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The Pros and Cons of Getting an M.F.A.

While there are some benefits to going through a B.A. and M.F.A. program, it is not required to become a professional artist. Here are some of the pros and cons of getting an M.F.A.

For many careers, it is necessary to get an advanced degree. Doctors, for example, earn a myriad of degrees in order to practice medicine. Artists, however, do not have to have any education at all. While there are some benefits to going through B.A. and M.F.A. programs, they are not required to become a professional artist. Stuck trying to decide if you should continue schooling or get a studio and paint away? Here are some of the pros and cons of getting an M.F.A.:


If you want to use your art skills and knowledge to become a teacher, getting an M.F.A. is necessary for you to find a teaching job at the collegiate level. 

In the two years you would spend in an M.F.A. program, much of that time is spent in the studio and being mentored by professional artists. This is a period for you to grow and explore your abilities through the use of practice time and helpful suggestions from individuals in the industry.


"As an M.F.A. student you will meet many influential people."

As an M.F.A. student, you will meet many influential people. Your teachers and their networks are open for you to talk with, ask how to sell art, and to teach you about art market trends and art licensing. These individuals can help you get into artist in residency programs and show you ways to earn grants. In addition, they're often not just teachers and professors, but well-known artists in their own right, and facilitators or hosts for art galleries and exhibitions. 

Gallery potential
Many program participants end up displaying their work in NYC art shows and art galleries in Los Angeles and other cultural hubs. Students undergo a rigorous process before being allowed into these programs, which practically ensures they are creating high-quality, unique work the art world would like to see. M.F.A. program teachers and lecturers often pull talent from their classes to show their work in galleries throughout the country.


The price tag for an M.F.A. can be upwards of $70,000, according to Deborah Bright, the Chair of the Fine Arts Department at Pratt Institute. She spoke with The Artist's Magazine about the benefits of partaking in an M.F.A. program, but mentioned the major drawback is the high cost. Besides tuition, students also have to take care of living expenses and materials, all while attending classes, which can interfere with hours that could be spent at a job paying back undergraduate student loans. 

After getting a B.A., another two years of schooling may not sound like the right idea for you. Instead of going back to school, you could be out in the world making art, entering art contests online, and seeking art grants and artist fellowships. 

A degree is not a guarantee
Just because you have an M.F.A. does not mean your artwork will be in shows or earn you awards. You may not be able to pay the bills solely by selling your artwork, and there are not a lot of teaching jobs available in this field. Even those who do find work teaching art often struggle financially because the positions don't pay much. According to PayScale, the average salary for an art teacher with an M.F.A. is between $50,000 and $60,000. You can't just expect the degree to earn you a place in the art world, you have to also have talent and drive to get yourself into a position that you want to be in.