Art and Design Degree Programs

Updated July 30, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Art and Design

If you have a flair for the creative, then you may be wondering how a degree in art and design can help propel your career. If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll delve into the more inspired side of academia to uncover the various credentials available for artists and designers. By learning about the degree programs available in the field, it is our hope that you can steer your passions in the right direction towards a successful and lucrative career in the arts.

Do I Need A Degree in Art and Design?

It’s fairly common knowledge that you don’t need a degree to be an artist. Many people are born with the talents to create beautiful works of art in various types of media and can also further their skills through self-directed practice and independent study. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many artists are able to make a living with just a high school diploma, especially in the fields of floral design, photography, and jewelry making.  Why spend money on a degree in art and design then? The fact is that the field of art and design can be a highly competitive one, and a degree can give you the competitive edge you need to break out in the field and maintain a fruitful career for years to come. Enrolling in an art and design degree program is also a great way to learn about new and emerging trends in your area of expertise. Moreover, it can expose you to important networking opportunities that you might not have otherwise.

Associate Degrees in Art and Design: Overview

For many students, an associate degree in art and design is the perfect place to start studying their craft in a more formal manner. These degree programs provide creative types with an entryway into the field of academia and take just two years to complete. In addition, associate’s degree programs in art and design have become increasingly accessible. Many such programs are available through local community colleges and a growing number are also offered online.

Types of Art and Design Associate Degree Programs

There are numerous different types of associate degrees in art and design available to students, allowing them to specialize in a specific discipline or sub-field of art/design. Choosing the program that’s right for you will require a careful analysis of your specific talents, interests, and career goals. Below, we list some of the art and design degree programs currently available on the associate’s level.

  • Associate’s in Graphic Design
  • Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Marketing
  • Associate in Arts in Art & Design
  • Associate of Science in Web Design and Interactive Media
  • AS in Interior Design
  • Associate of Science in Graphic and Web Design
  • Associate of Game Design and Interactive Media
  • Digital Photography AS

Associate’s in Art and Design Curriculum

The curriculum for an associate of arts and design program will typically consist of two basic components: a general education requirement and an arts and design core. The general education component will provide basic instruction in a wide variety of topics such as mathematics, literature, history, communications, natural sciences, behavioral sciences, and more. These topics may seem somewhat irrelevant to your chosen discipline, but keep in mind that general ed courses provide you with the foundational knowledge college graduates are expected to have and will also prepare you for further study should you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in art and design. The arts and design core, on the other hand, will cover topics directly related to your chosen area of study. You may find these courses to be more directly applicable to your craft and your future career goals. Listed below are sample course titles you can expect to take to fulfill each of these two components of an associate’s degree in art and design. These example classes are taken from actual degree program currently accepting new students. For the art and design core, keep in mind that coursework will vary significantly from program to program.

Associate’s in Art and Design Curriculum: General Education Component (Sample Course Titles)

  • English Composition
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Fundamentals of Chemistry
  • Principles of Economics
  • Social Psychology
  • General Biology
  • Global History
  • World Literature
  • Intermediate Algebra

Associate’s in Art and Design Curriculum: Art and Design Core (Sample Course Titles)

  • Theory and Development of Form
  • Design Fundamentals
  • Conceptual Illustration
  • Animation and Motion Graphics
  • 3-D Design
  • Fundamentals of Media Communications
  • Perspective Drawing
  • Introduction to Web Design
  • Collaborative Game Design
  • Introduction to Digital Imaging
  • Mobile Application Design

Note: Admission into an associate’s of art and design program requires a high school diploma or equivalent.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Art and Design: Overview

Bachelor’s programs in art and design are some of the most popular degree choices for those serious about studying their discipline in a more formal manner. These programs are typically four-year offerings that provide students with a solid and comprehensive education in various art and design sub-fields. Most baccalaureate options in art and design are either Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs. Bachelor’s degrees in art and design are required for some of the most stable and financially rewarding occupations in the field. Consider the positions below alongside their perspective mean annual wages according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Graphic Designers: $48,700
  • Interior Designers: $51,500
  • Industrial Designers: $65,970
  • Multimedia Artists and Animators: $70,530
  • Art Directors: $92,500

Art and Design Bachelor’s Programs: Curriculum

Like associate’s degrees in art and design, bachelor’s programs in this field include both general education courses and major-specific classes. In fact, those students who have completed an associate’s degree in art/design may be able to transfer in most, if not all, of their general education credits and finish their degrees in much less time. The core curriculum for bachelor’s programs will depend heavily on the type of degree program you pursue. Most of the time, you’ll choose an area to concentrate your studies in. Some of these concentration options are listed below.

Bachelor of Arts/Design: Concentrations

  • Photography
  • Painting/Drawing
  • Transmedia
  • Apparel and Fashion
  • Graphic Design
  • Studio Art
  • Sculpture
  • Printmaking
  • Animation
  • Digital Arts
  • Film
  • Dance

Most of the core courses students enrolled in an arts and design bachelor’s program will take will depend on the concentration they choose. We list some sample course titles below to give you an idea of the depth and breadth of these bachelor’s level offerings.

Bachelor’s in Art and Design: Sample Courses

  • Introduction to 3D Graphics
  • History of Art
  • Advanced Typography
  • Criticism and Theory in Visual Arts
  • Professional Practices in Art
  • Museum and Gallery Practices
  • Art, Culture, and Technology
  • Photographic Concepts
  • Advanced Printmaking
  • Performance and Video Art

Master’s Degree Programs in Art and Design: Overview

Master’s degree programs in art and design are advanced programs of study that allow students to explore their craft in depth. Students enrolled in these programs usually commit to a two-year degree plan. Many art and design master’s programs allow students to pursue their degrees on a part-time or full-time basis. Other scheduling options may also be available such as accelerated degree plans and hybrid/fully online programs, for example. Like associate’s and bachelor’s degree options in the field, there are many different types of master’s degrees in art/design available. Some of these offerings are listed below.

Types of Master’s Degree Programs in Art and Design

  • Master of Arts in Design
  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Fashion Design and Society
  • MFA in Photography
  • Master of Science (MS) in Data Visualization
  • MFA in Design and Technology
  • Master of Arts in Fashion Studies
  • MFA in Transdisciplinary Design
  • MFA in Industrial Design

Art and design master’s programs do not include a general education component like associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs do. Instead, these programs assume that students possess a comprehensive foundation of knowledge in their chosen discipline and allow them to further hone their skills. Of course, classes comprising the curriculum for master’s programs in art and design will vary significantly depending on the type of program students choose to pursue. Below we list some sample course titles to give you a general idea of what you can expect in an arts and design graduate program, however.

Master’s in Art and Design Degree Programs: Sample Course Titles

  • Prototyping for Interaction Design
  • Interpreting Fashion
  • Design Principles and Practice
  • Product Design Semantics
  • Design for This Century
  • Survey of Decorative Arts
  • Life Cycle Analysis and Engineering for Product Designers
  • Data Visualization and Information Aesthetics
  • Professional Practice and Entrepreneurship

Note: Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in art and design or a related field in order to be admitted into an art/design master’s degree program.

Doctoral Programs in Art and Design: Overview

Doctoral degree programs in art and design represent the pinnacle of academic credentials one can earn in the field. These programs give students the freedom to specialize in a specific area of art and design and provide them with the instruction they need to truly master their craft. Many students end their academic careers in art and design with a master’s degree. Therefore, doctoral programs in this particular discipline are somewhat rare. The programs that do exist tend to be highly customizable, even enabling students to design their own customized degree plans tailored to their specific goals in the industry.

Doctoral Programs in Art and Design: Curriculum

Curricula for doctoral degrees in art and design assume a high degree of foundational knowledge since applicants have already successfully completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the discipline. This allows the program to address specialized topics in art and design and facilitate in-depth study of certain sub-fields of the subject. Degree plans at the doctoral level also require that students complete a research project and/or dissertation.

Art and Design Doctorate Programs: Sample Course Titles

Art and design doctorate programs are the most specialized types of degree programs, so course titles will vary widely. Even so, we offer some sample course titles here to give you an idea of what types of classes you may be expected to take when studying art and design at the doctoral level.

  • Research Methods in Art Education
  • Philosophies of Art and Aesthetics
  • Critical Theories of Art, Culture, and Pedagogy
  • Design Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Design Practice Leadership and Ethics

Frequently-Asked Questions About Degrees in Art and Design

Q: Is there a demand for degrees in art and design?

A: Yes. An art and design degree can prepare you for success not only in your craft but in other areas as well. Degree programs in art/design encourage creative thinking and problem solving, skills that are highly employable across many different industries.

Q: Can I complete my art and design degree online?

A: Yes. There are an increasing number of art and design programs that are being offered either completely online or via a blended learning model. These programs feature the same quality academic instruction as on-campus offerings, but in a format that many students find more convenient. When considering an online degree in art and design, look for a program that is accredited.

Q: Are art and design degrees expensive?

A: The costs associated with art and design degrees will vary from program to program, but those programs from small, private colleges tend to be more expensive than others. Financial assistance may be available to qualified students to help pay for tuition. These forms of assistance may include grants, scholarships, and student loans.

Q: Is it possible to work full time while pursuing a degree in art and design?

A: Yes, but it depends on the program. Some art and design degree programs will require a residency and a full-time commitment while others are more flexible. If you’re working full-time and can’t quit your day job to pursue your studies, then you’ll need to look for a part-time program. You may also find that an online or hybrid art and design degree program will better fit your scheduling needs.

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