Are you thinking about what the next step is in your career in art? Are you an undergraduate who has almost attained their bachelors degree at an art school? Are you wondering if this degree programme is still the right path for you? Or have you just matriculated and are wondering about the careers in art and design you could possibly have or the arts degree programme you should apply for?

No matter which category you fall into, it’s important to know about artistic careers if that’s the route you have chosen to go. Thinking about visual arts careers or art teacher jobs is great, but you’re definitely not limited in this career field and your career goals.

What Kind of Art Programmes Are There?

To know what potential career you might have one day, you need to understand the different types of degrees that are available at various institutions that will get you an arts career, as well as the degree level needed to pursue them.

Fine Arts Degree

In South Africa, you can do your bachelor’s degree, honours degree, or masters degree in Fine Art. Some institutions also offer a PhD in Fine Arts. This degree includes both visual arts as well as performance arts.

Performance arts are things like acting and dancing, while the visual arts consists of everything from humanities to studio art.

Having a Fine Arts degree, whether it’s a bachelor of arts or master of arts, means that you could have studied any of a wide array of subjects, but there are certain specialities that employers or clients are more likely to recognise. They are:

  • Sculpture
  • Ceramic art
  • Printmaking
  • Art and design
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Studio arts
  • Architecture
  • Digital media.
movie set board scene
A Fine Arts degree could even get you a lucrative career in the film industry. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Film Degrees

A masters or bachelors degree in film will be a bit different to the Fine Arts degree, and this also means the kinds of jobs you’re applying for will be different. If you’re thinking about studying for a career in film or film production, then you should look at the various film programmes across the country and look at what they are offering in their courses online, as well as the skills you’ll need and will acquire from these programmes.

These are some of the bachelor of arts jobs and artistic careers you could do with a film degree, or the kinds of careers you could come into contact with:

  • Computer animation
  • Film and television production
  • Photography
  • Game art
  • Digital design
  • Visual communications
  • Graphic arts.

Art History

Art history is actually one of the best things to study if you’re looking into arts careers. Many schools of art offer this course in their art departments and some have it as a module, not just as a degree in itself, so you can study art history while also learning other things that could give you a leg up in potential art careers.

The Types of Design Degrees and Diplomas

There are many programmes that offer degrees or diplomas in design areas of study that are linked to art degrees.

The two most common design degrees are listed below.

Art and Design Degree

If you attend a college of arts, then you’ll typically be able to obtain a fine art degree in art and design. This usually entails studying the interdisciplinary subjects of the visual arts with the added component of physical or digital creation. These graduates are usually more prepared and willing to open their own businesses and stores and not just looking for careers in art and design.

The most common of the programmes and possible careers in art and design are:

  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Jewellery design.
architect doing a sketch
Architecture is also a great career to look into. Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Architecture Degrees

Admittedly, architecture is not often considered fine art, some people don’t even consider it art, but that’s exactly what it is. It can often be a big part of studying art history as many art movements have been influenced by the response to how cities and buildings were created and built.

You can earn a bachelor’s degree, masters degree or even a PhD in Architecture at some institutions in South Africa and it is definitely one of the more lucrative of the artistic careers.

Architecture is a great mix of art and science.

Common subjects and programmes while studying for an architecture degree will include:

  • Architectural theory
  • Design computation
  • Building science
  • Environmental architecture and sustainability.

How Do I Apply to an Art Programme at a University or College?

You’ll have to look at universities or colleges online and download the necessary application forms and establish all the requirements to meet before you apply. Alternatively, you can go to the college or the faculty of arts at the university itself and collect the forms in person.

You’ll have to build a professional portfolio of your art work so that you can be assessed on your skill and ability, creative process, and will often have to include a motivational essay as well.

What can you do to make sure you’re well prepared? When looking into which art courses you’d like to take at university or college of art, consider all your options. Consider various factors when making your decision. Some of those factors are:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Financial aid
  • Education requirements
  • Coursework and degree requirements
  • Their undergraduate degree and postgraduate degree programmes.

Which Artistic Careers Can You Apply For?

A tertiary education is quite expensive and can lead to quite a big financial burden once the student has completed their art degree and now has student loans to pay in an unfair job market. The fact that the art industry is not well-known for job opportunities can also be quite daunting when you’re passionate about a visual art career.

But art careers and art teacher jobs are not as scarce as you think and your degree could still help you in several ways. There are many career options. Speak to alumni who have artistic careers or a similar degree to yours, as well as lecturers and professors and ask them about their career paths. Find out what you need to know about the various occupations associated with your degree.

Exhibition Work

If you’re really keen on getting your work exhibited in galleries and museums, then specialising in this field as a curator will be great for you. Whether it’s getting local restaurants, bars and cafes in your area to showcase your work, displaying your art for sale in galleries, or working with museums to do the same thing, this can be a great way to showcase your artwork and possibly make money from it.

Artists usually do not make their only income from art exhibitions and sales even if they have a passion for art. Often artists need to support themselves by also doing work in arts education before they “make it big” so to speak, just like your favourite actors and singers.

Arts Administration

These are bachelor of arts jobs that can be done for various institutions and organisations like an art museum. They concern themselves with managing business operations with regard to art and can also include staff management, marketing, budget management, public relations and fundraising.

So if you’re interested in project management, finance, art history or sustainability, this is the artistic career for you. You can find work with art galleries, a museum of art, organisers of art festivals, dance companies, community arts organisations, and local government authorities.

people standing in front of art
If you're interested in exhibiting your work, then that might be one of the fields you should specialise in. Photo by Geri Mis on Unsplash

Art Teacher

This is quite a common job for artists and can involve teaching theory-based education courses or the creative arts. The schedule can also be great for those who want to also pursue a visual arts career while giving back to the community by teaching others their ways.

Arts education is a great opportunity to develop your own work while also working with children or disabled people teaching art therapy for an art institution or school of design.

Film Industry

The film industry is quite wide and varied and you can find an array of careers in art and design that fit in here. From big blockbuster movies, your favourite TV shows, cute video clips on YouTube or animated shorts that could be nominated for an Oscar, there are various options here.

The film industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years, which means they hire large amounts of people constantly, and you could be involved in the making of the next Ryan Reynolds movie, or some cool Netflix show. Consider directing, video production, computer design, animation or digital photography.

Performing Arts Industry

If you’re passionate about any of the performing arts – acting, singing, dancing, or movement – then think of a degree and possible career in this field of study. Your path can vary from being an actress in 7de Laan, a drama professor, a dancer in a troupe that travels the world – the possibilities are endless.

If you like expressing yourself through movement and performance, then this will be a rewarding career for you. You could do theatre work, sound or music engineering for big stage productions, be part of a dance troupe or ballet company, or end up becoming the star of a Broadway show.

There’s no need to panic if you’re unsure of what to do next with your degree.

Seek out internships in any of the artistic careers that interest you, or an entry level position - or even a volunteer job - in the art and design field or visual arts sector.

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Carmen is a freelance journalist and copywriter from Cape Town. She has over 10 years experience in the digital landscape and loves writing, reading and looking at pug memes on the internet.