Craft and fine artists use their creativity and passion for self-expression to create artistic works for the world to enjoy. Fine artists create art that can be admired and appreciated for its beauty and expression. Painters, sculptors, and illustrators are all considered fine artists.
On the other hand, craft artists create works of art that have a functional purpose. Generally speaking, craft art includes such things as glassware, pottery, and jewelry. Many craft and fine artists choose to be self-employed, while others work in commercial studios, museums, factories, advertising firms, motion picture studios, or other corporate environments.
Students interested in a fine arts degree should be creative individuals who possess a relatively high level of artistic ability. Because artists work with their hands, dexterity is a must. Sometimes an afterthought, successful artists must also develop a keen business sense, particularly if they wish to make a living as a self-employed artist.
How to Choose the Right Fine Arts Degree
Although a formal education isn't always necessary, most fine artists do receive some sort of postsecondary training. Online degrees in fine arts can provide the academic and practical foundation for artists to hone and sharpen their knowledge and skills. Artistic skills are generally perfected through practice and repetition, but it may be hard to obtain those skills in the absence of formal training. Earning either a bachelor's or master's degree also helps make fine artists more marketable to potential employers and provides graduates with more career options upon graduation. These programs typically include courses in studio art, art history, design, and business. Fine arts degree students may also train under other professional artists while pursuing their degree.
Becoming a successful artist is never an easy endeavor. Fine artists must possess the artistic skills needed for success, and develop the business skills and emotional temperament to handle the highs and lows of the profession. In order to acquire and sharpen their skill set, most fine artists pursue some type of fine arts degree after high school. The chart below lists some of the different degree programs available, as well as potential career outcomes for each:
Length of Completion
Certificate in Fine Arts
These programs typically take less than a year to complete.
Craft or Fine Artist
Associate in Fine Arts
Associate degrees typically take up to two years of full-time study to complete.
Craft or Fine Artist
Bachelor's in Fine Arts
These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.
Craft or Fine Artist, Multimedia Artist or Animator, Graphic Designer, Art Director, Elementary School Teacher, Middle School Teacher, High School Teacher
Master's in Fine Arts
These programs take two to three years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.
Craft or Fine Artist, Postsecondary Teacher
Ph.D. in Art and Visual Culture Education
These programs take two to three years of study after earning a master's degree, which is usually a prerequisite for enrollment.
Online degrees in fine arts help provide students with the academic background needed to pursue careers in the field. Although no formal education is necessary to become an artist, a fine arts degree can greatly enhance a graduate's employment opportunities. Many professional artists are self-employed. Others choose to work for companies while creating their own art to be sold on the side. A fine arts degree can help artists land well-paying "day jobs" that help fund the production of their personal brand of art. Those hoping to work in art education at the college or university level will need to continue their education and earn a graduate degree.
What to Expect in a Fine Arts Program
Students pursuing online degrees in fine arts can expect to receive a well-rounded education in artistic styles and art history. They may also be expected to complete general education requirements that broaden their knowledge about the world surrounding them. Core courses in a fine arts degree program typically include:
- Art History
- Still Life Painting
- Introduction to Sculpture
- Basics of Etching
- Basics of Printmaking
- Fundamentals of Color and Design
- Human Anatomy
- Introduction to Digital Photography
- Introduction to Business
- English Composition
- Museums and Society
- College Geometry
In addition to enrolling in a degree program, many fine arts students seek training under the guidance of other professional artists. This additional training can help solidify the skills obtained while in school and help students start building their professional network and portfolio.
Fine Arts Degree Specializations
Fine arts degree programs train and expose artists to a variety of different artistic disciplines. While mastery of each discipline is not always necessary, it is important for artists to have a well-rounded understanding of differing artistic styles. Specializations in craft and fine arts include:
- Jewelry Design
Fine arts degree programs typically allow students to specialize in a particular area of artistic concentration. Regardless of whether or not a student specializes, most art students are encouraged to branch out and attempt all artistic styles. Upon graduation, some artists may specialize in their favorite disciplines, while others choose not to be defined by a particular specialization.
Benefits of an Online Degree in Fine Arts
As with other artistic pursuits, the study of fine arts is part academic theory and part practice. Students typically participate in both lectures and studio lab environments. Online degrees in fine arts provide students with an opportunity to grasp the academic concepts of fine art while building a portfolio that can be used in their professional endeavors. Unlike traditional campus-based learning, online students have the option of completing their studies at a time and place that is convenient for them.
Students enrolled in online programs get many of the benefits of traditional classrooms while maintaining the flexibility of online learning. Discussion boards, video chat, and email allow students to communicate and connect with their professors and classmates. Students submit their work online and receive critiques and comments in a virtual format.
Online degrees in the fine arts provide an extremely flexible learning environment, which is particularly beneficial to adult learners and those with family obligations. Course materials are usually available anytime day or night, making it easy for students to study when it is most convenient for them. Lectures and demonstrations are typically prerecorded, allowing students to view them at their own pace -- even multiple times if needed.
Careers in Fine Arts
Earning a degree in fine arts can lead to a number of different career options. Most fine arts majors pursue careers as artists and find work in a variety of settings from corporate environments to home-based studios. Some find work in related fields such as academia. The following chart highlights some of the most popular career choices for graduates, along with relevant wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Projected Job Growth 2014-2024
Mean Annual Wage in 2015
Multimedia Artists and Animators
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Middle School Teachers
High School Teachers
Aspiring fine artists need to practice and hone their artistic skills if they are to succeed. A fine arts degree program can help students turn their passion into a career by augmenting their practical skills with an academic background. These degrees help graduates prepare a professional portfolio and can open the doors to a number of different employment options. Students should carefully consider their career objectives before committing to a degree path, making sure it is the right fit for their professional goals.
To learn more about online degrees in fine arts, or get information about a specific program, check out any of the schools listed below.
Art Directors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm
Craft and Fine Artists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/craft-and-fine-artists.htm
Graphic Designers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm
High School Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Middle School Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
Multimedia Artists and Animators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm
Postsecondary Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm