MFA is the New MBA: MFA degree gives popular B-school credential run for its money

Jan 02, 2017

MFA Degree is the new MBA |

Artists and Designers Receive Training in High-Demand Skills

IBM found, in a global study of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries, that the most important skill for successfully navigating our increasingly complex world is creativity, a skill that MFA graduates spend years cultivating. But students who complete MFA degrees are not just flexing their creative muscles. They’re learning how to be superior communicators, storytellers, and designers, in addition to developing finely-tuned aptitudes for reinvention and empathy. “In many ways, recent graduates in the arts may be better off than their peers,” says Jennifer C. Lena, primary author of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project’s (SNAPP) 2014 annual report. “They have technical management skills that are applicable to a wide range of work contexts, they’re entrepreneurial and adaptable, and hard-working.” 

The report discovered that three-quarters of arts graduates say they learned the skills of critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to work with others in school and continue to use them on a regular basis in their current work. “Artists often possess the skills and temperament that business leaders regularly say are in short supply: creativity, resiliency, flexibility, high tolerance for risk and ambiguity, as well as the courage to fail. These findings affirm that design and art schools are providing invaluable training and that arts graduates are more likely to work in related fields than many other college majors and degrees,” says Steven J. Tepper, another author of the SNAAP report.

Artists Are Not Only Happy, But Employed

According to the study, 75% of recent art school alumni are satisfied with the job in which they spend the majority of their time. 48% of recent grads who are not working as professional artists reported that they are not doing so because they could find higher-paying or steadier jobs in other fields. Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Education told the Wall Street Journal that not only can artists have good careers, but they tend to be happy with their choices and lives. For those who complete an MA or MFA degree, the unemployment rate for recent grads drops to just under 5%. Bruno S. Frey, research director of the Center for Research in Economics, Management, and the Arts at the University of Zurich also told the publication that he’s found from years of research that “artists generally are happier than the rest of the population.”

Projected Career Growth for Artists & Designers

Artist employment is expected to rise 11% by 2018, which is slightly higher than the rate projected for overall labor force growth. Below is a breakdown of expected growth by 2018 for selected art and design occupations:

Actors – 13%

Animators – 14%

Architects – 16%

Fine Artists – 9%

Graphic Designers – 14%

Interior Designers – 19%

Landscape Architects – 20%

Museum Curators – 23%

Music Directors and Composers – 10%

Photographers – 12%

Producers and Directors – 10%

Writers – 15%

Finding a Place in Tech


MFA Degree students learning Design Software |

The emergence of artist-in-residence programs at Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and AutoDesk is evidence of the growing respect, and demand, for artists in the tech industry. Steve Jobs famously said that “what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.” Companies like Capitol One, GAP, GE, and Coco-Cola have turned to artists and designers to help them solve innovation and branding problems. Graduates with MFA degree are comfortable with ambiguity and used to the idea that there may be more than one answer to a problem, a way of thinking that gives them a significant edge in industries like business and tech where most employees have been trained to assume there is always one correct solution.

Where to Get Your MFA Degree (or MA!)

Seekers of an MFA degree have plenty of programs around the world to choose from including Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Art, University of the Arts London, and Academy of Art University in San Francisco, but there are some, like Academy of Art University, that stand out from the crowd for their flexible online and on-campus programs of study and faculty of industry professionals who are masters in their fields. The Academy offers four-semester MA and six-demester MFA degrees in more than 30 fields of art and design including acting, advertising, fashion, illustration, industrial design, interior design, jewelry and metal arts, painting, photography, sculpture, and many more. The university is committed to constantly evaluating its curriculum in order to ensure that degree offerings reflect current industry trends and technology, and new programs are added as needed to reflect the needs of the labor force.

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