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Thinking of going into the arts? Don’t tell your parents right away – everyone knows artists are starving, with 4 roommates and three part-time jobs and nothing to show but massive student loan bills, right? Not necessarily true. Those following their muse to a passionate major like Art or Design may not graduate to a six-figure job like their peers in the popular STEM fields; however, graduates can land lucrative creative positions in a variety of places such as design companies, production houses, fancy restaurants, or prestigious teaching positions in higher education. Many corporations seek highly creative individuals to execute visually compelling websites for their product or service needs.

[Check out out NEW Art & Design related rankings – Top 20 Best Packaging Programs and Top 50 Bachelor’s in Industrial Design Programs]

Degree Program Types

AA/AFA: This is the entry level. A community college is a good place to obtain an Associates of Art (0r Fine Art) degree, as well as certain specialized 2 year vocational schools (i.e.. cooking schools, film/animation schools, hair design academies, music conservatories). Those who obtain their degrees from community colleges may have more opportunities to transfer to 4-year institutions for advanced degrees.

[Check out: What is the Benefit of Going to a Community College?]

BA/BFA: A Bachelor’s degree is 4 years of study. In creative fields that will prepare students to work at a professional level in most entry-level capacities. BAs and BFAs are offered in a variety of majors such as Web/Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Video/Media/Digital Production, Fashion Design, and Marketing, as well as more commonly known majors like Music/Entertainment and the Visual Arts.

MA/MFA: At the Master’s level, the student is most likely intending to teach their expertise at the College-level. Some Creative Therapy majors (Art and Music) require this terminal degree in addition to Psychology to become practicing Licensed Therapists.

PhD: A doctoral degree is a rare find for Art or Design; the MA/MFA is usually the terminal degree. Again, for those in Creative therapies, this may be offered at particular institutions, though often not a necessary eduction path.

Online vs. Residential Programs

After choosing a major, students need to decide on whether they would like to go the traditional route of attending a residential program or virtually though an online program. Depending on the major, there may be valid benefits to attending class in-person. For example, to become a Chef, you will most certainly have to attend hands-on practicums and labs, while a major utilizing computers will lend itself to online study more easily.

[check out: Are Online Degrees a Good Investment?]

Online programs can be very useful for the working adult returning to school for a second career or promotion. Prerequisites in most all of the creative majors can be completed from online institutions. Almost all 4-year degrees require a core of standard liberal arts credits (English, College Math, Humanities, Science, Languages). Online study can be completed in a flexible manner while continuing to work or take care of family responsibilities.

Best Value Residential Rankings

Top 50 Best Value Bachelor’s of Industrial Design, 2017

Top 20 Best Value Packaging Degree Programs, 2017

Top 50 Best Value Graduate UX Design Programs of 2016

Top 50 Best Value Undergraduate Schools of 2015

Top 50 Best Value Graduate Schools of 2015

Best Value Online Rankings

Top 50 Alternative UX Design Programs of 2016

Top 50 Best Value Online Schools of 2015

Top 50 Best Value Online Graduate Schools of 2015

Cheapest Rankings

Top 10 Cheapest Online Universities 

Top 10 Cheapest Online Master’s Degree Programs

Financing Education

A college education is not often free (unless you got to one of these tuition-free colleges), but it can be more affordable, the more you plan. If you have a 529 savings account, now is the time to access it. The first plan of attack is to fill out an annual FAFSA. Be careful to dot your i’s and cross your t’s – it is easy to make mistakes while filling out FAFSA. After you figure out your expected family contribution (EFC), you need to come up with the rest of the funds. The Federal Work Study program offers part time work at your home campus and pays students a wage that can be used toward your remaining student tuition balance. Working on-campus is a great option for younger students with no prior work experience. Not only will you gain work experience, the job will most likely be flexible with scheduling your hours around classes. Student Loans should be your last option, and yes, they are often necessary, but we urge students to seek out federal subsidized loans rather federal unsubsidized or, worse, private loans.  And furthermore, to fully understand the extent of the commitment in receiving any kind of loan. Federal Loans are a better choice than private loans; however, do remember that they will still have the potential to capitalize yearly (if interest is not paid annually after grace period) and of course they will increase based on the interest rate secured at the date of borrowing just like private loans. The Federal Student Loan program does have better repayment options and hardship options should you need assistance.

Career Paths

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree in an Art and Design field can lead to an annual incomes of anywhere between $45,000 to $81,000. There seems to be more money made if a computer is involved in the career path – not surprising, as some of the fastest-growing design careers are Game and Software development, UI/UX web design and Mobile App design. These careers are hard to report salaries on, since they are relatively new and lacking in data; for example, some statistics show User Designers making a median of $72,000 annually, while others report around $90,000. Keep in mind, often in tech fields, salaries depend on where one chooses to live regionally.