Do Artists Need College to Succeed?

art class, artists need college
man behind typewriter with balled up papers, why artists need college

Why Artists Need College

Many artists don’t see a reason to go to college. In fact, there’s a stereotype that higher education stifles creativity and can negatively affect progress. In reality, college can help artists of all kinds improve their craft, learn vital skills, and expand their skill set. Few of us are born with natural entrepreneurship, communication, and research skills. These are vital for those looking to turn their skill into a viable career. Indeed, there are many reasons artists need college.

Whether it be for a creative career or a day job, artists can benefit from college in the same way that the average person can. And just like the average person, they should consider their goals and how a degree can impact their future.

Notably, while many artists can benefit from a college degree, not every person needs one. If art is your passion and not your career, you may consider auditing courses to hone your craft instead of investing years into a degree. Alternatively, you might consider a certificate in entrepreneurship if you only want to use your skills for a side gig. Regardless, higher education is not one size fits all.

6 Reasons Artists Need College (or Can Benefit From It)

There are many reasons an artist should consider college. Whether their craft is writing, painting, sketching, or pottery, artists can learn the same general skills from attending school. In addition, they can improve their specialized skills via feedback, experimentation, and practice.

Below, we’ll go over some of the reasons artists need college (or can at least benefit from it).

art class, teacher helping student

1. You Learn Communication Skills

Important for just about every job, creative or not, communication skills allow us to make sales, network, and provide quality customer service. Furthermore, they can help you make your way through interviews and find a well-paying day job. College helps individuals improve their writing and speaking skills by helping them find their voice and build cognitive skills. Basically, you’ll be able to ask better questions, respond more clearly and coherently, and think on your feet in conversations.

Furthermore, communication skills can help you with your craft whether you’re a writer, painter, or beyond. Today, most art is seen online. To be found online, you’ll need to know how to write comprehensive, interesting, and SEO-optimized descriptions. With this content, you’ll gain an audience much faster.

Artists need college because it helps them prepare to speak to various clients, employers, and fans both online and in person.

2. You Hone Your Craft

Another reason artists need college is the experience they gain that helps them improve their craft. When working on your art alone, you’re unlikely to have many people who will give you unbiased and honest feedback on your artwork. Friends and family especially will be kinder in most cases and will often only offer a layman’s advice. You can hire people online to review your work, but it may take some time to find someone who offers helpful advice. Plus, you never know if they’re truly as much of an expert as they claim to be.

In addition, as scary as bad grades can be, they do help students find their strengths and weaknesses. You may create amazing paintings, but your scaling may be wrong. Or your writing might be great, but you abuse commas just a little too much. Ultimately, higher education can help you clean up your craft.

3. College Teaches You How to Follow the Market

An expected skill that all artists need is knowing how to research. This ability is important across all fields for a few key reasons. First, it helps you identify misinformation or overall bad information. Colleges specifically teach students how to find quality articles, research, and guides. In fact, using bad sources in higher education often leads to bad grades, which incentivizes students to look hard at who they’re quoting.

Second, the creative world is constantly in flux with its trends and artists. You must stay on top of them to remain relevant. For example, tropes that were popular and acceptable in fantasy writing just a decade ago now face scrutiny and harsh criticism.

Overall, artists need college to remain relevant in their industry through sustainable skills. 

paint brushes; artists need college

4. You Get to Experiment

Most artists who start on their own often stick with the medium they’re most comfortable with, which might be the very first one they pick up. A writer who loves writing short stories might never attempt poetry. A painter who focuses on realism may never try abstract art. Overall, there’s nothing wrong with how any one person does art. However, artists may never uncover a hidden passion or talent if they never push past their own boundaries.

Indeed, artists need college as it forces them out of their comfort zones. Students get to try things they’d never think of trying. And even if these artists choose to stick with the same medium, the experience will improve their craft in a variety of ways.

They’ll learn to add elements of abstraction, craft fine details, and embrace new techniques. That short story writer may never become a beloved poet, but they’ll learn from the lyricism of poetry and the masters they’ll study. Similarly, the realism painter may discover they can enhance their works by adding abstractions amongst the details.

Ultimately, it’s easier to explore and experiment with these mediums in college than on your own. Schools give you access to resources and masters that you wouldn’t have on your own. You’ll get top-of-the-line supplies and someone to help you learn how to use them.

5. A Degree Opens Doors for Day Jobs and Professional Roles

One of the most obvious reasons artists need college is that it opens doors for careers and day jobs. Many careers in the art industry, like most industries today, require degrees. What level of education you’ll need depends on your dream career. Whether you want to teach, become a creative director, or be part of a marketing team, you’ll likely need some college experience. Of course, this statement is not true for all companies or people. Some are willing to just take an artist’s portfolio, especially if your sole duty will be creating art.

However, not every artist wants to or can create art for a living. That market is extremely difficult to navigate and succeed in and can bring extra stress to aspiring artists. And some artists don’t want to monetize their art either – it’s a passion for them, plain and simple. These individuals can benefit from college as it opens the door to more profitable professions.

6. Learn How to Become an Entrepreneur

Just as not every artist wants to sell their art for profit, not every artist wants to sell their art to companies and corporations. Today, you can find thousands of individual artists on sites like Etsy, all trying to sell their beautiful and unique creations. These individuals obviously don’t need a degree to get a sale – their art speaks for itself.

However, selling art online still requires customer service, communication, and sales skills – skills that not every person has naturally or acquires easily. Indeed, starting an online business is a lot more difficult than some expect. Customers don’t become magically aware of your store as soon as it’s live and many don’t trust shops with few or no reviews. And, as you’re getting started, one bad review can devastate your sales. Not many are willing to risk spending hundreds of dollars on a shop with a two-star rating.

Artists need college to succeed in the business world for the same reason that any entrepreneur does: starting a business is hard work. You can take some of the guesswork out of the process by taking business classes, enrolling in certificate programs, or just taking the time to learn from the masters.

Lakewood University

Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on enrolling in college while working, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today to learn more!