, drawing, illustration, graphic design, painting, photography or sculpture.

Master's Degree

Those who wish to further their education in the field of arts should look towards earning a Master of Fine Arts, or MFA. This graduate degree requires two to three years of study in visual arts and focuses on scholarly and academic studies. The typical graduate thesis is replaced with a major work or show. Students will need to have a bachelor's degree and a sample portfolio. While some universities still have Ph.D. programs for the arts, many of these have been disbanded in favor of strong MFA programs that are equivalent to a Ph.D.

Earning a Degree Online

Some aspects of arts and applied art and design can be taught online. Graphic design courses, along with other media arts and animation classes, teach sketching and computer programming skills. For the most part, earning a fine arts degree will be difficult online.

Career Opportunities

Those with a bachelorís degree in art have more career options than they may think. Of course, becoming an artist and selling work is ideal, but the job field is narrow and less likely to pay the bills. Some careers that directly involve art include cartoonists, illustrators, sketch artists and designers. Animators use illustration skills and computer application to create movements for visual stills.

Other career options are relevant to art, although they often use knowledge and academic training more than artistic skills learned in school. Art directors deal with translating visual concepts into advertising. Art buyers make connections between a network of artists and gallery owners. An assistant curator works in museums and conducts research for the curator. Docent coordinators recruit and train volunteers for museum lectures. Gallery directors handle the day-to-day operations of an art gallery. Public relations assistants and officers maintain events and press for museums and galleries.

Graphic systems designers develop symbols that unify building and public places for easier navigation, as well as work with architectural and design firms. An industrial designer creates commercially produced products and designs the style and packaging for products. Advertising assistants work as liaisons between campaigns for clients and the agency. Non-profit organizations hire assistants and directors to help find funding for the arts, review grant applications and monitor budgets.

Those who continue their education and receive a masterís degree or a Ph.D. can look for jobs such as art librarian, curator, gallery owner, professor or art teacher, art historian, conservator or museum director. Teaching art will require taking a certification test.

Earning Potential

The visual arts fields are expected to grow in jobs over the next decade, according to the Department of Labor. Design related jobs, including graphic and industrial, are the most likely fields to increase employment, as well as art education. Fine arts, such as painting, are less secure in their earning potential. However, commercial arts can still lead to a well-paying and steady job. For instance, photography can lead to jobs in photojournalism. Staying flexible and open-minded is necessary for careers in the arts, since the job field is incredibly competitive and limited.

The amount of money earned with an art degree depends on the job and education level. Graphic and industrial designers can earn anywhere from $40,000 to $53,000. The median salary for museum curators is $48,875, which varies on the museum, while gallery owners and directors earn around the same. Fine arts jobs are often freelance-based and thus depend on the artist.

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General Arts Degree FAQs

What Does a Degree in General Arts Encompass?

General arts is the generalized study of the liberal arts and sciences. These courses are sometime referred to as "classical education studies." The curriculum in general arts is on general knowledge and intellectual capacities. This course of study includes coverage of the following seven liberal arts:

  • Arts
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy
  • Science
  • Literature
  • Language

What Can I Do With a General Arts Degree?

There are a number of job opportunities available for someone with a degree in general arts. From teachers to management positions, your degree can help you find employment in a variety of industries.

Continuing your education with a degree in the fine arts can also be a great path to a specialty job. Many students elect to take online general arts courses as a great way to work toward a degree while considering the right career path. Common industries of employment include human relations, computers, sciences and communications.

What Are the Benefits of General Arts Studies?

An education in the general arts is the ideal way for a student to receive well-rounded development of essential skills, such as those used in communication, the sciences, human relations and computer literacy. The general arts student will receive a wide exposure to various academic disciplines.

What Are the Admission Requirements for Online General Arts Programs?

The admission requirements for general arts programs typically depend on the institution providing the courses. While this may vary, the most common requirements include successful completion of high school or a GED, with a C or U average. For mature individuals looking to return to school, most applicants are considered on an individual basis.

Who are some famous people who have studied in this field?

In 1991, Adam Sandler graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Other people who have studied in fine arts but didn’t necessarily receive a degree include Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller and Sandra Bullock.

Because of the wide variety of choices available in this field search for free online information regarding online and on campus arts and design degree programs on the internet.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Associate of Arts Degree?

Generally speaking, most associate's programs take anywhere from one to two years to graduate. The time varies depending greatly on the subject material and any other classes necessary to achieve the degree curriculum.

An associate's degree will offer preparation for moving toward a goal in higher education, whether in the same field or a related artistic field.

How Long Will It Take to Graduate With a Bachelor's Degree in Art and Design?

Degree programs in the field of art and design will offer different curriculums, and thus there are varied possibilities of how long the process may take. On average, most students take four years to complete a liberal arts bachelor's degree in art and design. If an online student decides to speed or slow the process for any reason, the flexibility is there.

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