Is An Arts Degree Worth It?

Is an arts degree worth it when there are more online options available? Besides, many people believe that going to art school was a waste of time.

I have been coming across many of these types of posts.

"Don't go to art school."

This sentiment really stuck with me. Why has not going to university become so popular?

The traditional art school experience is overrated.

I felt like going to college was a waste of time. Perhaps many others feel the same way too. I thought I learned more off-campus through art books and YouTube videos than in class. The art school wanted students to 'express themselves' rather than teach us the fundamentals of drawing and painting.

I wanted to learn how to draw 3D objects spontaneously and draw from my imagination. We were not given any training on technique and how to use your artistic media for the best effects. Of course, some students thrived in that environment and wanted that type of education.

Abstract art
But for me, I just wanted to attend as few classes as possible to spend more time drawing. The only thing I took away from those four years was a bachelor’s degree in art without the experience of learning to paint or draw.

It's safe to say that as an adult, I have spoken to many people who feel let down by the education system. Many people went to college, got a degree and did not get the job of their dreams.

It's never been easy to make a livelihood as an artist. However, it is more challenging than ever due to rising university costs, increased debt burdens, and a shaky job market.

Many art-related positions are associated with low wages making it difficult to survive as an artist, especially if you are also struggling with student debt.

According to research by BFAMFAphD, 90% of art students are no longer employed in the field of choice two years after graduation. The pressures of low pay and debt force art students to pursue careers outside the arts.

Additionally, an art degree does not determine how skilled you will be as an artist. Even if you found an art school that taught you exactly the type of art you want to create, you need to practice to improve. It takes years to hone your craft and get the jobs you desire.

Traditional education seems to be stuck. It has not caught up with the needs of our times. Learning on your own and figuring things out along the way has become the norm.

The internet has changed the landscape of a career in art for the better. But we are not taught how to use this important tool to our advantage. Unfortunately, most art schools don't teach you how to make money with your art. At the end of your course, you are left to your own devices to figure out how to get hired or freelance on your own.


Most artists get hired based on their portfolio rather than which college they went to. The prestige of your college has no guarantee of you getting a job at the end of your degree. Most companies hire people based on their ability to produce good work in a feasible time frame. You can get hired even if you did not go to art school. You need to have the skills for the job and a good portfolio.

Okay, so you don't need an art degree to get hired. This makes it sound like I am saying don't go to art school.

But, there are situations where you will need an art degree.

If you want to work in other countries, you will need a degree to prove your education to government authorities to get a work visa. Additionally, to become an art teacher in certain institutions, you might need to study a degree in visual arts or fine art, followed by a postgraduate degree in education.

Travel and work as an artist.
My degree in fine arts came in handy when I applied for a work visa in Australia. The government was not interested in my portfolio.

Certain traditional art colleges have an accreditation certificate that can open the doors to international work. Look for that if you want to work as an artist in other countries.

Unfortunately, this is where most online courses fall short. So do your research before you commit to a course.

That being said...

There are more options to learn how to be an artist than ever before!

There are many benefits to online art courses...

With online art school options, you can pick from a much wider pool of art teachers to train you. You have access to teachers in remote places – travelling to these places would be far too expensive to do in person.

The flexibility of online classes is very helpful too. You can watch the class anytime, complete your work when it's most convenient, and work for as many hours as you can give it and all at a fraction of the cost.

Online education needs to be self-driven though. You need to have the motivation to pursue it relentlessly and not give up. Many students need the pressure of grades and deadlines to stay motivated.

Online art school options.

Do you need help staying motivated? Then perhaps a traditional setting might be something you choose.

Whatever is taught to you in an art course will not pave the way to a good art career. Your course can only deliver the information. How you choose to use it is left up to you.

An art degree or online education is not enough.

We live in ever-changing times, and it is crucial to stay updated with the changes in technology and how it affects your craft. You have to stay curious and keep learning. It is up to you to absorb, learn, and take action.

If you want an all-around art education, you need to realise "Googling" your art queries isn't enough. Going to art school isn't sufficient. Taking an online art course won't help you make an art career. You need to...

Keep learning no matter what!

Taking art classes, doing more online courses, networking with other artists and reading plenty is just the start to taking your career seriously.

Keep updating your artistic knowledge.
Reach out to fellow artists who are already pursuing what you want to do. Find them on social media, through their blogs or email addresses. Ask them for advice. Some will respond and be happy to help.

Depending on the career you want, you will have to choose your education accordingly. Luckily with online schools, we have more options to upskill and supplement any gaps in our education.

While all this sounds like a convoluted mess, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite the low wages and unsteady work, artists are among the happiest professionals, according to several surveys. Those who engage in artistic pursuits report higher self-confidence and general life satisfaction. They also seem to put lesser importance on glamour and material possessions.

I chose art as a career because I wanted fulfilment and meaning in what I did. Perhaps you did too.

There has never been a more exciting time to be a creative person with the growing resources available to us than ever before.

I hope this post helps you find your way through the crazy maze of figuring out how to have an artistic career.

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