Should You Get a MFA?

Every artist often wonders the value of getting a degree. For some, it's necessary and even beneficial. Art degrees allow you to learn more about art history, techniques, theory and other artists that wouldn't have been available without education. However, with the costs of tuition, is it really worth it to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree? Many art students look at other professions that have definitive career options after they graduate, such as business or medical students. For art students, much of success is determined solely on the recognition of your artistic abilities and being able to market yourself and your pieces to the public. That time spent in a graduate program also provides some of the most useful and advanced education, allowing students to expand their thought process and artistic ability beyond the baccalaureate level. They also get involved in more projects, participate in student and community galleries, and develop a better sense of who they are, as an artist. For these students, graduate school is a valuable experience and a sanctuary. However, what job opportunities are available to art students? Are there any jobs that actually require a MFA degree? How does the MFA make an artist more attractive to potential gallery owners and clients? Here are some things to consider when looking at graduate school for today's artists.

Job Opportunities and Requirements

Most artists plan on flying solo, selling their own pieces and taking commissions for work. Others will go into education, and many others will become art historians or curators. Education probably offers the most opportunities to those with MFA degrees, whether you work at the college or high school level. You cannot pursue a job opportunity in these education fields without a MFA degree. Many universities also want to see experience and artistic development to hire you as a professor. You can also become a young mentor at a university's art program once you graduate, which is a prestigious position as you will continue to work with professors and other students. Private, parochial and high schools with art programs will also see your MFA as a higher qualification to work as a teacher, whether you teach art history, fine arts, painting, sculpture or other course related to your specialization.

Working as an Artist

You do make more connections in MFA programs than at the bachelor's level. It's actually more up to the artist to really market one's pieces and skills, but even if you don't get a website up and running or sell anything on Etsy, you are still working alongside professionals and peers who will know of your work and invite you to join galleries, displays and mentor groups. MFA degrees also lead to serious positions at museums across the world. If you are a studio artist, you may be able to lead the design department at a museum or a sales position at an auction house. You may also gain a high position or administrative role at a gallery. These positions are not normally available to those who just have some experience with art or who only achieved a Bachelor of Fine Art.

Taking the Plunge

If it is your sole goal to become a successful artist based on your artwork alone, then a MFA degree can give you more connections, teach you broader and specialized concepts, and place you closer to some of the best artists to learn from. It's important that you take these skills and integrate with the most visual and marketable aspects of today's society. By placing your portfolio online, selling pieces through Etsy and other online marketplaces, and connecting to artist communities through Twitter and Facebook, you can gain more recognition. It's important that you support other artists and go to gallery events and openings in your city in order to gain favor and also find a place among this community to display your own art. The more that you are seen, the more chances that your artwork will also be recognized and start to gain more recognition.

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