While it's true that you probably won't be asked about a degree in the professional art world, I wouldn't let that dissuade you from attending an art school to learn the discipline. I'm studying illustration and design and I feel like the type of education I'm getting is great, and that I wouldn't be able to learn the sorts of things I'm learning anywhere else.
Amount of times I've been asked about a degree while negotiating a freelance job: 0
If it's a good program, and you can afford it, then it won't hurt, but if you aren't self motivated enough to theoretically do it without, the school isn't going to imbue that into you. Most professionals (like the really big timers) I know don't have accredited degrees in art. Lots went to the Safehouse Atelier, a select few went to AI and its ilk, and the rest are 100% self taught. Don't waste 4 years in a crummy program for a degree, because the actual learnin' and the people you meet are all that matters, not the paper.
(This is all from my experience in freelance illustration, by the by. Graphic design/advertising art are possibly different.)
Getting a degree in any sort of art is one of those things that may or may not actually matter. When it comes down to getting a job, it doesn't matter at all, all you have to do is show you can do the work. They don't look for a degree, they don't care, you can graduate and still be a horrible artist. It won't increase your liklyhood of getting a job.
Yes, on the one hand you do learn things you might not otherwise, but you also go into debt that you probably won't be able to pay off.
I'd say 99% of the professional artists I know (and I know a LOT), ones who make 100% of their income off of art, haven't gone to school for art. Many of them do have a degree, but it's not related to art.
Ideally, a BFA should gear you toward a job as a gallery artist, graphic designer or illustrator. If it doesn't do that, it isn't a very good program.
But even if it's a good program, it does tend to come down to how much effort you put in it. And you could put that same effort into teaching yourself, but--a BFA program will expose you to things that you didn't think to look up on your own, and it will end up influencing your taste because you'll be required to study things like art history... and there will be that teacher every now and then that tries to bend you into a particular shape and if you value your grade, you'll do it. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes a not so good thing.
Some time you will probably have to read boring articles about the importance of tree stumps in 19th c. American landscape painting, but I'm sure every major has its amazingly dull moments.
You can go and get your masters so that you may qualify for a teaching position, yaay! Otherwise, a degree in fine art doesn't do anything for you. A good portfolio, a strong skillset, and good PR will get you work. Bachelors of Fine Arts are a dime a dozen.
Save your money and teach yourself. A degree in art is not going to get you far in life. If you're good then your art will sell. A piece of paper and a bunch of pretentious art teachers is not the way to go in becoming a better artist.
If you have plenty of money then I'd say go for it. The way the economy is now, it's not the best time to go out and try to make a living doing art. Either companies aren't hiring artists and sticking to the people that they already know or they're outsourcing jobs to other countries.
Actually, right now businesses are starting to recover from the downturn and hiring in general has gone up. On a purely anecdotal unscientific level, I would say there is a more steady stream of available fulltime jobs in design than when I began searching for one 2 years ago. The jobs are still limited and the are often way too many applicants vying for the same jobs, but it's not that hopeless.
Also, having a degree isn't the only thing, but it helps a lot.
You can work as a designer or illustrator, though if your major was in a primarily fine art field, you may need to work a bit harder to build a portfolio and prove your ability, since you may lack specified training in that area. That's been my experience anyway. A BFA in illustration or design is one means of getting around this, but you can also get some grounding by doing an internship or taking elective pertaining to the field. There are a fair number of designers, illustrators, art directors, and other commercial artists with backgrounds primarily in fine art. I've seen creative directors at ad agencies with fine arts degrees as well. There's a lot more flexibility than you think, though it can be easier going with the right major or opportunities.
There are a lot of BFAs who end up teaching. It's a good way to supplement income but should be something you really want to do and enjoying doing, not just something you're supposed to do to make ends meet. You also generally need an MFA, which requires 2-3 years more schooling. There are teaching jobs you can get w/o extra education, like in the non-profit realm.
I know other fine artists who have a day job that isn't related to the these options. They work on their art during their free time and pursue as many opportunities as are available (gallery representation, art fairs, residencies, grants, etc). Some might get additional training for their day job, some may just wait tables and the like. There's really nothing wrong with this option, but if you're serious about doing art and don't want to get bitter about your "useless" art degree, you've got to keep working and be willing to network.
Thank you for your information, it's so hard to decide what to do with your life when the thing you love is difficult to make a job out of. I'd love to pursue illustration and originally a visual communications/graphic design course seemed like the best option, but I wanted to know what would a fine art course get me instead so thank you
I majored in a fine art discipline, and it's not prevented me from getting interviews for design jobs. As long as you can demonstrate that you've got the knowledge and skills to do the job, they'll consider you. The only downside is that fine art programs aren't going to give you the same grounding. It's basically down to working out a path that fits you. I ended up in a fine art discipline because it felt right to me, and I majored in printmaking, which historically has ties to commercial/graphic art, so I was able to do more design-oriented work than someone in, say, painting.
Just don't think that having a particular degree in a particular field locks you into a particular job path or that getting a degree in a less practical major is necessarily useless.
Graphic Design is probably the most common job for an artist anymore. Sadly this means less creativity and more tedious ad designs, based on kerning, text placement, and other boring things. You're more likely to get a job making the layout of a catalog than some great big Ad too.
there's tons of creativity in graphic design; it's one of the most demanding disciplines vis a vis creativity. graphic design is in everything - it's a huge market and it rewards people who are any good at it.
The way I see a fine arts degree and from what I've experienced. It's more about what you learn on the way to that degree. It helps to have it, but if you could learn the same stuff without getting that degree then you really aren't that much worse off. One benefit of the degree though is that you have a stepping stone to further that degree and become an art teacher if you want, which is good fall back when your freelance career goes under.
Honestly? My boyfriend is a 3rd year Fine Arts student and all he wants to do is paint but unfortunately, fine arts is more about what kind of connections you have and how much you want to kiss the gallery owners asses and make porn for them. Something he really despises. This in painting by the way. Work is sporadic as well, so you will end up having to work a normal job as well. However, if might be a good idea to look at the prospectus of the college you would like to go for and looking at the career opportunities to go with the degrees.