Art and Design Programs

Written ByRWM Editors

Forget the stereotype of the starving artist. Today's art and design professionals can find steady employment and a good paycheck if they have the right training and skills.

Art trade schools teach both the artistic and technical skills needed to be successful. They may expose students to a variety of mediums to help them hone into the right specialization. Graduates may leave art school with a portfolio of work as well as connections to help them land their first job.

You don't have to be a painter or sculptor to study art either. The field is broad, and design schools teach everything from video game animation to photography. If getting to campus would be a problem, an online art school might be the answer. Many of these teach the craft through video tutorials along with personalized feedback and guidance from instructors who are professionals in their field.

Whether you want to study through a traditional art school or an online design school, we've got the details below to help you get started on a dynamic new career.

What Are Some Art and Design Specializations?

Before enrolling in an art and design school, consider your potential career choices. The programs at art trade schools are often geared toward a specific occupation, medium or skill. The following are some common options.

Graphic Design

Graphic designers use text and images to create a specific message. Most professionals use computer software, and design schools will teach students how to use these programs. They also cover other skills needed to develop effective layouts for advertisements, brochures, magazines and other mediums.

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Standing for computer aided design, CAD programs teach students how to make 2D and 3D images using specialized software. CAD technicians, also called drafters, are often employed by architectural firms. However, their skills are used across a variety of industries including manufacturing and construction.

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Photography is a key element of design. Students in photography programs learn how to use light, angles and editing to create memorable images. Some programs may include courses in videography as well. You'll find photography offered at both traditional and online design schools.

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Interior Design

From family dwellings to retail stores, interior designers shape the way we spend our time indoors. They work with clients to help articulate their vision and create plans to arrange all types of indoor spaces for comfort, functionality and safety. If you specialize in interior design, you'll likely study CAD, drawing and architecture among other subjects.

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Hair styling and cutting is more than a skill. It is also an art. Often known as beauty schools, specialized art schools teach how to transform hair with scissors, color and styling products. Since there are licensing requirements for barbers and cosmetologists, be sure to select a program that meets your state's requirements.

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What Are Educational Requirements for Art and Design Jobs?

Many people assume art is a natural talent, but it can also be a learned skilled. Art trade schools help people foster their abilities and learn how to apply them in the jobs marketplace.

For many art specializations, employers are looking for workers who have one of the following:

Short-Term Training:

You don't need an academic award to go into business for yourself as an artist. Freelance photographers and graphic designers are among those who may complete workshops or one-year programs at art schools. They don't go to earn a degree but rather to gain the skills needed to begin offering their skills professionally.

Associate Degree:

An Associate of Arts degree is a common level of education in this field. These programs take two years to complete and are available in diverse fields including animation, fashion and jewelry. CAD programs may be offered as an Associate of Applied Science which is also a two-year program.

Bachelor's Degree:

A bachelor's degree is not required for most art and design careers with the exception of interior designers who tend to have this level of education. However, some people want greater instruction than what is offered through an Associate of Arts degree and pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts instead.

Expert Q&A on Vocational Education for Art and Design

Many artists and designers take a number of different educational paths to enter their career. And in many cases, much of the work they do will be freelance or by contract. To get some advice for new artists and designers, or those who are seeking out education, we spoke with Peter Byrne, a faculty member in the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For the past five years, he has been the Chair of the School of Design. RIT's programs are nationally ranked and the school has over 800 students, 40 full time faculty, and five undergraduate programs including: Industrial Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design, 3D Digital Design and New Media Design. There also are two graduate programs in Industrial Design and Visual Communication Design.

Peter Byrne

Peter Byrne is a longtime faculty member and Chair of the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Why would you encourage someone to pursue a career in art/design?

When someone pursues a career with passion and commitment, they are going to be happy and fulfilled. Artists and designers are lifelong learners. Our contemporary life needs the qualities someone in these fields brings to the industry. In a recent Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) survey of graduates from the art and design field, over 92% of respondents were very satisfied with their educational experience, and over 50% of the respondents went on to pursue a graduate degree. The future leaders of our creative and innovative industries will come from individuals who embrace their passion for art and design and pursue a rigorous education in their field. The benefits are many. A creative career can be pursued with an individual focus through freelance work and entrepreneurship, or in working collaboratively with existing companies and professionals. You write and construct the map for your career journey!

Do you have any advice for young people who are just starting out in this industry?

In preparation for a career in art and design, you need to develop a strong portfolio. The following are some portfolio tips and suggestions:

  • Showcase your talents, skills, and potential
  • Include your best work
  • Include drawings from direct observation for applications to BFA programs
  • Show diversity and range
  • Create a narrative flow
  • Refine and edit your work
  • Prepare your portfolio work in different media to showcase diversity
  • Get your portfolio assessed (you can visit a school, reach out to a professional, or attend a National Portfolio Day during the year.)

Lastly, when you are in school, you begin your career as an artist/designer; take advantage of all it has to offer you. Work hard and achieve beyond what you think is possible. You will extend, expand, and grow your ideas, skills, and experiences. Ask questions, seek out new knowledge, be a good listener, and believe in your own vision. To quote the designer and artist Wendell Castle from his studio rules for creative process: "The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones."

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