MFA Jobs and Career Opportunities
Every artist in graduate school wants to know what type of MFA jobs are available after earning your degree. For MFA students, parsing the various fine art career opportunities can be a little less intuitive than the options for recent law, medical, and business school graduates.
After all, a career as an artist is not even strictly contingent upon a degree. But, you’re not as pigeon-holed as you may think.
In fact, your skills as an artist, creative thinker, and other soft skills are rare and in demand by all types of businesses.
Here, you’ll find different types of careers you can pursue with your MFA and ways to find a job after graduation.
Did You Know?
According to the World Economic Forum, “social skills”, such as persuasion and emotional intelligence, will be in higher demand than technical skills.
Interior Design MFA Programs
Choosing to earn an interior design MFA degree teaches how to understand and meet the unprecedented challenges in the industry, such as sustainable design practices, developments in technology, and social changes.
There are a variety of options for your MFA degree, including:
- Those designed for students with bachelor’s in interior design
- Programs designed for students with bachelor’s degree in unrelated field
According the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for interior designers in 2016 was $49,810.i
To find the perfect program for you, click on any of the sponsored listings below for more information regarding any of the programs, including how to request more information directly from the school.
MFA in Creative Writing Programs
MFA in Creative Writing programs are designed to take your fiction, nonfiction, or poetry to another level. Typically, this is through intensive writing courses and constructive feedback. Many programs also include working one-on-one with a mentor to guide you through your master’s thesis.
Some of the careers you can pursue after earning your MFA include teaching creative writing and English at the university level as the MFA is the terminal degree in the field. The BLS states that the median annual salary for writers and authors in 2016 was $61,240.ii
Learn more about some of the MFA programs at the sponsored schools listed below.
Master of Fine Arts Programs
Fine arts degrees combine teaching the processes involved in creating new art and the history of art in order to understand how those processes have developed. While there are many types of MFA programs, a Master of Fine Arts is usually oriented toward creative production.
In 2016, the median annual salary for craft and fine artists was $48,780.iii Click on any of the sponsored listings below to learn more about the individual programs, curriculum, and how to apply.
Graphic Design and Multimedia MFA Programs
If you’re passionate about art, technology, and are open to emerging mediums, earning a graphic design MFA degree may help you combine all of those into your career. This degree, considered a subset of visual arts, is defined as the process of visual communication, and problem solving through the use of type, space, image, and color.
According the BLS, the median annual salary for graphic designers in 2016 was $47,640.iv Check out some of the graphic design MFA sponsored listings below to find the perfect program for you.
Careers with an MFA
With an MFA, a recent graduate is now considered an expert in the field. And an expert in the fine arts can be quite attractive to a company looking to fill a related role within its department.
For instance, a studio artist may link up with a company in need of a graphic designer or creative director. An MFA degree in theater has led many to work as a private acting instructor or as a public-speaking coach in the corporate world.
As a creative thinker and artisan, you will find that the specific skills you possess are, in fact, rare and in-demand. And, the ability to see yourself and your abilities as a commodity will go a long way during the inevitable interview process while you search for MFA jobs.
The field with perhaps the most—or most obvious—fine art career opportunities is education, whether at the high school, college, or graduate school level. In academia, the MFA is recognized as a terminal degree, shows your accomplishments as a working artist, and your ability to teach in the field as well.
In fact, many universities require an MFA in order to teach. Of course, though the job market for a full-time or adjunct position within a university’s art or theater department is certainly competitive.
However, it is not unusual for a recent graduate armed with an MA or an MFA to make the leap from mentee to young mentor, especially if he or she has found some measure of professional success.
At the high school level, or even in middle school or lower, an MFA degree can open doors as well. Many private and parochial schools fashion their art departments after the university model and actively search for working artists to fill mentoring roles.
You’ll need an additional certification to become a teacher. But, if you wish to teach at a public school, an MFA degree can also help you get a head start on a teaching certificate or an MA in education.
Art as Commerce
Another area with plenty of MFA career opportunities is within the channels through which art is disseminated or in the greater landscape of the arts world.
For a studio artist, this might lead to the design department of a museum, a sales position at an auction house, or an administrative position at a gallery. Again, since the MFA is a terminal degree, it may provide a candidate a leg-up in your career search over someone with a more traditional MA in art history.
Unconventional MFA Careers
MFA careers in the arts are, in a sense, inherently unconventional. As such, many MFA grads in the pursuit of a sustainable living end up walking an unconventional path.
Extending on the writing workshop, which has by now become a phenomenon, community programs, and even prisons, have become viable places to teach one’s craft in an intimate setting.
Actors and studio artists may find workshop opportunities in community theater, local galleries, and myriad regional public arts agencies.
Administrative work in the university setting can also be an attractive option, as a clerical job in a school’s art or theater departments typically provide access to libraries, studios, office space and other amenities, as well as comprehensive health care.
MFA Degree – How You Learn
Most MFA programs are defined by the mentor/mentee relationship. In other words, an established artist working closely with a group of talented apprentices.
While working closely with your mentor, you have great opportunity to pick their brain and develop that relationship.
5 Questions You Should Ask Your Mentor
- How they became a teacher?
- What strengths you have as an artist?
- What careers may suit you and your skills?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What can you do to improve and become more marketable?
Throughout your studies, you should talk with your classmates or cohort members to see what careers they’re thinking about, how they find opportunities, and if they’ve had any professional experience or internships.
Talking about their responsibilities and aspirations can show you other skills that you could work on before you graduate, such as specific programs or techniques and give you ideas that you may not have considered.
Low Residency MFA
Typically, MFA programs take two years and can be very intensive as you refine your craft as an artist. Many schools offer low-residency options, which means most of your work is completed online.
Then, usually twice a year for one to two weeks, students convene on campus for a residency, which may include courses, private studio time, and panels.
These residencies are a great opportunity for you to meet professors, students, and guest speakers in other fields and discuss their careers, professional experience, and the skills you should work on.
Developing these relationships can also give you more options for references and grow your network.
Networking to Increase Your Odds
In every career, including those in the fine arts, finding a job is all about who you know. This can be even more important to those graduating from an MFA program because art can be such a solitary pursuit.
Plus, many artists tend to be introverts, making networking and attending conferences even more difficult than for those in other careers, such as, lawyers, sales reps, and other professionals, who may be more comfortable in those environments.
In the end, what may truly open doors for those searching for MFA jobs is the network of fellow practitioners met over the course of his or her studies—both students and mentors alike.
Some of the ways to grow your network while earning your MFA and after graduation are listed below.
#1: Nurture relationships in school
While earning your MFA, you have access to some of the great minds in your field. Your professors, program directors, and even adjuncts have probably been in the field for a number of years and can pass on valuable advice as you consider various career opportunities.
Plus, don’t overlook your fellow students. Like you, they are close to becoming experts themselves and are the future of the field. Developing close relationships can help you throughout your career.
#2: Go to conferences
Every art field has plenty of conferences and exhibitions. These are great opportunities to see:
- What’s trending in the field
- New technologies
- Companies in your industry
- Companies that market to your industry
- Find jobs for MFA graduates
Usually, these conferences also have a number of guest speakers who are widely-recognized as influencers and can be a chance to meet them and share ideas.
#3 Join professional organizations
Professional organizations are a great way to meet others in your field. Normally, the leadership in the organization, even at the local level, have plenty of experience and may take on the role of mentor and pass that knowledge on to the next generation of artists.
Most of these groups also put out a publication or newsletter that shows the latest trends and techniques, so you can try them out yourself while earning your degree and afterwards.
#4: Don’t be afraid to reach out
Most artists, even successful ones, understand the challenges of balancing employment with the demands of one’s craft. As a result, there is a palpable desire on the part of those who have, in some sense, “made it”, to help grease the path of those who are on their way.
In this regard, many emerging artists have found gainful employment working in the studio of a mentoring master. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to others in your realm of the art world who you admire, besides your professors and fellow students.
Share your praise and thoughts on their work and then ask for advice on your own, even if it’s in more of a general sense. While all of them may not respond or offer you a job, more often than not, they’ll be glad to help in some way.
Resources for Finding Post-MFA Jobs
Searching for MFA jobs can be difficult. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help you along the way.
Some of the best ones are:
Finding the Perfect MFA Program
If you’re still considering whether to pursue an MFA, you have plenty of options. Plus, many schools help prepare you for different types of careers with a fine arts degree.
Check out any of the sponsored schools above that offer an MFA in interior design, creative writing, fine arts, or graphic design. Or, click the link below to get matched to the perfect program for you.
[i] bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/interior-designers.htm#tab-5 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm#tab-5 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/craft-and-fine-artists.htm#tab-5 [iv] bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm#tab-5
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.