What Should I Do With a Fine Arts Degree?

Pursuing a degree in fine arts can open the door to many fulfilling professions1. Those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in fine arts qualify for jobs like museum curator, graphic designer, industrial designer, interior designer, art director, and more2.

In addition to learning specific skills and tools to succeed in the field, a fine arts education can also provide tools and abilities to analyze the world in which we live3. This guide explores several popular and high-paying career paths available for graduates with fine art degrees, as well as how job seekers can land these roles.

Highest Paying Fine Arts Degree Jobs

Art Director Average Annual Salary: $97,270

Art directors can earn an average salary of $97,270 per year4 and are responsible for developing and maintaining visual styles and images in everything from print and online media to product packaging. Art director employment is anticipated to grow by 11% from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)4.

Product Designer Average Annual Salary: $91,302

Earning $91,302 a year on average5, product designers are responsible for designing new products and redesigning older ones. In addition to creating product specifications, these individuals research product creation techniques, test functionality, and improve design where possible.

User Experience (UX) Designer Average Annual Salary: $88,770

The average annual salary for UX designers is $88,7704. This job entails such responsibilities as wireframe and site map creation, usability testing, and sketching and prototyping digital product experience. In addition to having a background in the arts, UX designers typically have UX software knowledge.

Special Effect Artists and Animator Average Annual Salary: $77,700

With an average salary of $77,700 per year6, special effect artists and animators create movable images and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment. These experts create images and effects on computers while conducting research to ensure realistic designs and animations. Employment in this field is projected to grow 16% between 2020 and 20306.

Fashion Designer Average Annual Salary: $75,810

Fashion designers earn, on average, $75,810 annually7, and their main job is to create original clothing, footwear, and accessories. They develop designs, both by computer and sketching and also have a hand in selecting patterns and fabrics. According to the BLS, this field shows limited employment growth7.

Industrial Designer Average Annual Salary: $71,640

Earning an average of $71,640 per year8, industrial designers develop concepts for manufactured projects. These individuals mix art, business, and engineering to make products such as toys, appliances, and cars. Employment in this field is anticipated to grow 6% between 2020 and 20308.

Interior Designer Average Annual Salary: $57,060

With an average salary of $57,060 per year9, interior designers design and present functional, safe, and beautiful indoor spaces. They determine space requirements and select essential and decorative items; they must also read, draw, and edit blueprints. Many in this field work in specialized design services or in architectural or engineering firms. According to the BLS, employment in this field is not anticipated to change over the next decade9.

Graphic Designer Average Annual Salary: $53,380

Graphic designers earn an average salary of $53,380 per year10. They use computer software or sketching skills to create visual concepts. Tasks include overall layout and production design for products, advertisements, web design, and other visually oriented applications. Employment in this field is forecast to increase by 3% between 2020 and 203010.

Museum Curator Average Annual Salary: $52,140

With an average salary of $52,140 per year11, museum curators oversee artwork collections and may be called upon to prepare and restore items. They also appraise, catalog, and preserve the items. In addition, public and community outreach may be part of the job. Employment in this field is forecast to grow 19% from 2020 to 203011.

Craft and Fine Artists Average Annual Salary: $49,120

Earning an average salary of $49,120 per year12, craft and fine artists are the closest thing to the standard image of the fine arts graduate. These individuals create original artworks for sale and exhibition from a variety of materials. However, these skills also translate into other fields as well. For example, medical illustrators have an artistic background. The BLS forecasts that employment in this field will grow 14% between 2020 and 203012.

Popular Career Paths With a Fine Arts Degree

The sometimes assumed career path of someone with a fine arts degree may be in a museum or exhibition gallery. In truth, however, those with an associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree in fine arts have their pick of many career paths, such as the following2:

  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Manufacturing and Aerospace
  • Architecture
  • Technology
  • Education

Average Salary for Fine Arts Degree Graduates

The average salary for those graduating with a degree in fine arts varies widely, depending on the job, level of education, and industry. According to PayScale.com, the average salary for someone with a bachelor of fine arts degree is $59,00013 a year. Meanwhile, those with a master’s degree earn, on average, $63,000 a year14.

How to Find a Job After You Graduate

The steps to find a job after graduating with a fine arts degree are not much different than those required when graduating with any other degree. The main key here is to leverage a network in the following ways:

Ask professors for assistance

Many times, college instructors have their ears to the ground when it comes to job openings. Also, check out fine arts career services at your college or university.

Pursue internships in fields that rely on artistic skills

As mentioned above, a fine arts degree opens the door to many career paths. It is possible to parlay an internship from an aerospace firm or marketing agency into a referral or even a full-time job.

Join industry associations

Viable associations might include the Association of Medical Illustrators, Art Dealers Association of America, or National Association for the Visual Arts. Also, consider looking up business associations, such as the American Marketing Association. These groups consist of real-world employers, and they might be looking for someone to hire.

Remember LinkedIn and other professional social media platforms

These are ideal for not just finding job openings but building networking relationships, which can lead to information about companies that are hiring.

Also, another good way to help stand out is to develop a website and make sure the URL is on all resumes, cover letters, and business cards sent to prospective employers. After all, the goal here is an artistic presentation. A well-designed website featuring a portfolio of experience can go a long way toward showing skills in a real-world setting.

Discover More About a Career With a Fine Arts Degree

Q. Which field is best for fine arts degree graduates?

A fine arts degree fits into many artistic fields. The skills learned through a college fine arts program also transfer well into other industries. Determining which career path is best depends on your goals, interests, and salary expectations.

Q. Am I better off with a master’s degree in fine arts? Or is my BFA enough?

The answer to this question depends on what you want from your career. An undergraduate degree qualifies you for positions including art director, interior designer, product designer, or UX designer. A master’s degree qualifies you for many of these same jobs, with a management component. When deciding if an advanced degree is best for you, research the jobs you’re interested in, and understand the education requirements.

References

[1] Great Value Colleges. (2021). 9 great reasons to major in art. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.greatvaluecolleges.net/lists/art-major-reasons/

[2] Great Value Colleges. (2021). Art and design degree programs. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.greatvaluecolleges.net/art-design-degree-programs/

[3] Great Value Colleges. (2021). Can I make a living with an art degree? Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.greatvaluecolleges.net/faq/can-i-make-a-living-with-an-art-degree/

[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Art directors. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm

[5] Indeed.com (2021). 10 high-paying jobs for art majors. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/art-major-jobs

[6] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Special effects artists and animators. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm

[7] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Fashion designers. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm

[8] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Industrial designers. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/industrial-designers.htm

[9] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Interior designers. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/interior-designers.htm

[10] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Graphic artists. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm

[11] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Museum curator. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm

[12] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2021). Craft and fine artists. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/craft-and-fine-artists.htm

[13] Payscale.com (2021). Bachelor of fine arts degree. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Bachelor_of_Fine_Arts_(BFA)/Salary

[14] Payscale.com (2021). Master of fine arts degree. Retrieved November 9, 2021 from https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Fine_Arts_(MFA)/Salary