Ah, art school. Art is one of the most expensive degrees to study (in the United States anyway), which means that students are taking on a lot of student debt in order to enter a profession that is not expected to be super lucrative.
SCAD, the art school in my city, costs $35,000 in tuition per year. With living expenses added in, the university expects that a student will spend about $53,000 per year while attending the university.
In addition, studying art can be very tough on your mental health. Some artists have terrible stories about their discouraging teachers and competitive classmates.
Benefits of an Art Degree
I recently read a book that interviewed professional illustrators, and asked them if they thought that an art degree was necessary to become an illustrator.
The artists interviewed all said that you do not need an art degree, but that their lives would not have been the same without their degree.
Here is really where choosing to study art gets complicated. Of course, there are many professional artists out there who did not get a degree in art, or illustration, or graphic design. Ergo, the degree is not required for success.
However, those artists who did go to art school feel that it was an extremely important experience in the development of their skills, mindset, and even which direction they chose to take their career.
In addition, spending years attending classes with other artists means that you will grow your network of artist friends and contacts.
So the main benefits of an art degree for these illustrators was the ways the helped them develop as a person as well as an artist.
Of course, all of these folks were working as freelancers. If you want to get a job working for a company (like Nintendo or Disney) as an artist, they may require everyone that they hire to have a degree. If your dream is to work for a particular company, look at their current job postings to see what their degree requirements are. In addition, see if you can find bios on their website for their current artsts, so you can see where actual employees went to school.
The Argument Against an Art Degree
If you’d like to have a life-changing, learning-intensive experience, maybe an art degree is for you.
But an art degree is cost prohibitive and takes a huge time commitment. For some of us, it’s simply not an option. Some people have families, or they just cannot afford the fees, or perhaps they can’t move to where the school is.
Don’t jeopardize your financial health by paying for art school! Why? Because the main argument against paying for art school is that there are other options which are much cheaper!
Alternatives to Art School
In my next post, I’ll discuss alternatives to art school in more depth.
The short version is, there are more cost-effective paths which can, to some extent, replace what you miss out on at art school.
So, catch that next time on the Sixpenny Studio blog!