To obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at a university, college or art school, it typically takes four years of full-time study, taking four classes each semester. Different states and institutions have their own graduation requirements for Fine Arts degrees. Even within a university, college or art school, the requirements might vary from year to year. There are several factors that can lengthen or shorten the process. For instance, transfer students might find that not all their credits will transfer to the new school, requiring additional time to graduate.
To graduate from a university or college with a Fine Arts major requires a student to take a core group of classes like their peers in other disciplines. These classes are designed to give students a well-rounded education. From the school's point of view, these courses help establish academic standards. College algebra, American government, history and rhetoric are a few examples of courses that might be required. To take college algebra, a student is tested and placed in the appropriate class. If he or she is not proficient in math, a series of preparatory classes must be taken. This lengthens the time needed to obtain the required math class. If students have taken college algebra in high school and take and pass an Advanced Placement exam, they will not need to take it at the university level, thus reducing the time in school.
Studio art classes give students hands-on experience in creating works of art. In the first two years of school, students will take basic art classes like drawing, design, painting and three-dimensional art. As they progress through school, they will have the chance to specialize in a specific medium or two. Other forms of art a student can explore and concentrate on besides the basic four are mixed media, silkscreen, sculpture, photography, installation art, computer art and video.
Another area of concentration for Fine Arts majors is art history. All Fine Arts majors are required to take various art history classes, but those who pursue art history will take additional classes in place of additional studio art classes.
Continuing in a Master's Program
Students who plan to continue their education and receive a Master's degree will need to meet language requirements by taking two years of a foreign language. These courses may be counted as elective hours, so no additional time is required.
Students who want to teach art will need to obtain a teaching certificate. They will need to contact the school for the details, but, in general, some schools have programs that are geared toward art education. The art education degree has all the course work required for teaching within the requirements to graduate. Other schools require that you obtain a Fine Arts degree with a minor in education. If you are required to obtain a minor in education, additional course work will be required, approximately one additional semester. Part of the additional course work includes two semesters of student teaching.
Studying art at the university level allows students to explore new mediums and become proficient in at least one. The most important achievement, however, is for students to find a direction in their art. This includes not only obtaining the technical skills needed to create excellent art, but also learning how to critique their art work and other students' art work. Critical thinking helps aspiring artists defend their art and the direction it is moving in.
At the end of the senior year, students should have a body of work completed. Some schools have senior art shows where their work is showcased. These shows may be one-man shows or group shows.