Should You Go To Art School? Here Are The Pros And Cons

When it comes to art school, professional artists on the internet tend to be deeply opinionated.

Typically, artists with a traditional career path say art school gave them their start. Independent artists or art teachers will say art school is an outdated waste of time and money.

My goal here is to provide you with a pro and con breakdown from a balanced perspective. You’ll also get to see a few images I made as a student.

3 Cons of Art School

1. Cost

The most obvious drawback to art school is the cost. Colleges with distance learning programs cost significantly less than an in-person campus. However, an online program may not have enough hands-on instruction for the discounted price to be worth it, so it is essential to do your homework.

It is possible to find a solid online program, which I did, and it worked for me, but I understand entirely if some prefer a traditional program.
 

This is what a typical Life Drawing assignment might look like. 

2. No Job Guarantee 

The next flaw in art school is that a degree in this field doesn’t matter nearly as much as a strong portfolio. Earning a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job the way it does in other trades.

You have to be good at making art in demand, prove that you can make it, and know the right person to share it with to catch a break. For many artists, art school is not worth the struggle through exams and finals to get a degree that won’t matter as much as their portfolio at the end of the day.

One caveat here is that some doors can open for you job-wise if you have a bachelor’s degree (in anything) because finishing school shows dedication and perseverance, which looks good to employers. 
 

This is what a typical sketchbook assignment might look like. 

3. Potentially Inexperienced Instructors  

The final art school drawback we’ll discuss here is the instructors. It is possible to be taught by someone who has no experience in the professional art world.

Many art teachers choose to teach art because they love both art and teaching. If your goal is to become a professional artist, be sure your school has teachers with professional art experience before committing to the program.

Any school worth its paint will have a website that contains faculty bios. I suggest you read thoroughly, checking for current or recent professional experience. 

3 Pros of Art School

With those negatives out of the way, let’s review some positive aspects of going to art school. Despite the problems, so many people still choose to go. 

1. Designed Curriculums

The first, most apparent positive of art school is that having a specifically designed curriculum makes you learn things that you didn’t know you needed to know.

People who argue against going to art school will say that you can learn everything you need to know by looking it up on YouTube, and while they’re technically correct, a new student might not know enough art basics to search for lessons effectively.

Attempting your own art curriculum is like walking in the woods on a cloudy night – moonlight would be exceptionally helpful. Both certification boards and professional artists will have vetted a college or university art program, thus lighting the path of learning.
 

As you get farther along in art school, you get more and more creative control of your assignments.

2. Networking

Another positive of art school is networking. Your success is in the best interests of the school you attend because it affects their future attendance.

If no one from their program is employed after graduation, why would anyone pay to attend that school? A good school will have resources for career planning and gaining experience.

Your teachers will become resources long after graduation, and there are plenty of teachers who work as professionals and have professional contacts. 
 

In your final semester, assignments are usually geared towards your portfolio and website. 

3. Discipline

Lastly, a huge positive of going to art school is that it teaches you to work with deadlines and follow directions.

The professional art industry is full of deadlines, and failure to meet them will get you fired. By the end of art school, you’ll have so much experience with deadlines that you’ll have an effective system in place to manage your time.

Additionally, art school will give you experience working on subjects and with mediums that are not your preferences. Like a professional artist has clients, the art student has professors who will demand specific things. 
 

This was my last ever assignment in art school. I got to do something I always wanted to do – design the cover for my very own book. 
 
Whether or not you go to art school is a tough decision. I hope I have given you some insight and confidence in making your decision.

If you're just getting started with art-making, I highly suggest that you check out our beginner courses over at Etchr Studio. They were designed to take you from total beginner to feeling confident about creating original pieces. 

It's a great place to start if you're still deciding wether or not to go to art school. We currently have beginner courses on Watercolour, Watercolour Landscapes, Watercolour for Animals, Gouache, Ink, Sketching, and Illustration; but we're always adding new courses! 

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Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the south Idaho hill country. She  loves to create cozy, homey pictures and populate them with funny little creatures  having surreal little adventures. Her biggest inspiration is the music and comedy that  came out of England in the late 60s. When she’s not busy making art, she goes for long  hikes, plays a few instruments, and collects vinyl.
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