When you’re an art student hoping to pursue a bachelor’s degree, there’s a question that’s bound to come up: what are you going to major in? Some high school students already have an answer. Others are still figuring it out. Regardless of where you land on the scale of certainty, it’s good to know all of your options. There are many art majors to choose from, and understanding the different paths available can help you determine which schools and art programs might be a good fit.

Expand Your Horizons 

Certain art majors are well-known because they’re either emerging in popularity or already mainstream in the art field. For example, animation, video game design, architecture, and human computer interaction are all art majors that have attracted significant interest in recent years. Other disciplines — like graphic design, illustration, fashion design, and product design — have consistently been popular for decades.

Here’s something to keep in mind, though: your art major may be different from what’s gaining interest or already well-established in the art field. You might study something unexpected and learn it’s the ideal fit for you. But getting to that point means discovering your options, which can be exciting! fashion design is one of the most well-known art majors

Say your high school doesn’t mention all the potential paths you can pursue in college. In that case, exploring all your options can expand your horizons, letting you know what’s possible and available so you can create unique art. Similarly, say you’re focused on one specific art major and professional outcome. Learning about different art degrees can draw out the unknown interests hiding inside you to show the other creative disciplines that might excite you. 

That’s why college counselors (like our team at Portfolio College Counseling) are great partners. We show you all your possibilities. That way, you choose an art major that not only fits your skills and interests but also prepares you for an ever-evolving industry — that second benefit is particularly important. The art field is constantly changing, forcing majors to evolve as well, so knowing and being open to different possibilities can significantly increase your success beyond undergraduate studies. 

Top Art Majors for Students

It’s time for the fun part. What are all your possibilities? Your options fall into four categories: fine/visual arts, design, lens-based disciplines, and non-studio art. Below are examples of different degree programs that exist in each category. 

Fine/Visual Arts

  • Studio Art/Visual Art
  • Painting 
  • Drawing 
  • Sculpture
  • Printmaking
  • Ceramic Arts


  • Graphic Design 
  • Interior Design 
  • Visual Communications 
  • Fiber, Weaving, and Textile Design
  • Fashion Design 
  • Game and Interactive Media Design
  • Animation
  • Illustration 
  • Metalwork/Jewelry Design
  • Industrial/Product Design
  • Architecture
  • Interdisciplinary

Lens-based Disciplines

  • Filmmaking/Video
  • Photography

Non-Studio Art

  • Art History 
  • Arts and Media Management
  • Design Management
  • Conservation

While these charts showcase various art majors, they don’t provide an exhaustive list. There are still many options available, oftentimes within specific disciplines. For instance, graphic design has become so popular that you can concentrate on a particular aspect of this major. Typography, identity design, corporate design, book design, corporate literature, and packaging are all examples of concentrations linked to graphic design. Similarly, animation has exploded in popularity to the point that concentrated majors have been created. Examples are 3D animation, 2D animation, character design, storyboarding, and experimental animation. 

Colleges also offer interdisciplinary programs if you want to create a major that combines your interests or is precisely tailored to the career path you want to pursue. Focusing on graphic design and illustration, for example, may be of interest if you want to become an art director one day. 

How to Choose an Art Major 

With so many art majors, it’s important to think about which route will excite you the most. To help you brainstorm ideas, here are six steps you can take to choose an art major that might fit you. 

1. Define your interests

Understanding what you enjoy will help you choose a major that keeps your creative fire aflame in college. It’ll also ensure you’re fulfilled in your career path, which will be necessary if you want any longevity and success in it. That’s why determining your interests and letting them guide you is essential. 

You can do this step by reflecting on the constants in your life. For example, if you’ve always experimented with your style, majoring in fashion design may be best. Or, if time flies whenever you’re at an art museum or art gallery, majoring in arts and media management might be ideal. 

Another way of discovering your interests is simply exploring different things. Go to summer art programs for high school students that cover a broad range of disciplines — that way, you can learn about various creative paths. Also, ask your art teachers or one of our college counselors (if you’re working with us) about new art techniques to discover approaches you’ve never considered. 

2. Reflect on career goals

It’s understandable if you’re not yet thinking about career goals in high school. However, even having a vague idea of your post-graduate intentions can guide you toward the right major. Let’s say you want a specific salary as an artist. In that case, it might make sense to be a design major, as it can lead to a higher income. Think about art directors—those in this position can make over $100,000 annually in the U.S.

However, maybe six figures isn’t a big motivator for you, and you’d prefer to create art to sell or exhibit. In that case, getting a fine arts degree would make more sense. Then, you could become a fine artist and still live well since the average annual salary in the U.S. for these creatives is $69,870. 

3. Consider practicalities 

While having career goals is great, make sure to balance them with practicalities. After graduating, it’s uncommon to become a full-time, senior-level art director, creative director, animator, or fashion designer. 

Typically, you’ll start in an entry-level position with a salary that’s appropriate for the role. Then, you’ll work your way up the hierarchy to obtain a more senior-level position and higher income. The hierarchy and pay will look different depending on what you study, so research the art majors you’re considering to see what you can expect after college. Having a practical understanding of the post-graduate experience that certain art majors offer will help you choose what to study.

4. Filter feedback 

You’ll receive a lot of input about the direction you should take, which can be helpful and encouraging. The people around you may highlight strengths and interests you didn’t realize you had to help you choose an art major. While this can be beneficial, however, try to avoid letting feedback become pressure to pursue a certain discipline. 

Letting others dictate your art major can lead to an unfilling college experience and disinterest in your coursework, both of which can result in dissatisfaction with your career path. So, receive feedback with openness — but try to stick with the creative path you’re most excited to pursue. 

5. Research the college coursework 

Do you already know what you’d like to study in college? If so, confirm it by looking at the required coursework. This tip is critical. Many college art students experience a disconnect between their expectations about a certain career field and its reality

Certain art majors require you to take science or math classes, for example, but some students don’t want to and change their major as a result. There are also instances where students discover a certain major is completely different than anticipated and want to do something else. For example, instead of creating art, they’d rather focus on art history, fashion merchandising and marketing, arts management, design management, or something else that’s more business-oriented. 

Of course, it’s okay and normal to switch directions in college. But if you want a solid idea of what to pursue, review the coursework for various art majors at the schools you’re applying to. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in digital art, digital media, fine arts, performing arts, photography, art education,  or something else. Doing research on the curriculum will help you know whether a particular art major is a good fit for you.

6. Do a foundation year

After implementing all the above tips, you may still have questions about which art major will be the right fit. If that’s the case, don’t worry or think something’s wrong. Instead, consider applying to a college that has a foundation year. 

there are many art majors to choose fromA foundation year provides an introduction to various art disciplines so that you have the necessary skills to enjoy your undergraduate studies. Things like observational drawing, figure drawing, painting, fine arts, product design, and 3D design are all covered. However, a foundation year doesn’t just dive into the basics. It also allows you to explore disciplines you never knew existed, like entertainment design, interior architecture, exhibition design, and textile design. 

With a foundation year, you get hands-on experience doing various types of artwork, which can directly translate into understanding more about which major to choose. We recommend trying this route if you’re unsure what to study. Many colleges across the U.S. have BFA programs that begin with a first-year foundation program. Schools without a foundation year, on the other hand, typically admit students directly into the art major they applied for, which is exciting if you’re already confident in what you’d like to study. 

Tips to Becoming a Successful Art Major

Regardless of the art major you pursue, you should strive to get the most out of it. Doing so will help you become a better artist and give you the skills necessary to secure a job in your field. Keeping that in mind, here are five quick tips for becoming a successful art major: 

  • Have the right attitude. Keep an open mind and be flexible. Take opportunities to learn and grow so that you reach your end goal — and be patient as you’re pursuing your ultimate outcome. It takes hard work to achieve anything great, so have a long-game view and focus on evolving and enjoying the journey.
  • Stay in tune with your industry. Go to exhibits, museums, and galleries. Follow artists on social media who are influencing your field, and become friends with people who are majoring in the same discipline. Doing these things will help you think more like an artist.
  • Communicate well verbally and in writing. No matter what you’re studying, one of the first things you’ll do as a college art student is critiques. You’ll have to present your ideas, communicate them, and explain your artistic intentions. Being a good communicator will be essential. Otherwise, your classmates won’t understand your ideas, hindering you from getting valuable feedback. 
  • Embrace constructive criticism. Because critiques will be a regular part of your college experience, knowing how to handle feedback will be beneficial. Your art teachers and classmates will provide tips to make your work better and embracing their constructive criticism can help you see things differently and improve. 
  • Become a double major or pursue an art minor. Sometimes, majoring or minoring in another subject can enhance your creativity and college experience. For instance, perhaps you want to major in product design. In that case, majoring or minoring in math as well (especially if you like it) would be great. You’ll learn how to design products to meet certain specifications, which will increase your skills and position you as a more competitive job candidate. 

Being a college art major can be one of the most rewarding experiences if you approach your coursework properly. You can graduate with new approaches to creativity, deeper insight into your field, and a more well-rounded skill set, all of which can help you secure a job after school. So, take your classes with intentionality and a willingness to learn.

Take a Deeper Dive 

Choosing an art major and preparing to be successful isn’t easy. As this article revealed, it takes research and a lot of hard work. But the good news is that the effort will pay off. You’ll have a more enjoyable college experience and post-graduate journey if you spend time in high school discovering which art major to choose and equipping yourself for success — so, use your teenage years to dive deeper into your creative pursuits. Then, you’ll set a foundation for positive results in and out of college. 

For help choosing an art major and preparing for college, reach out to our CEO, Lorraine Serra, at lorraine@portfoliocc.com for a consultation.