Students who receive a bachelor of fine arts degree make around $85,7501 per year on average. Art majors go on to find jobs as graphic designers, web developers, art historians, and gallery directors and curators. They can also find positions in the fine arts, such as photographers or painters.
This guide explores more about what students can do with a degree in art, including potential high-paying career paths and what job seekers can do to prepare for these roles.
Highest Paying Art Degree Jobs
Creative Director Average Annual Salary: $98,500
Creative directors make over $98,000 per year2, managing and executing the creative vision for a company or organization. Many industries make use of creative directors to bring a creative vision to life, from art galleries to clothing lines to magazine issues.
Interior Design Director Average Annual Salary: $95,200
Interior design directors can make an average of just over $95,000 per year2 leading interior design teams and large projects. They might also lead their own company, bringing an interior creative vision to life.
Design Manager Average Annual Salary: $91,100
Graphic designers can level up their career path by becoming design managers, making just over $91,000 each year on average2. These creative professionals take on team leadership and facilitate projects for graphic design teams or agencies.
Visual Designer Average Annual Salary: $74,500
Visual designers make over $74,000 per year on average2, designing the look and feel of layouts, virtual worlds, ad campaigns, and other creative projects. Visual designers can apply their skills to advertising, web design, product development, and commerce, not just art-specific fields.
User Interface Designers Average Annual Salary: $74,200
User interface designers make just over $74,000 per year on average2, helping website holders create dynamic and engaging user experiences. They work with best practices in design and consider the customer journey to ensure the look and feel of websites offer unforgettable customer experiences.
Art Directors Average Annual Salary: $74,200
Art directors leverage their creative talents to bring a vision to life and make over $74,000 on average per year2. Art directors work in many different creative spaces, including book publishing, animation, magazine publishing, and art galleries.
Interactive Designer Average Annual Salary: $73,500
The growing virtual world needs creative leaders, and interactive designers can make $74,500 per year2 on average, bringing the virtual world to life. As more companies and organizations move to these immersive experiences, designers can leverage their art skills to create virtual, augmented, and immersive reality worlds.
Freelance Graphic Designer Average Annual Salary: $73,200
Art students who want to own their own business can make around $73,000 per year2 working on their own as graphic designers. Many different industries leverage graphic design — building everything from websites to ad materials to book layouts — so freelance graphic designers can take on projects that interest them in fields they are passionate about.
Fashion Designer Average Annual Salary: $72,300
Fashion designers can make just over $73,000 per year2 working with fashion houses, boutiques, movie studios, and restoration projects, among other things. These positions require a creative eye and could provide an avenue into the world of high design.
Commercial or Industrial Designer Average Annual Salary: $71,700
Commercial or industrial designers make an average of $71,700 per year2, working with clients and employers to design the products, objects, and devices we use every day. The field offers a creative outlet for those looking to improve or innovate for everyday life, whether customer or business-facing.
Popular Career Paths With an Art Degree
Students can leverage their creativity and innovation skills to bring value to a number of different industries. This list offers some common careers in art and design for art degree holders.
Marketing and Advertising
This field uses creative professionals to create ad campaigns, branding, and creative visions for companies that sell products and services. At the administrative level, students could also find themselves leading creative teams to enhance brand and product awareness for their company.
The entertainment industry always needs creative people. From animators to costume designers to movie poster graphic designers, the entertainment industry can offer a fast-paced, highly visible creative career. Even book lovers can get into the field with graphic design and art direction careers in book publishing.
Technology and Web Services
The technology space relies on artists to visualize the user experiences of their products and websites, as well as design new devices to make life easier. Art students can create new websites, build mobile apps, or even design the immersive experiences that are prevalent in the technology space.
From the local government to the federal level, artists bring websites, promotional materials, and educational materials to life. They help design public spaces and create engaging user experiences for a traditionally difficult-to-navigate space.
Art degree holders can leverage their skills to start their own studios, freelance offers, and agencies. Potential entrepreneurs should understand the business side of things and build marketing initiatives to get their name out into the art world. It can provide a degree of flexibility for students to work on their own schedule and take projects that interest them.
Video Game Industry
Video games make big money, but that relies on the creative vision of artists. Gaming companies need immersive designers to build worlds, animators to bring characters to life, and creative directors to set the pace for the game mission and execution.
Average Salary for Art Degree Graduates
PayScale estimates that those with a bachelor of fine arts degree can make around $85,750 per year1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the median average salary for all art and design occupations to be around $49,600 per year3, which is above the national average for all industries. The field is expected to grow at a slower than average rate of 4% but should offer around 37,000 new positions each year between 2020 and 20303.
How to Find a Job After You Graduate
Art careers and other creative positions benefit from a strong portfolio to showcase work and skills mastery. Students begin building a portfolio while taking art courses for their degree and must ruthlessly curate a portfolio to showcase their best work. It’s also helpful for students to curate a portfolio to showcase the skills specific to the job position that interests them. For example, students applying for a position in immersive design might showcase several complex worlds or experiences rather than a series of drawings.
Art programs may also offer internships at local organizations. Students should take advantage of these internships to gain real-world experience and master employer-desired soft skills such as communication and problem-solving.
Networking also provides pathways to employment. Alumni associations and internships offer excellent opportunities for students to expand their networks and find open career positions. Also, working on leadership and project management skills can facilitate a pathway to administrative and management positions at higher salary rates.
Discover More About a Career With an Art Degree
Q. Is an art degree worth it?
Art degrees provide lucrative and fulfilling pathways for students who understand how to showcase their strengths. Students learn relevant tools and methods for positioning their skills for the best career result. Also, PayScale estimates an average salary of over $85,000 for art degree holders, which is over twice the national average.
Q. Which art degree is best?
Students can choose to specialize in the type of art that most resonates with their skills and career goals. For example, those looking to work in advertising might major in graphic design, while others interested in innovation may choose to focus on industrial design.
Q. Do artists need an art degree?
Art can become a self-taught discipline, but an art degree offers two very important benefits. Students get plugged into a network that could translate to jobs and career positions later. They are also introduced to local businesses, art directors, galleries, and other spaces to showcase their work and build a portfolio. Also, students receive the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded peers and receive mentorship from faculty and those already in the field.
Q. How long does it take to get an art degree?
An associate degree in art takes two years of full-time study and includes state-required core courses. A bachelor’s degree takes four years of full-time study with the same core requirements. An advanced degree like a master’s takes 1-3 years after completing a bachelor’s. Some students who wish to work in academics or research may go on to pursue doctoral degrees in art, which take 5-7 years to complete after a master’s degree.
Q. What kinds of jobs can you get with an art degree?
If students have marketing and networking skills, they can leverage their art degree into a job in many different fields. Fortunately, art remains an in-demand skill in several fields.
Q. What skills do art degree holders need?
Art degrees can prepare students for the art world by honing their creative eye and critical design skills. An art degree also fosters problem-solving and decision-making skills, leadership and communication skills, and networking skills. All of these skills can translate into desired employee traits.
 PayScale. (2021) Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Bachelor_of_Arts_(BA)%2C_Fine_Arts/Salary
 PayScale. (2021). Best Jobs for Art Majors by Salary Potential. https://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report/common-jobs-for-majors/art
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Art and Design Majors. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/home.htm