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Can I Make a Living with an Art Degree?

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Many people think an art degree is a bad choice in terms of potential income, but this belief isn’t necessarily true. There is always a demand for art, and to be a professional artist, you need training. There are times when a fine arts or design degree is a bad choice, but the reason many artists don’t make good careers for themselves is that they don’t know how to make money from art. There are many possible career paths in this field, and as well as teaching you the fundamental principles of color theory, composition and visual rendering, a design degree teaches you how to think of art as a business.

How to Think Like an Artist

Many people look down on creative careers or think that only A-list artists can have credible careers in the art world, but it’s this type of thinking that holds people back from pursuing the work that they can do best. In economics, the concept of comparative advantage says that every country should focus on exporting the product that it can make the most easily, even if another country can do a better job. This principle holds true for individuals, and if your comparative advantage is art, you will have the most success in life as an artist. Not everybody can make art, and the world needs people whose comparative advantage is art to be artists. If you’re one of these people, you will certainly benefit from a degree in art, and you can use it to get jobs with design studios, animation studios, fashion companies, Web design companies and other employers who make money selling art.

If your ambition is to be an A-list artist — i.e. famous — you will probably have to hold down a day job for a few years until you prove yourself, but if you have that ambition, it might mean that you can get to that level. During a four-year art education, you will work with instructors who have experience in the art world, and many of them are very deep people who can give you truly valuable insight. It’s this perspective that makes your art valuable to other people, and the fastest way to get this insight is from school.

What You Get From an Art Education

Professors in the arts and humanities are different types of teachers than professors in science and mathematics, and the best teachers in the creative subjects are there to teach you about life as much as about the course material. It’s different in science and math because these subjects are quantitative and not qualitative. An education in a qualitative subject like English, history, philosophy or art teaches you how to judge the meaningfulness of the world around you because this kind of analysis is required in creative fields. From a practical standpoint, an art degree gives you real-world skills like illustration, sculpting, typography and composition, and many companies hire employees based on these skills.

It may not be entirely realistic to plan on a full-time career as an insider artist whose work is shown in galleries because most of these people have day jobs to make ends meet. However, formal art training can give you the technical skills and audience feedback you need to eventually get your work shown in galleries. If you want to do art more than any other job, you should go to college for an art degree and figure out how to make money from your talent.

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