“Creativity takes courage” - Henri Matisse
Around 95% of artists have had some formal education but education won’t teach you how to survive as an artist or designer. While some people teach themselves how to do art, many opt for a qualification or some formal art education in school or university.
Of course, you can become an artist without qualifications but when it comes to finding work, employers like being able to quickly look at somebody's CV or portfolio and know that somebody else has checked whether or not they're the real deal.
In this article, we’ll look at whether you need a degree to become an artist or designer, what art and design qualifications you can get including Bachelor Degrees, Master's Degrees, and vocational art qualifications.
Do You Need a Degree to Become an Artist or Designer?
More and more people are training to become designers or changing careers. After all, when it comes to the world of art, there are a lot of different careers such as illustrator, designer, comic book artists, animator, artist, etc.
So do you need a qualification for these lines of work?
The answer is no. Many illustrators and designers can start their careers without having done higher education in art.
Art and design is an artistic activity that you can teach yourself from a young age. Thus, a lot of artists gradually teach themselves how to do it without a degree or qualification. They often work freelance and as an independent designer, they don’t need to show your CV or qualifications to potential clients, they need to show off their portfolio.
We’re not saying that qualifications are useless. A good art education can teach you techniques that you’ll use throughout your career and they’ll give you the chance to improve as an artist with the help of your teachers.
Qualifications will be useful if you’re applying for work at large companies, especially in animation or concept art, for example. Again, there are exceptions and you might be able to get a job without qualifications if you can show you know the necessary techniques.
That said, qualifications are a good way to get your foot in the door in certain companies. However, while you might want to apply now, don't forget that when it comes to painting and drawing, you can't just take classes, you should also be regularly practising, attending life drawing sessions, and building up a portfolio, for example.
Art and Design Qualifications
There are plenty of different art and design qualifications and you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to what you can specialise in. Whether you want to study art history, visual arts, fine arts, printmaking, contemporary art, or art therapy, there are plenty of art schools and universities with good art departments and a pretty clear career path to working in the arts.
Level 5 Art Qualifications
If you want to attend a school of art, work in a museum of art, or start a career in the art world, you'll need to think about getting a Level 5 art qualification. In the UK, qualifications are classified by levels so that you can compare academic, vocational, and skills-related qualifications to one another. Levels 1 and 2 include GCSEs, Level 3 includes A Levels, Level 4 includes the Higher National Certificate, and Level 5 qualifications include:
- Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
- Foundation Degree
- Higher National Diploma (HND)
- Level 5 Award
- Level 5 Certificate
- Level 5 Diploma
- Level 5 NVQ
After a level 5 qualification, you're ready to start studying an arts degree or a level 6 qualification!
Bachelor Degrees in Art and Design
With over 100 universities in the UK, it's no surprise that there are plenty of great schools and universities offering art degrees. If you want to become a bachelor of fine arts or study at an art school, here are some of the best universities in the UK to do your undergrad degree program at:
- University College London
- Manchester Metropolitan
- Brunel University London
- Nottingham Trent
- Arts University Bournemouth
- Goldsmiths, University of London
- University of the Arts, London
Of course, there'll be a department of art at most universities but even if they offer an art design course where you can specialise in ceramics, digital media, or sculpture, or create your own exhibitions, the courses at these universities may not be for you.
Not every college of art and design is the same and each arts degree is different (even if they have the same name). Make sure you research the undergraduate and graduate degrees on offer, the faculty staff, and what graduates of the programme are doing now.
Find out more on how to survive at art school.
Master’s Degrees in Art and Design
If you'd like to take your art studies further, you can study master's degrees and graduate programs in the following subjects:
- Art and design
- Art history and visual culture
- Art, space, and nature
- Arts management
- Arts policy and management
- Children's book illustration
- Digital and visual communications
- Fine art
- Graphic design
- Health humanities and arts
- Illustration and animation
- Visual communication
Since most universities have a school of art and design, there are plenty of art programs to become a master of art! Of course, Bachelor's Degrees and Master's Degrees can be very academic and won't be for everyone. If you'd rather spend all day working on your art rather than studying art, you may need to consider more vocational art qualifications or other routes into the arts.
Other Art and Design Qualifications
Formal education isn't for everyone and you might consider even attending classes in drawing still life, life drawing, sculpture, pottery, or even textile arts such as knitting, sewing, cross-stitch, or weaving. These are probably better for those who aren't sure whether they're serious about changing careers yet.
If you can't find any courses that take your fancy in the UK, you could also study abroad. There are plenty of liberal arts colleges in the US, for example, and you'll even have the option to attend a university without having chosen what you're studying yet.
You might go there for art but decide during your time there that you're going to move away from ceramic art to media arts. In an American college of arts, you can choose to take classes in plenty of different subjects (referred to as electives) to see what you enjoy while working towards your degree.
The top schools of note in the US include the Rhode Island School of Design, Indiana State University, the University of Chicago, and Suffolk University. Of course, there are more schools of art than just these so have a look around and see what's on offer. Whether you want to work in an art museum, get a bachelor of arts degree, attend a prestigious college of art design, or become a master of fine arts, the choice is yours!
You could also learn more with private tutorials from one of the many talented tutors on Superprof. This is a very good option for someone who's thinking about changing careers or just doesn't feel like going to (or going back to) university to study an art degree.
There are three main types of tutorials available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials. Each type of tutorial comes with its pros and cons in terms of learning and cost-effectiveness. What's right for one student may not be right for another so take your time to find the right kind of tutor and tutoring.
Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and they tend to be the most cost-effective type since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student.
Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or via webcam. Since the tutor won't have the travel costs to worry about and can fit more students into their schedule as a result, online tutorials are usually cheaper than face-to-face tutorials.
Finally, group tutorials are classes with one teacher or tutor and multiple students. However, with group tutorials, you and a group of friends could get in touch with a private tutor to plan lessons that you'll all attend together. These tend to be the cheapest per student per hour.