Students who aspire to work in the arts after they graduate from college may wonder which degree will help them in their professional lives. After high school, the fine artist has a number of options from which to choose from the associate degree up to a bachelor of fine art. Each degree offers a student important advantages. It's up to the student to look at your goals and figure out which degree will help him or her reach them.

Definition of Degrees

Education Portal calls the associates degree a jump start to a bachelor's degree, and this encapsulates much of the difference between an associate and bachelor degree in fine art. Typically, the associate degree introduces a fine artist to the lower level course work required to obtain a bachelor of fine arts in the future. The associate of arts also allows the student to get much of the college core classes -- such as math or English -- out of the way. Finally, many fine arts students will start an associate degree at the local community college and then transfer to a larger school. This practice saves the student money, because the community college costs less than a four-year university.

Length of Time

The A.A. degree requires about two years to complete compared to a bachelor degree, which generally requires the aspiring artist to study for at least four years. The student pursuing an associate of arts also takes fewer classes; the average associate program mandates that students complete approximately 20 classes. The B.F.A. degree will demand many more classes be taken, about twice this number.

Types of Classes

While students in associate degree programs will take many of the same classes that the bachelor of fine arts students take, the B.F.A. student faces more demanding classes in the long run. This is due to the nature of the A.A. versus the B.F.A. The associate degree only provides the first two years of classes to the student; these qualify as lower level coursework. Students will learn new skills in these classes, but they will not have to tackle the sometimes complicated projects that upper division students take on.

By the time a student gets into junior year, he or she knows much of the basics. Upper division classes will require the student to apply basics concepts to new artistic problems such as creating an illustration for a magazine cover, staging a one-act play or performing a solo concert.

Professional Degree

Students who earn an B.F.A. have earned a professional degree, which means their coursework has prepared them to work in a profession. For example, an acting major will perform in plays or films, a visual art major will create paintings or drawings and a film major may write or direct films. The coursework prepares a student to produce work at a very high level and to be ready to work at that level upon graduation because the classes taken provide both practical and theoretical knowledge. The A.A. degree does not provide this and is not considered a professional degree.