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Students interested in the visual arts may choose to pursue their passion either at a specialized art institute or as an art major at a more comprehensive college. Art schools generally award a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree, while liberal arts graduates earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). The art institute is most appropriate for those students who truly wish to immerse themselves in art. Most art schools are located in big cities where students have easy access to the artistic community. B.F.A. programs train students for art-based careers; students may be preparing for a future in fashion, auto or interior design, video game development, animation or the graphic arts. Studio classes require hours of hard work and students at art institutes have little time or opportunity to gain the breadth of education possible at a liberal arts college.
Many art institutes offer a broad, intensive introductory Foundation year of studies, including 2 and 3-dimension design studio work and some art history. You will have an opportunity to focus on your area of concentration during the later part of your studies. The emphasis of each art institute differs, even within the same medium such as painting or sculpture. You’ll want to carefully check each program’s philosophy before committing to attend. Art institutes do not offer the variety of extracurricular clubs, sports, and activities that most college students seek and expect. Also, dorms at some art institutes may be pretty basic. Try to arrange for an extended visit before making a final decision.
If you’re more interested in focusing on art but still want to have opportunities to explore other interests, consider pursuing an art major at a liberal arts college. Often, these interests serve as an inspiration for your art work and allow you to grow from exposure to a variety of issues and ideas. Career preparation is not the primary focus of B.A. programs. Over half of your classes would be in areas other than art, with substantial study in the humanities, social sciences and physical sciences.
Typical programs for studio art majors include foundation courses in the arts, including work in sculpture, painting, drawing and photography, as well as classes in the history of art and modern art. Since upper-level students will concentrate in a specific medium, you’ll want to check the college catalogue to see the breadth of classes offered in your preferred field. Although students in Bachelor of Arts programs do not get the intensity of experience that B.F.A. graduates have, they do benefit from the more rounded college-life experience available at a comprehensive tertiary institution.
All fine arts majors should seek out internships in galleries or museums, apprenticeships with working artists, or employment in architectural or design firms in order to gain real-world experience. Both the B.F.A. and B.A. programs prepare students for graduate programs in the arts. A master’s degree is generally required for those hoping for employment in museums and galleries or for teaching at the high school level. Museum curators and directors and college professors may have Ph.Ds.
Fine arts majors may go on to work in a variety of art-related fields. The major provides the initial preparation for careers as commercial artists, art therapists, art editors, critics, museum curators, art educators, art restorers, architects and designers. You can learn more about careers in the visual arts by using the Occupational Outlook Handbook found at www.bls.gov or by visiting the website www.collegeart.org.
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