If you’re looking for a degree that allows you to use your creativity and also establishes your credentials for several exciting and innovative careers, then an art & design degree might be right for you. Students who major in art & design are prepared for many careers, such as artist, graphic designer, illustrator, printmaker, and photographer. The courses you take while earning an art and design degree broaden your knowledge and give you the necessary tools to do your best creative work.
An art & design degree studies different visual media like painting, drawing, sculpture, and graphic design. Art and design majors learn basic design principles, color theory, critical thinking, and artistic techniques. They are also educated in art history, which includes prominent art movements throughout history, world–changing artists, and famous works.
An art & design degree is a uniquely personal degree where you develop your very own portfolio of work. Contrary to any number of other degree programs, you will truly have a chance to express yourself in art and design.
As you advance in your degree, you’ll also focus on the areas of art and design that interest you and make the most of your talents.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.
For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?
- What is Regional Accreditation?
- Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
- The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
- What Is National Accreditation?
- National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.
To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.
For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.
- What is Programmatic Accreditation?
- There is one additional form of accreditation that is distinct from regional accreditation and national accreditation. Regional and national accreditation are institutional forms of accreditation. By contrast, programmatic accreditation is typically given to specific departments, colleges, or degree programs within a broader institution. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, this form of accreditation is totally distinct and separate from institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation will often coexist with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
Programmatic accreditation is not a necessary requirement for an art and design degree. In most instances, regional accreditation is sufficient. That said, the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) maintains national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees related to art and design. Accreditation by NASAD — which has been awarded to more than 350 schools — denotes that an institution is maintaining the standards of quality and curriculum set forth by NASAD. This can be an indicator of program credibility.
The absence of NASAD accreditation is not a deal–breaker. As long as your school is regionally accredited by one of the six associations listed above, you’ll be on your way to a legitimate degree in art & design.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
To learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
What Kinds of Art & Design Degrees Are There?
Associate Degree in Art & Design
Most community colleges — and a handful of vocational schools — offer two–year, 60-credit programs in art and design. An associate degree can get put you on the path to either an immediate art & design career or a bachelor’s degree. In an associate art & design program, you’ll gain introductory instruction in important visual art & design techniques and you’ll take your first steps into the expansive world of art history. This curriculum will typically be paired with an array of liberal arts and humanities courses (e.g. history, English, etc.).
Depending on the nature of your program, you may also have the chance for advanced study in an area like fine arts or graphic design. This will give you a chance to begin developing a portfolio of your own work. Once you complete your associate degree studies, you’ll be qualified to work as a printing technician, a photographer’s assistant, or even a freelance graphic artist. The field of art is uniquely accessible for those with talent and ambition, regardless of degree level. However, if you plan to seek work as a graphic artist, photojournalist, or printmaker with an established company, a bachelor’s degree will make you a much more competitive candidate. With an associate degree, you’re already halfway there!
What Art and Design Degree Courses Will I Take in an Associate Program?
- Computer Aided Drafting
- Design Principles
- Drawing and Illustration
- Intro to Art History
Now that you know what to look for, check out the following associate program rankings:
Bachelor of Art & Design
As graphic arts student, you’ll learn your way around the technology, best practices, and theory for creating the best designs. This is true for students of photography, printmaking, animation, fashion design, interior decorating, video game design, publication layout, or any number of other subdisciplines. You’ll gain all the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to develop innovative products as an industrial designer, to create exciting ad campaigns as a graphic artist, or to debut your newest photographic works at a chic metropolitan gallery. And of course, you’ll continue to build your all–important work portfolio, one that you’ll ultimately be showing to prospective employers or curators. The bachelor’s degree in art & design is a practical one that can provide you with immediate access to a wide range of professional opportunities. If you’re interested in a position of leadership within your field, then you may want to continue to earn your master’s degree.
What Art and Design Degree Courses Will I Take in a Bachelor’s Program?
- 3–D Drawing
- Art and New Media
- Basics of Design Computer
- Basics of Visual Arts
- Color and Design
- Foundations in Art History
- Integration of Art & Design
- Sculptures and Ceramics
What’s the Difference Between a BFA and a BS in Art & Design?
An art & design bachelor of fine arts (BFA) is intended for those want to become art professionals. A BFA will pair your art concentration with an array of liberal arts and humanities courses. A bachelor of science (BS) in art & design is particularly suited for those who intend to use design and drafting skills in architecture careers. Though you will likely need to continue into an architecture or engineering-related graduate program on the way to becoming a licensed architect, your BS in art & design could provide an educational foundation for your future studies.
Now that you know what to look for, check out the following bachelor’s program rankings:
Master of Art & Design
Earning your master’s degree in art & design is a good move if you plan to pursue either a position of authority — such as art director, museum curator, restoration specialist, or art historian — or if you plan to enter art education. During this one–to-two year program, you’ll have a chance to immerse yourself in your concentration area. You will further develop your techniques and add to your portfolio. In order to become a public school educator or art instructor, you’ll likely need to earn your master’s degree in fine arts, complete some schooling in education, and qualify for a state-issued teacher’s license. Your master’s degree could also be an important stepping-stone on your way to a Ph.D.
What Art and Design Degree Courses Will I Take in a Master’s Program?
- Advanced Studies in Art History
- Contemporary Issues in Art
- Critical Theory
- Digital Photography Editing
- Typographic Methods
Now that you know what to look for, check out the following master’s program rankings:
Ph.D. of Art & Design
A doctorate in art and design is most valuable to those who either wish to conduct research or educate at the university level. The Ph.D. is also valuable to those working within prominent art associations, foundations, collectives, societies, or museum administrative offices. In addition to continuing work on your portfolio, a Ph.D. program gives you the opportunity to work with a mentor and complete a dissertation project on a subject of your own choosing.
What Can You Do With an Art Degree?
Your art and design degree can be the key to an exciting career in art & design. If you are asking yourself “What can I do with an art degree?”, then here are a few of the top jobs in the field:
- Art Directors
- Craft and Fine Artists
- Fashion Designers
- Floral Designers
- Graphic Designers
- Industrial Designers
- Interior Designers
- Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
- Multimedia Artists and Animators
- Set and Exhibit Designers
How Much Can I Make With an Art & Design Degree?
The following figures reflect median annual salaries as of 2018, drawn from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for top jobs in your field:
|Multimedia Artists and Animators||$72,520|
|Craft and Fine Artists||$48,960|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Professional Art & Design Associations or Societies Should I Join?
Professional Associations are a fantastic way to make connections in a field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The associations you choose will depend on the career path you take. Look for art and design associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration:
- American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)
- Chartered Society of Designers
- Graphic Artists Guild
- The National Art Education Association (NAEA)
- National Association for Fine Art Education
- Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)
- Society of Illustrators, Artists, and Designers (SIAD)