Is Art School Worth it? Is it a Waste of Money?

By Maria
May 23, 2023
13 min read

Do Artists Need an Art School Degree to Succeed?

The Importance of Natural Talent and Work Ethic

Its a common misconception that artists need an art degree to succeed in their careers. In reality, natural talent and a strong work ethic are far more important than a bachelors degree. While art school can provide a foundation for learning techniques and developing skills, it cannot turn a poor artist into a good one. Freelancers with a strong portfolio and a dedication to their craft will always be able to find work.

The Elitist Nature of the Art World

The art world is an exclusive and elitist industry that values connections over talent. While a degree from a top art school may open a few doors, its ultimately up to the individual to play the system and make the right connections. Traditional art skills and talent are often dismissed as outdated, and bad teachers may feel threatened by talented students. The establishment also dictates what is considered good and bad art, often promoting controversial and entertaining works over those that showcase true skill and craftsmanship.

The Real World Value of Creativity and Craftsmanship

In the real world, the results are what matter most. Clients want to see what an artist can do and how they can bring their vision to life. Concepts and metaphors may be important for personal expression, but they are often self-indulgent and not practical in a commercial setting. A freelancer must be able to showcase their skills and follow through on commitments to succeed.


While an art degree may provide some benefits, it is not necessary for success in the art world. Natural talent, a strong work ethic, and the ability to make connections are far more important. Ultimately, its up to the individual to decide if the cost of an art degree is worth the potential benefits.

Why Do Young Artists Go to Art School?

The Naive Assumptions of Art School

Many young artists enroll in art school with the assumption that they will be taught how to draw and paint. They believe that it will be a fun experience where they can party and gain some social status. They also think that an art degree will help them in their future career. However, these assumptions are often misguided and can lead to disappointment and financial burden.

The Pressure of False Expectations

The problem with these assumptions is that they are based on false expectations and peer pressure. Young artists are often conditioned to believe that real artists are trained in art school and that an art degree is necessary for success. This narrow preconception of what an artist is and what an art degree means can lead to ill-informed decisions and a waste of money.

The Reality of Art School Education

What many students fail to realize is that a college degree, including an art degree, is mostly academic. It involves studying art history, literature, and psychology, and is not the creative experience they might have imagined. A fine arts degree is more practical and hands-on, but still involves liberal arts courses. Therefore, students should not enroll in art school with the sole expectation of learning how to draw and paint.

Alternative Ways to Pursue Art

While art school can be a valuable experience for some, it is not the only way to pursue a career in art. Many successful artists have taught themselves how to paint and have found success through alternative paths. It is important for young artists to consider other ways to channel their energy and make money, rather than assuming that art school is the only option.

The Importance of Making Informed Decisions

In conclusion, young artists should carefully consider their reasons for enrolling in art school and make informed decisions. They should not be guided by false expectations or peer pressure, but rather by their own passions and goals. While art school can be a valuable experience for some, it is not a guarantee of success and can be a waste of money for others.

What Can You Expect to Learn in Art School?

Understanding the Academic vs. Practical Approach

Many students enter art school with the expectation of a hands-on, creative experience. However, a Bachelor of Arts degree in art is mostly academic, involving the study of art history, literature, and psychology. On the other hand, a fine arts degree is more practical and hands-on, with liberal arts still occupying about a third of the course. Its important to understand the difference between the two approaches and decide which one aligns with your goals.

The Importance of Researching Teachers and Institutions

Not all art schools are created equal, and its crucial to research the quality of the teachers and the institution before committing to a program. While there are a few top art colleges out there, most colleges are mediocre with teachers who are themselves mediocre. Research the teachers online and view their body of work to get an idea of what to expect from their tuition.

Direct Business Training is Rare

Surprisingly, very few art colleges offer students any direct business training. This means that even after spending a great deal of time and money on a formal education, many art students are left without the necessary skills to make a living as an artist. Its important to consider this when weighing the costs and benefits of an art education.

Alternative Learning Opportunities

One successful American artist, Stephen Bauman, trained at the Florence Academy of Art and now teaches online. While his classical education undoubtedly cost a considerable amount of money, his online courses are available for less than $100. This raises the question of whether it makes more sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a classical education or take advantage of alternative learning opportunities.

Consider the Location and Quality of the Institution

For many students, traveling to Florence for their art education is not feasible. They may need to look for something closer to home, where the choice is limited, and the tutors are less inspiring. In this case, its important to consider the location and quality of the institution before making a decision.

Conclusion: Ultimately, whether art school is worth it or a waste of money depends on the individuals goals and circumstances. Its important to research the institution and teachers, understand the academic vs. practical approach, and consider alternative learning opportunities. With careful consideration, an art education can be a valuable investment in ones artistic career.

What is The Cost of Attending Art School?

The Eye-Watering Numbers

Attending art school can be a costly affair. In the UK, a BA degree in 2021 will cost you £9,250 per year in tuition fees, and living costs can average around £12,200 per year. If you are living in London, add another £3000 to your expenses. And if you plan to pursue a masters degree, add another year to your education. In total, you could be looking at spending at least £22,000 a year for 3-4 years.

In the USA, the average yearly tuition/fees for a BA degree are $9,687 for public in-state, $21,184 for public out-of-state, and $35,087 for private institutions. On top of that, you need to factor in the average yearly room and board costs, which are $9,800 for public and $11,100 for private institutions. A degree takes four years in the States, and a masters degree takes another two years.

Is It an Investment Opportunity?

Considering the high cost of attending art school, its natural to wonder if its worth the investment. Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. While an art degree can provide you with valuable skills and knowledge, it may not necessarily lead to a high-paying job.

What Jobs Require an Arts Degree?

The job prospects for art degree holders are limited, and the competition is fierce. Some of the obvious careers that an art degree can lead to include:

  • A professional artist: However, its unlikely that youll make a living solely from your art.
  • A teacher: You can teach art to others, but the pay may not be high.
  • A curator or researcher for museums: This requires experience and a masters degree.
  • Graphic Designer: The salary is poor, and there is a lot of competition online. A degree is not essential.
  • Illustrator: You dont need a college degree to become an illustrator.
  • Photographer: All you need is a good camera and a good eye. A degree is irrelevant.
  • Animator: Some technical instruction is useful, but a degree is not necessary.
  • Printmaker: An art school can provide you with time, studio space, and equipment, but you dont need a degree.

What Are The Alternatives To Attending Art School?

If you have decided that art school is not for you, there are other options available for professional development that are less expensive. You can take online courses, attend workshops, or seek mentorship from established artists. You can also gain experience by working as an apprentice or intern for a professional artist or studio.

In conclusion, attending art school can be a costly affair, and the job prospects for art degree holders are limited. However, if you are passionate about art and willing to put in the effort, an art degree can provide you with valuable skills and knowledge. Ultimately, the decision to attend art school or pursue alternative options depends on your personal goals and circumstances.

What Jobs Require an Arts Degree?

The Reality of an Art Degree

Many people believe that obtaining an art degree will lead to a successful career as a professional artist. However, the truth is that a fine art degree may not provide you with the necessary qualifications for a high-paying job. In fact, you may find yourself overqualified for menial jobs and underqualified for anything good.

Careers in the Arts

While an art degree may not be necessary for some careers in the arts, it can be beneficial for others. Here are some of the most common careers in the arts that require an art degree:

  • Professional Artist – While it is possible to become a successful artist without a degree, having one can provide you with valuable skills and knowledge.
  • Teacher – An art degree can qualify you to teach art to others.
  • Curator or Researcher for Museums – This career requires experience and a masters degree.
  • Graphic Designer – While a degree is not necessary, it can provide you with a competitive edge in the industry.
  • Animator – Some technical instruction can be useful, but a degree is not required.

Alternatives to Art School

If youve decided that art school isnt for you, there are many alternatives available that can help you develop your skills and pursue your career goals. Here are some options:

  • Workshop Training – Many recognized experts in the field offer classes that can provide you with valuable knowledge and connections.
  • Online Courses – Platforms like Skillshare, Domestika, Proko, and Udemy offer a wide range of video courses that can help you develop your skills.
  • Self-Study – With the abundance of resources available online and in libraries, its possible to learn and grow as an artist on your own.

In conclusion, while an art degree may not be necessary for all careers in the arts, it can provide valuable skills and knowledge for some. However, there are many alternatives available for those who choose not to attend art school. Ultimately, success in the arts depends on talent, passion, and drive, regardless of whether or not you have a degree.

What Are The Alternatives To Attending Art School?

Workshop Training

One alternative to attending art school is to participate in workshop training. Many recognized experts in the field offer classes that provide the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals. These classes also allow you to connect with other like-minded individuals, which can help keep you motivated.

Online Courses

Another option is to take advantage of the many online courses available. Platforms such as Skillshare, Domestika, Proko, and Udemy offer a wide range of video courses on various topics related to art and design. Additionally, many larger art marketing platforms also offer tutorials. These courses are often less expensive than traditional art school and can be completed at your own pace.

Is Udemy Worth It?

If youre considering Udemy, its important to weigh the pros and cons. While the platform offers a vast selection of courses, the quality can vary. However, with frequent sales and discounts, it can be a cost-effective option for those on a budget.

Is Domestika Worth It?

Domestika is another popular option for online courses. While many of the courses are in Spanish, they often include subtitles or are dubbed in English. The platform offers high-quality courses at a reasonable price, and frequent sales and discounts make it an even more attractive option.

Is Skillshare Worth It?

Skillshare is another platform to consider, offering a wide range of courses on various topics. While the quality of the courses can vary, the platform is affordable and offers a free trial period.

Conclusion: Attending art school is not the only way to pursue a career in the arts. With the many alternatives available, including workshop training and online courses, its possible to develop your skills and achieve your career goals without breaking the bank.

Is Art School Worth it? Final Thoughts

The Debate on Art School

The question of whether or not art school is worth the investment has been a topic of debate for years. Some argue that a degree in art can lead to a successful career in the arts, while others believe its a waste of money.

The Cost of Art School

One thing thats certain is that art school is expensive. The cost of tuition, supplies, and living expenses can add up quickly, leaving many students with a significant amount of debt.

My Opinion

As a self-taught professional artist, I believe that an art degree is not necessary to succeed in the art world. In fact, I think its a waste of money. You can learn more about art by taking private lessons and practicing on your own.

However, this is just my opinion and others may disagree. Its important to seek advice from multiple sources and consider your own goals before making a decision.

Alternatives to Art School

If youre interested in pursuing a career in the arts, there are alternatives to art school. You can start your own art business or take advantage of online resources to learn new skills and techniques.

Remember, a degree is not a guarantee of success in the art world. What matters most is your talent, work ethic, and dedication to your craft.


In conclusion, while some may argue that art school is worth the investment, I believe that its a waste of money. There are more affordable and effective ways to learn about art and pursue a career in the arts. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and what you believe is best for your future.

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