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20 Most Employable Art Degrees 2015

Best Art Degrees 2015The days when parents broke into tears upon hearing their children planned to major in art are long gone.

While jobs in the arts are not likely to lead to the kind of wages one can expect from higher-salary jobs in medicine and computer programming, a range of careers in creative fields pay more than adequately. America's tens of thousands of K-12 schools still have creative programs that need to be staffed by educators trained in the art and music. And with communication and marketing becoming ever more visual, someone has to generate the pictures, music, and moving images that have become an ever larger part of our vocabulary.

That said, salaries associated with arts careers are low when compared to other fields like business and technology, which makes it imperative that someone interested in entering an arts field be cautious with regard to how much they want to invest in earning a degree. Online degrees are a way to avoid the high cost of residential education, but even those programs need to be analyzed to determine which options provide students the best "bang for their buck."

Recently, OnlineDegrees.com published the Best Online Degrees tool, which allows prospective students to see how different majors stack up in terms of various cost/benefit factors. The study compared employment and wage data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to details from the National Center for Educational Statistics to determine which degree programs lead to the best ratio of average salary and job growth to time and money invested in earning a diploma.

This piece takes a look at majors that topped the list of most employable degrees in art and design.

As you look over this list, keep in mind that this analysis is based on information from a few years ago which is subject to change. And while many of the degree titles will be familiar, the exact wording used below may not correspond to the language used by all schools.

With that in mind, here are the 20 arts fields that offer the best potential return on investment, based on our findings:

1. Graphic Design

Given the Internet's insatiable appetite for images, page layout, and information-rich graphics; it's no accident that graphic design programs top the list of degrees that can lead to well-paying jobs based on a reasonable investment in educational dollars. And designers are still needed to generate the images and put together the page layouts for printed magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and marketing collateral that don't seem to have disappeared in our digital age.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $61,770
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 6.1%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $16,453
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 938

2. Music Teacher Education

With many of America's teachers set to retire over the next decade, openings for teachers in all fields -- including music -- mean double-digit job growth for those trained in music education. And while average salaries are no higher for music teachers than are for other public sector educators, talented musicians with a taste for teaching can always supplement their income by offering private music lessons once the school day ends.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $58,075
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 12.13%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $21,133
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 960

3. Fine and Studio Arts Management

What do museums, private galleries and public arts displays all have in common? They all require managers who understand not just art but business, personnel management, fundraising and marketing. And a degree in Fine and Studio Arts Management can provide students access to this growing and well-paying field.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $76,950
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 10.53%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $21,885
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 127

4. Drama and Dance Teacher Education

While not all schools offer drama and dance programs, those that do value candidates with experience and a degree that combines creative performance with a sound understanding of the education principles underlying successful teaching in any discipline. Like most teaching positions, jobs in drama and dance pay a school-teacher's salary, although many teachers are able to take advantage of tenure and public-sector benefits that are not available in many other career fields.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $58,075
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 12.13%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $20,384
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 94

5. Music Therapy

Here's an arts-related field that might not have appeared when jobs were primarily announced in newspaper classified sections. The music therapist helps people with emotional, cognitive and even physical challenges manage their lives and grow personally through the use of music as a therapeutic tool. The fact that this is the highest paying creative field in our study reflects the fact that the music therapy discipline overlaps the arts with the higher-paying field of healthcare.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $70,190
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 33.9%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $24,222
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 87

6. Design and Visual Communications, General

Like many government job categories, "Design and Visual Communications, General" overlaps other arts programs like Graphic Design and Computer Graphics. Given its broad nature, a degree program in this area provides access to both higher- and lower-paying jobs, which is why those looking to this major should pay careful attention to where they want to concentrate to ensure the skills they learn match the specific design field they would like to enter.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $53,410
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 8.28%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $17,292
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 437

7. Computer Graphics

The artist's sketch pad and design table have been supplemented with a wide variety of technology-based graphic design tools for decades. And even designs that might begin life on paper will likely end up being realized as digital images (still and moving), requiring designers to master sophisticated technologies in order to pursue their craft.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $60,485
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 7.5%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $13,883
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 196

8. Cinematography and Film/Video Production

With YouTube and similar sites pulling in millions of videos from across the globe every day, those skilled with production and cinematography no longer need to head to Hollywood to pursue their visions. And while cat videos can still be produced by a 12 year old with a cell phone, professional crafting of promotional videos and feature films still require people trained in the increasingly technical field of video and film production.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $57,333
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 6.3%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $16,543
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 315

9. Fashion Merchandising

While this job title might sound like a position in retail, the fashion merchandiser must understand textile production and design, as well as distribution, finance and management challenges surrounding bringing clothing to market. And with close to two-hundred online programs in this field, a degree in fashion mechanizing provides career options to those interested in the practical art of designing and bringing what we wear to store shelves.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $53,390
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 8%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $16,249
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 187

10. Drama and Dramatics/Theatre Arts, General

OK, so this choice of degree probably still causes the occasional headshake from a parent. But for those with talent, ambition, and a headshot, a career on stage or in front of the camera is a realistic enough goal to support over a thousand degree programs in the dramatic arts. Expect salaries to range widely if you pursue this career, with averages combining the high paychecks received by Broadway stars with far lower starting salaries that are still likely to be supplemented by work in another job category: food services.

  • Average Salary of Related Professions: $66,155
  • Projected Job Growth (2012-2022): 7.55%
  • Average Tuition Cost Per Year: $22,210
  • Number of Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 1,545

Given that most salaries in arts-related fields are going to be lower than those earned by students pursuing other careers, arts degrees (online or otherwise) are still an option best suited to those who value the opportunity to be paid for their creativity vs. those interested in giant paychecks. Oh, and don't forget that some genuine talent is required for success in the arts, especially in an era when an impressive portfolio and work experience still beats a diploma when it comes to landing work.

Additional arts jobs with high "bang-for-the-buck" ratios include:

11. Commercial and Advertising Art

12. Theatre/Theatre Arts Management

13. Fashion/Apparel Design

14. Digital Arts

15. Technical Theatre/Theatre Design and Technology

16. Art/Art Studies, General

17. Dramatic/Theatre Arts and Stagecraft, Other

18. Music Performance, General

19. Industrial and Product Design

20. Dance, General

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