Fine Arts and Design Graduate Programs in Nashville

What Is a Fine Arts and Design Graduate Program?

Fine Arts and Design Graduate Programs often lead to Masters (MA, MS), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and PhD degrees. Modern fine arts encompass areas like photography, TV/film production, and museum studies.

Most programs focus on refining creative skills and helping you market your talents. Whether this means in interior or graphic design, web animation or game design. You may also study to enhance performance arts skills in music, theatre, or as a leader in art direction.

Nashville Fine Arts Graduate Programswritten by Rana Waxman

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts & Design?

There are many exciting avenues one might pursue with a master’s degree in fine arts. These span roles in both manager and practitioner career paths.

At the heart of fine arts and design is the talent. Careers utilizing these skills are changing with the digital landscape. To edge out the competition, it may help to have a finger on the pulse of trends, methods and tech tools.

Industries this applies to include ones like graphic design, industrial design and animation. Per, employment of multimedia artists is growing by 8%, which means close to 80,000 new jobs. Those who can apply artistic skills into computer programming may see more prospects.

If you're ready to step into leadership and have a strong portfolio, there are potential jobs here too. In fact, many art directors today earn an MFA degree. In these roles, it also might help to understand interactive platforms as it may help a resume stand out.

An MFA might also help you position yourself as a a producer or director. Consumer demand is rising both for TV and streaming services. As a result, the industry forecasts between 10 and 12% growth through 2026. While demand isn’t as high for music directors, this is another area where one needs a master’s degree.

For those who prefer art history and management, there are other potential opportunities. In fact, there is faster than average growth in sectors associated with museums. This includes archivists, curators and museum workers, especially those with a master's degree.

Do you need a BA to get an MFA?

Generally, you need to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school before you earn an MFA. Some schools accept a wide variety of undergraduate backgrounds while others prefer a BFA.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Design or Fine Arts Graduate Degree?

There are many potential career paths for fine arts and design graduates. Some relate to using your talents to entertain. But others apply their design skills. These jobs relate to marketing, fashion, interior design and brand packaging.

Fine Arts & Design Average Salary


Average Salary


Artists and Related Workers



Art Directors



Multimedia Artists



Graphic Designers



Bureau of Labor Statistics

Top States for Employment: Art Directors



Annual Mean Wage

New York















Bureau of Labor Statistics

Popular Fine Arts & Design Graduate Degrees in Nashville

Master of fine arts and design graduate degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of Visual and Performing Arts.

In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2013), across the U.S, there were 19,059 degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority (91%) of these programs were at the master’s level.

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Master of MusicAustin Peay State UniversityMM
ArtMiddle Tennessee State UniversityN/A
Master of MusicBelmont UniversityMM
Art HistoryVanderbilt UniversityMHist
Media Design Masters - OnlineFull Sail UniversityMS
M.A. in TheatreRegent UniversityN/A
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What is the difference between a MA and an MFA?

There are two main differences between and Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA). One relates to how these degrees function in academia. The other speaks to courses and content.


In most schools, the MFA is a terminal degree for practitioners while the MA often paves the way to a PhD. as a professional degree, the MFA addresses the need for students to work on their portfolios. Coursework thus stacks liberal arts courses with studio practice, workshops and field studies.


The MA may instead enable students to build skills for future studies in their field. As such, it may offer fewer workshops in favor of liberal arts and creative writing. Because of this, MA programs usually entail a capstone or thesis rather than a portfolio. You may also expect them to be shorter than MFA programs by about one year.

Masters in Fine Arts Degree Guide

Master of Arts (MA)

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Master of Arts in Museum Studies

MFA in Fine Arts

Length of Program:  10 courses, 5 years part-time

Length of Program:  60 credits, about 14 months

This program offers an in-depth study in fine arts, criticism, art history, and humanities. It includes plenty of discussion, broad-based studio and technical electives.

This program offers a solid base of theory and practice while looking at how museums are changing because of technological, social and political factors. Each student works with an advisor to tailor studies to their goals.

  • Exploring Museum Professions
  • Museums in the Digital Age
  • Two-week on-site seminar
  • Exhibition Strategies
  • The Business of Museums
  • Integrated Practices
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture

No specific accreditations (other than regional)

No specific accreditations (other than regional)



In sum, if taking many studio and technical courses is your priority, an MFA may be a wiser option than an MA. It usually focuses on the professional development of studio artists. If you don’t plan to exhibit your work and want to contribute in other ways, you might enjoy the format of a MA program.

Do you want to teach, lead at executive levels or research? You might work towards a PhD in your field. Depending on the program, it may be a perfect way to travel. Some programs include residencies abroad (IDSVA is one). This may help you stretch yourself as a visual artist and creative thinker.

What are Fine Art Graduate Classes?

The classes you take as a fine arts and design grad student vary depending on your major. Some include workshops and in-studio sessions where you work on projects and your portfolio. Others may involve research and traditional lectures (live or recorded).

Fine Arts

Fine Arts curriculums usually explore advanced topics for artists. General MFA degree programs may cover painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and photography. One may also pursue any one ‘fine art’ on its own. For example, an MFA in Illustration, Visual Arts or one of many others.

Graphic Design and Multimedia

Graphic design classes often meld traditional art forms with web-based software tools. Some of things you might learn include how to develop a brand using multimedia. Then, through various analytic methods, to measure the effectiveness of your designs.

Industrial Design

Industrial design classes may touch study the tools and creativity behind package design. Other themes may cover typography, marketing and brand building. You might also learn how to apply concepts to a specific industry like fragrance.

Interior Design

Interior design classes explore inside spaces, whether home, office or other areas. Some courses may touch on material research or aesthetics. While others may cover current issues that affect design, and interior design software.

Media Arts

Media arts classes sometimes focus on editing, designing and shooting videos. You’ll often study many platforms like TV, video, animation and 3D graphics. Yet other topics may cover law, culture, technology advanced theories of communication.

Museum Studies

Museum studies classes often deal with the business side of running the facility. Some programs (John's Hopkins is one) feature intensive seminars in museum settings. You may learn how to attract audiences using new models for public programming.

Performing Arts

Performing arts classes usually refine creative talent. Some also introduce business and directing concepts for those who want to produce. Popular themes at the graduate level include Music, Dance and Movement Therapy, Ethnomusicology.


Photography classes today often cover traditional and digital methods of capturing images. You’ll likely spend time covering techniques in darkrooms. Yet other themes may cover ways to photograph for distinct ends.

Video Game Design

Video game design classes may cover broad themes like animation and visual effects. Yet other topics may relate to understanding user experience and brand story telling. The applications of multimedia games are spreading to e-learning, marketing and beyond. Your classes may reflect these areas as well.

Web Design and Development

Web design classes may be part creative, part technical. On the creative side, you may study themes like typography and layout. Technical courses usually relate to computer programming. These may touch on how humans interact with their computer, coding and more.

What Do I Need to Know about Arts & Design Accrediting Agencies?

Many accredited schools offer fine arts and design graduate programs. At such institutions, you may be eligible to apply for federal aid. You might also expect a certain level quality as schools need to show this to earn the status.

Specific agencies also accredit individual art schools and programs. This type of accreditation process includes:

  • a self-evaluation of the institution or program
  • an on-site review by a group of evaluators
  • judgment by an accreditation decision-making body such as a commission

Granting accredited membership means that the school complies with set standards and guidelines. These usually speak to the types of courses as they relate to the industry and student outcomes.

One such accrediting agency is the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. NASAD sets standards for grad degrees and other credentials for the following disciplines:

  • Art/design-related
  • Art and design (graphic design, industrial design)

Performing arts school accreditations functions the same way. The Nation Office for Arts Accreditation (NOAA) oversees the work of four accrediting agencies:

  1. The National Association of Schools of Music
  2. The National Association of Schools of Dance
  3. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design
  4. National Association of Schools of Theatre

These bodies make guidelines for curriculums leading to credentials or a degree. They also accredit institutions & programs in the various performing arts.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Fine Arts or Design Graduate Degree?

A master's degree at fine art and design school may take one to three years to complete if studying full time. Length of program often reflects whether you pursue an MA or MFA. MA programs generally take one to two years. MFA programs may take three. For a PhD, you may need upwards of three years post-master's. Yet, this depends on the type of degree, course load and school.

University # of Credits Required Start Dates Minimum Months to Complete
Full Sail University

58 credits


48 weeks

California State University, Northridge

33 credits


24 months

New School, The Parson School of Design

30 credits

Fall, Spring

12 to 24 months

The American College of the Mediterranean

60 credits

Fall, Spring

24 months

What How Much Does It Cost to Get A Master of Fine Arts Degree?

The average cost of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.

To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with Fine Arts and Design Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES.

        Instate/Out Of State Tuition


$11,617 Average Public Institution University
$14,784 Average Private For Profit Institution Tuition
$26,551 Average Private Nonprofit Institution Tuition

View All 8 Fine Arts & Design Graduate Programs in Nashville Here:

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