Illinois Masters Degrees in Fine Arts & Design

What is A Master's In Fine Art?

A Master's in Fine Arts degree is recognized as an academic terminal degree in the fine arts and performing arts field. A MFA typically requires two to three years of postgraduate study after a bachelor's degree.

Master of Fine Arts Program

When you think “fine arts,” you might have a very specific image in your head. You might envision masters such as Leonardo da Vinci laboring over classical works – sculptures and paintings. While these traditional visual art forms are included under the umbrella term of “fine arts,” that’s only scratching the surface!

A Master's in Fine Arts also encompasses a vast array of concentrations such as video game design, video and film production, creative writing, fashion, interior design, music, graphic design, and performing arts among other creative specialties.

Why Consider A MFA Degree in Illinois?

Is an artistic endeavor calling your name? Are you looking to elevate and develop your current set of creative skills? Looking to hone your aesthetic capabilities? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might want to consider a Master in Fine Arts program.

As you begin your research into a MFA degree program, you may come across its possible benefits: having access to the constructive criticism of industry professionals, gaining inspiration from a community of your peers, and pushing your boundaries with new methods that have hereto been left unexplored. While the search may be daunting, choosing from one of the many Master of Fine Arts programs could be a great way for you to obtain your artistic goals.

What Could I Learn in a Fine Arts Design Masters Degree Program?

It’s hard to narrow down standard curriculum for Master of Fine Arts & Design Programs. Those concentrating in theatre aren’t going to learn the same material as a sculpting concentration. What could be said is that master’s degree programs have the same end goal for their students. Each degree program aims to help students develop the techniques and methods to elevate and excel in their chosen medium through intense study, practical application, and faculty assistance.

What Could I Do With A MFA?

With a myriad of concentrations offered by universities, it’s no wonder that there is a wide assortment of future career paths that artists could pursue post-graduation. Depending on the focus of your master’s degree program, you could pursue one of these potential careers:

  • Museum Curator
  • Graphic Designer
  • Fashion Designer
  • Animator[i]
  • Professional Musician[ii]
  • Dancer[iii]
  • Actor[iv]
  • Fine Artist[v]

Anyone who has considered a degree in the arts has probably had friends, family, and acquaintances worry about their future employment. While there is a plethora of career path options available, what of the career outlook? Some of these potential career paths appear to be growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics project the following possible growth for the listed careers from 2014 to 2024:

  • Fine Artist – 2%[vi]
  • Actor – 10%[vii]
  • Dancer – 5%[viii]
  • Museum Curator – 7%[ix]

Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, artists’ incomes are often tied with the economy – when there is a surplus, people are more likely to make art purchases.[x] Though post-graduation compensation could vary by concentration, when taking artists and related workers into consideration, they earned, on a median, $58,450 in May of 2015.[xi]

Top Salary Metro Areas in Illinois: Art Directors
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI$85,1302,220

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Ins and Outs of Master of Fine Arts Programs

Master of Fine Arts Programs are many – if there’s an art form, there is probably a degree program to match it. To narrow things down, keep in mind your own educational goals and necessities. What career do you wish to pursue post-graduation? How much time do you want to spend earning a degree? How could you incorporate class time into your weekly routine? Keeping this info in mind could be a great way to eliminate less than perfect fine arts design master’s degree programs.

What is the Difference Between an MFA Degree and MA Degree?

If you’ve been researching fine arts design master’s degree programs, you may have noticed there are generally two types offered at universities: a master’s of fine arts (MFA) or a master of arts (MA) degree.

A master of fine arts (MFA) places its emphasis on the development of the art as a skill. Students could expect to engage with their chosen medium often – practical applications are this program’s MO. The intention behind this is to provide students with instruction that they may take with them into their future creative careers. In short, these degree programs focus on artists making art.

A master of arts (MA) takes a more liberal arts approach in its education. These degree programs emphasize scholastic coursework in student’s pursuit of the arts, often focusing on curation, critique, and administration. These degrees may often prepare students to pursue future careers in arts administration roles.

From Admissions to Graduation

As stated, there’s a lot of concentrations in fine arts design degree programs! While many generalities are hard to pull out, when it comes to admission requirements, there are a few similarities. For admission, students may be required to supply a 2.5 to 3.0 undergraduate GPA with their application.Variation may occur with required supplemental application materials. Depending on your intended concentration, you may be requested to submit previous work such as portfolios, sketch books, auditions, or musical recordings. These criteria may be department specific, so be sure to check your school’s requirements.

Completion time also varies by concentration and school. Students may expect to complete a degree in anywhere from 1 to 5 years depending on the intensity of the program and graduation requirements. While students may not be required to submit a dissertation, they may be required to complete a culminating project. This could include things such as a gallery showing, a recital, or a fully-staged performance.

What MFA Degree Program may be Perfect for You?

As you have probably gathered, there are certainly a large amount of fine arts design master’s degree programs, to say the least. Here is just a brief list of degree programs you might find in your search:

  • Master of arts in museum studies degree programs could prepare students to jumpstart a career in the role of museum professional post-graduation. These programs often feature coursework in new technological exhibition applications, business management, and improving educational conditions of displays.
  • A master of music degree program encompasses two different degree options – performance and education. Performance studies strive to improve just that – a student’s performance using their primary instrument. Education majors may focus more on the scholastics side, placing emphasis on techniques that make instrumentation more accessible to new players. Both of these concentrations could focus on the general music topics of theory and history.
  • The master of science in information technology – game design and development  may be an exciting degree option because of its newness. Students may study programming skills necessary in the gaming industry. Curriculum may include topics on artificial intelligence, information networking, database creation, and application development in order to potentially give students a competitive edge in the bustling industry.
  • A master of fine arts in studio art degree program may be what you think of when you hear “fine arts degree.” This degree program focuses on the practice of an art form. You may expect to engage with your medium during the majority of your classes as you develop it through practical application and present your works for constructive criticism.

Online or On-Campus?

By now, you might have a better grasp on what degree program fits into your unique goals. Great! There’s another aspect of your education to consider – fitting your education into your schedule. Picking one of the below formats could help your education fit seamlessly into your established lifestyle.

  • On-campus fine arts design graduate degree programs offer a structured course schedule as part of the traditional university experience. These programs are great for studio artists who wish to practice their art under the watchful eye of industry professionals – those would be your professors! On-campus studios, rehearsal halls, and extracurricular events may offer unique opportunities for students to apply their skills outside the classroom alongside their peers. Schools may also exhibit teaching artists’ works on campus for an extra dose of inspiration.
  • Online fine arts design graduate degree programs are a convenient and flexible degree program format, making it potentially ideal for students with other priorities alongside their education. Students are able to log into their courses as their time allows to complete necessary coursework. These programs may be well suited for you if you’re seeking a degree in art history, curation, or critique because it does not require the hands-on approaches necessary in studio arts degree programs. Don’t worry about missing out on the on-campus experience! Universities may offer streamed lectures or class chat rooms so that you could engage with the physical classroom and your peers – from the comfort of your living room!
  • Hybrid fine arts design graduate degree programs takes a page out of the books of the above degree formats. You could take the convenient online courses for academic based classes such as art history or theory. Then, when you need to work with the physical aspect of your medium, come into the classroom to engage with your peers and professors. This could also be perfect if your schedule fluctuates often: take online courses when your schedule is busier, then head back to campus when your time allows!

Sources:[i] | [ii] | [iii] |[iv] | [v] | [vi] | [vii] | [viii] | [ix] | [x] | [xi]

Find All 75 Fine Arts & Design Masters Degree Programs in Illinois​ Below:

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