The distinction between a fine arts degree, or a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and an art degree, or a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences in art, can be confusing. The difference lies in the degree programs' emphases: The B.F.A. is a professional degree that trains students in a particular art form, whereas the B.A. or B.S. in art is a liberal education degree.
Fine Arts Degrees
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits and sets forth standards for Bachelor of Fine Arts programs in the U.S. According to NASAD, to earn a B.F.A., students work toward expertise in one or more artistic media, such woodworking, digital media, fashion design, photography, theater, animation and ceramics. Their studio training begins freshman year and progresses in difficulty and intensity throughout the program. Regardless of their specialty, successful students in B.F.A. programs must demonstrate technical competence in their field and familiarity with its history and theory. Fine arts degrees also involve studio exhibitions and a faculty evaluation of the student's portfolio.
Careers With a Fine Arts Degree
Many graduates from B.F.A. programs pursue careers as fine artists, either working independently and selling their products through studios, galleries, stores or websites or working for design companies, advertising agencies or publishers. Other employment areas include multimedia art, acting, writing, teaching or directing, depending on the student's area of expertise. Some students also go on to graduate study in their area of expertise, pursuing a Master of Fine Arts or Master of Visual Arts degree.
According to NASAD, a Bachelor of Arts in art or a Bachelor of Science in art is a liberal arts degree that grants students breadth of knowledge in the arts and humanities, social sciences and physical and natural sciences. For this degree, students take courses in fine art and design, but they do not specialize in a specific area of studio art, instead familiarizing themselves with a variety of traditional and digital media. General education requirements compose about 55 to 70 percent of the degree program, with the rest of coursework focusing on art and design and art history.
Careers With an Art Degree
Because a bachelor's degree in art is a generalist degree, it prepares students for a wide range of careers. A 2013 Hart Research Associates report concluded that critical thinking ability, clear communication skills and aptitude for problem-solving are primary indicators for success on the job market, and an arts degree stresses all three of these. Potential career paths include market research, consulting, conservation and curation, social work and teaching. Further employment opportunities arise for students who pursue a specialization at the graduate level.
- National Association of Schools of Art and Design: Handbook 2012-13
- Northeastern University: Art and Design
- Education Portal: Careers With a BFA
- Association of American Colleges and Universities: Success after College: What Students, Parents, and Educators Need to Know and Do; Debra Humphreys
- Education Portal: Liberal Arts and Sciences
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