If you want to become an art professor, you will need the right combination of education and experience. The first step is to get a Bachelor’s or preferably a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts with a focus on a subject you are particularly interested in, be it photography, painting, sculpture, or design.
Next, you will need to obtain an MFA, specializing in the subject you would like to later teach. In this case, it could be important to choose a school that is well-known for their fine arts programs, as well as to work with professors who have similar interests to yours. Finally, you can go on to get your doctorate level studies in Fine Arts; however, this is not always necessary. There is a mixture of reviews regarding whether you need a PhD in order to become an art professor: Some say you will have an advantage over your competition, while others consider it unnecessary.
Despite the fact that the education process will be very important to your becoming an art professor, your career as an artist will have just as much weight. You need to have the right portfolio and a certain grade of success in order to convince a university to give you a tenure position as a professor. Having exhibitions, a successful art business, and a known public profile will help you in achieving this career goal.
SOME TOP OPTIONS FOR FINE ARTS DEGREES IN THE U.S.
The U.S. News and World Report ranks Yale University as having the top Fine Arts program in the country. With an inter-disciplinary approach to teaching, Yale offers an exclusive MFA program for students with a very strong portfolio. Tuition alone stands at $45,800, not including fees and living expenses.
- Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU offers some of the best recognized arts programs in the U.S. You can get an MFA in Fine Arts or Design with focuses such as Ceramics, Fiber, and Furniture Design among others. VCU also gives students the option of continuing onto Doctorate level studies in Art History. Graduate tuition is just over $7,000 for in-state students and close to $13,000 for out-of-state.
- University of California – Los Angeles
The UCLA School of Arts and Architecture offers Master’s level studies in Art, Design, and Media Art, as well as World Arts Cultures and Dance. Thanks to an optimal location in one of the most artistic states in the U.S., UCLA is a great place to learn and practice. In-state tuition for MFA students is $15,582 and $27,827 for out-of-state graduate students.
- Rhode Island School of Design
RISD offers 12 different Master’s level programs, including subjects such as digital and media, jewelry and metalsmithing, glass, textiles, printmaking, photography, and others. Education here is highly studio-based, with lots of hands-on work. Annual tuition is $44,284.
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago is home to some of the best museums in the country, as well as one of the top arts institutes in the U.S. SAIC offers its students a interdisciplinary approach, including programs in Art Education, Modern and Contemporary Art History, MFA in Studio, and a variety of programs in Design. Cost per credit hour for graduate students stands at $1,467.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
It is widely accepted that becoming an art professor is not an easy path to choose. The competition for getting a tenure position at a prestigious university is fierce, and it can take years of teaching before an instructor can get proper recognition.
Just like any other field, becoming an art professor means having a wide network within the art industry. It is important to begin building this network early in your career by going to conferences, keeping in touch with your university professors, other students, and coworkers too. At the same time, you will need to be obtaining your education and building a name within the industry. If people know your work, you are more likely to get hired.
Meanwhile, you can start taking the first steps to becoming a professor early on in your career. Begin teaching while you are finishing up your bachelor’s degree. This could be at a studio or giving private lessons. This will help you develop your teaching skills. On the other hand, when you are completing your master’s degree, try getting a teaching assistant position or giving classes for free, once again, to gain experience.
Finally, when you have gotten your MFA, you should contact various schools and Fine Arts departments to find out if anyone is looking to fill part-time teaching positions. From there, you will need to build up from giving a couple of classes a semester, to a full-time contract position, and later tenure.
Note that in a lot of cases you will also need to get certification to be able to teach.