What Can I Do with a Degree in Art?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in art and design. Find information on art careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in art and design.


Art and design is a broad field that encompasses a wide range of occupations and talents. Examples include: art directors, craft artists, fine artists and multimedia artists. While the specifics of each of these occupations vary, the core element in each field is the same. Specifically, all artists use their work as a means to communicate with others. Artists and designers can communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas in their work, creating a product that facilitates a unique tool for expression. Although many artists still use basic art materials (including paint, clay, etc.) as a means to create their final product, the advent and proliferation of computer technology has created an environment in which many artists and designers now find that their craft has become more technical in nature. Artists and designers are frequently required to use technology to create their final products.

Individuals seeking to enter into the art and design field need to obtain a degree or certification in this field. Presently, most institutions of higher education provide four-year Bachelor’s Degrees in fine arts. Additionally, artists and designers seeking education may also consider degree and certificate programs offered by independent art schools. These institutions allow the student to complete training that focuses specifically on their area of focus, e.g., craft artistry, graphic design, etc. For individuals with a flair for artistry and design, this field can provide a flexible number of employment options. Once students graduate they may be employed in commercial art studios or may choose to seek self-employment. Presently 60 percent of all artists and designers are self-employed.


Although the core foundation of communication is central to art and design, a review of the careers that can be pursued in this field does indicate that there are a host of areas where professionals can seek to communicate through the products that they produce. A more focused examination of the particular fields that are prominent in arts and design demonstrates that while art directors focus on design and material selection for visual materials (think advertisements in magazines), craft artists are responsible for making a wide ranges of products by hand. Typically, craft artists sell their products through a studio, or these artists may be contracted by a larger company to produce goods for sale in specialty venues including pottery or ceramics stores.

Individuals with a degree in art and design may also seek careers as fine or multimedia artists. Fine art is the career most commonly associated with art and design and includes the development of art that is typically seen in a museum or gallery. Artists that choose to work in this particular career may be commissioned by a client or organization to complete a specific type of fine art piece. Multimedia artists work primarily in industries that use technology to create art. These include: the motion picture, video game industry and advertising industries.


When it comes to salaries for art and design professional, the image of the starving artist does not apply. Salaries for art and design professionals vary dramatically, depending on the specific area of focus for the professional. For instance, data regarding salary information for art directors indicates that the median annual wages for those working in art and design professions was $76,980 in 2008. Further, data indicates that the salary span for individuals in this field ranges from a low of $40,730 to a high of $154,840. It is important to note, however, that artists earning on the upper end of the salary scale only account for approximately 10 percent of all professionals in the field. For craft artists salaries are not as robust. Median annual salaries for craft artists were $29,080 in 2008 with a range of $20,730 to $54,550. Fine artists appear to fare somewhat better than craft artists with median salaries at $42,650 in 2008. The range for salaries in this group is between $20,780 and $83,410. Multimedia artists are also well paid for their art and design services with median salaries of $56,330 in 2008. The salary range for multimedia artists is between $31,570 and $100,390.

Job Outlook

Job prospects for art and design professionals will be 12 percent or average for the next several years. Even though the number of job openings in the field is expected to increase in the coming years, intense competition for jobs will be an issue of concern for individuals seeking employment. Primarily, job growth in the industry will be driven by multimedia positions that require artists to utilize computers to generate their products. In addition to a substantial growth in multimedia, job openings for art directors are expected to increase in the coming years. The nature of this work is expected to change however, as art directors will be required to work in an online environment to develop advertisement and marketing products. Fine artists may find some challenges in the field as public (government) funding for art sponsorship dwindles. Despite these challenges, galleries and corporations will continue to seek out talented fine artists to produce work for their organizations. Although competition for jobs in art and design will intensify for individuals with the right training, education and talent jobs will be available. Increased competition for these positions will require professionals to consider what specific skills they may need to secure the job that they desire.

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Your creativity is a big part of who you are and where you're going. To take it, and your future, as far as you want, you need an education that's focused on developing your talents and putting you on the path toward the creative career that stirs your imagination.


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Locations:  Durham