Art, Design, and Performing Arts Degree Rankings

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Admission Requirements

Students who enjoy creating or performing may find a degree in art, design, or performing arts an excellent fit. Below we discuss the general admission requirements for art and performance-related degrees at all levels, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. These are general requirements. It is important to research individual programs and institutions for exact requirements and standards.

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In addition to applying to the art, design, or performing arts major, the individual must first gain admittance to the institution. This typically requires a high school diploma or GED. In addition, components to the application include letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, coaches, employers, and the like. Depending on the college or university, students may also be required to submit standardized test scores and have a minimum high school GPA. For students applying to art, design, or performing arts institutions, they may be required to submit a portfolio of their work or conduct a live audition for admission staff as part of the admission application.

Students who attend a non-performing arts or design college or university will apply for the major during their sophomore year. They are generally required to complete introductory courses in their specific major, such as intro to performing arts, introduction to drawing, or introduction to design. In addition, they must submit a portfolio or conduct a live audition as part of their application. A minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0 is also required.


A master’s degree in art, design, or performing arts requires a bachelor’s degree in a related field. The master’s degree is designed to take the student’s education and professional development to the next level. The academic qualifications generally include a minimum undergraduate GPA, such as 3.0, and GRE scores. It is quite common for art and design programs to either waive or not require test scores. International applicants will need to submit TOEFL and/or IELTS scores. As with the bachelor’s degree, a portfolio or live audition will be required. Other admission components include a personal statement and 1-3 letters of recommendation.


A Ph.D. in art, design, or performing arts is designed for a career in academia, researching and teaching. As such, the Ph.D. is very research-intensive. Application requirements include a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field, along with GRE test scores, admission essay, letters of recommendation, and a portfolio/live audition.

A doctorate is an applied degree designed to enhance the individual’s non-academic career. While it can be used to qualify for professor and teaching jobs, it is generally used for career enhancement. The admission criterion is similar to a Ph.D.

Art and Design Careers


One of the prevailing myths is that a degree in art, design and performing arts won’t lead to a successful career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, art and design occupations are expected to grow by 3% from 2108 to 2028 by adding approximately 100,000 jobs to the economy. In terms of salary, the median annual wage for art and design occupations is $48,130, which is higher than the average salary of $39,810 for all occupations. Below we look at some potential art design career paths that pay above-average wages.

One of the most popular art occupations, animators create characters for movie and television shows, as well as other visual effects. These individuals must possess excellent drawing, design, and technology skills. Most of these professionals work in an office, but an increasing number work from home.

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Art Directors
An art director is responsible for the visual layout and images in mass media, such as magazines, product packages, websites, movies, and television. The average salary is $94,220, making it one of the most high-paying art occupations. These individuals typically have a master’s degree and multiple years of experience.

Craft and Fine Artists
These individuals use a variety of mixed mediums and materials to create art. These individuals may be self-employed artists or work for commercial art studios producing pieces. Many also work in a hybrid situation, working for a corporate employer while selling their work on the side.

Fashion Designers
A career in fashion design earns an average salary of $73,790. These individuals mainly work for corporations designing clothes and accessories. They may also be entrepreneurs that have their own clothing brands, or they may work for small boutiques rather than large corporate entities.

Graphic Designers
Graphic design professionals use computer software to design and create visual art for a variety of mediums and industries. They must possess a great deal of creativity in combination with software skills and training. In addition, they must be able to handle client demands and deadlines. Graphic designers may work for an organization, be self-employed, or be a combination of the two. The average salary is $52,110, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Industrial Designers
This career blends art, engineering, and business to design a wide range of manufactured products. They work in many different industries and often travel to exhibits, manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities when not in the office working on projects. The average salary is $69,000 per year.

Interior Designers
These designers focus on the aesthetic appeal and functional arrangement of residential and commercial spaces. Their main goal is to make each setting visually appealing, functional, and safe. They work for organizations of all sizes and types or may operate their own design business. The average salary is $56,040.

Art and Design Degree Cost

Degree Cost

As with other college majors, the cost of an art degree varies greatly. A bachelor’s degree in art and design can cost anywhere from $10,000 – $40,000, depending on the delivery method and the institution. For the most part, art schools tend to be more expensive. In fact, multiple art schools are ranked as some of the most expensive institutions in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Schools such as the Art Center College of Design, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and California Institute of the Arts all cost upwards of $40,000 for a bachelor’s degree, including tuition, room and board, and other fees.

Another cost factor includes the type of degree the individual is seeking. A bachelor’s in fine arts (BFA) is geared towards a specific career in the arts, while a bachelor of art is a general degree designed for someone with a general interest in the arts. A BFA is typically more expensive than a BA.

The prospective student must look at all associated costs, including tuition, fees, and living expenses. In addition, hidden expenses such as commute-related expenses like transportation and parking can add significant costs to an education. Students should also research financial aid opportunities such as scholarships, grants, and low-interest student loans offered by the institution and the specific department. This type of funding can dramatically cut down on the cost of attending and ultimately make it affordable for students to pursue their education.

With the advancement of technology, many institutions now offer online art and design degrees, which can be quite affordable. Not only do these programs offer affordable tuition rates and financial aid, but they also provide flexible enrollment options, making it possible for students to continue with outside commitments like family and work. In addition, students can save thousands in transportation and living expenses.

Degree Levels

A bachelor’s degree in arts or design is designed for entry-level jobs in a related field. It can be completed in four years, but many students take longer than that to finish. The curriculum includes general education courses during the first half of the degree, followed by art and design classes during the junior and senior years. Entry-level careers include art teacher, writer, photographer, illustrator, and multimedia artist.

Master’s degrees in arts (MFA) are designed for those who wish to advance their art-related career. Students pursuing an MFA generally specialize in a specific area of art or design, such as creative writing, performing arts, visual arts, or design.

Ph.D. programs in art and design are generally for those seeking careers in academia, research, or administrative positions. As with other Ph.D. programs, art-related doctorates can be applied or research-related.

Art and Design Earnings

Earnings & Pay

The median annual earnings for art and design occupations are $48,130 as of May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is significantly higher than the average salary of $39,810. Most occupations require a bachelor’s degree. Students should pursue internship opportunities to increase their job prospects. Additionally, students seeking job opportunities in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C. should find better job prospects due to increased demand. The top-paying art and design jobs include art directors, multimedia artists and animators, fashion designers, and industrial designers.

Graduate School

An MFA is a major commitment costing time and money. The best programs are the ones that require significant effort. The majority of graduate programs take between 2-3 years to complete and focus on a specific content area. Many MFA graduates mention how their time spent in an MFA program ultimately helped them define themselves as artists and gave them a clear sense of direction that would not have been possible without the MFA experience. In addition, graduates often mention how professors and peers pushed them beyond their initial boundaries and helped them become better at their craft.

MFA students spend time in the classroom as well as significant time honing their craft in studios, writing workshops, and stage performances. Moreover, many MFA programs are now offering cross-over degrees that blend artistic endeavors with other fields like healthcare, business, technology, law, and even government.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of arts and design occupations is projected to grow three percent over the next eight years. This means approximately 96,800 new jobs will be added to the field. While the overall growth rate is on par with the national average for all occupations, some art and design niches will exhibit a higher growth rate.

For example, more workers will be needed to meet the demands in animation, special effects, and visual media. Likely, more jobs will be created in animation and design for movies, TV, smartphone applications, and video games. There will also be a growing need for jobs that specialize in the creation of visually appealing and effective layouts of media platforms, including websites. Graphic designers and multimedia artists and animators should see favorable job prospects over the next eight to ten years.

The employment for performing artists, such as musicians, singers, and performers shows little to no change over the next several years. In fact, the only growth for this niche will come from increases to demand for musical performances. However, as with most performing artist jobs, tough competition will be faced, as large numbers of applicants pursue the same job.

Measuring the job outlook and employment for musicians and artists can be difficult for various reasons. Employment numbers for performing artist occupations are small. Furthermore, artists and musicians generally work other jobs. Artistic and musical pursuits may be secondary careers for some. Also, individuals working in art and music-related occupations are often self-employed.

Art and Design Majors

Possible Majors

Art majors generally fall under the three broad categories of visual arts, performing arts, and design. Unlike other majors, art-related fields of study prepare students for a specific career path or future field of study. Below we take a look at some of the most in-demand majors across the three categories.

Design majors prepare students for careers in the creation, distribution, production, and marketing of commodities such as textiles, apparel, digital products, and the like. Majors include apparel, fashion design, textiles, cinematography, fashion merchandising, film studies, studio arts, architecture, and landscape architecture.

Performing arts
Performing arts majors focus on developing students with the theory and skills needed to perform on stage. Majors within the performing arts include music theory, dance technique, musical theater, and literature.

Visual arts
This area includes majors related to practicing the arts, such as painting, photography, digital imaging, printmaking, and sculpture.


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