An art degree is useful for law

Fine arts - this includes painting and sculpture, but also goldsmithing, ceramics and glass, photography and graphics. Either you study pure art - or you decide to study for a teaching position. And there are also a lot of other variations - Students online she explains.

By Nancy Hünger, supplemented and updated by the Studis Online editorial team

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Art? Free art? Visual arts?

The term Visual arts has established itself as a collective term for the visual and creative arts in the German-speaking area ("educational" means "creative"). This originally included architecture, sculpture, painting, drawing, graphics and photography as well as handicrafts. We use it in our subject database for the comprehensive art courses (which offer all or at least several of the majors listed) and those in sculpture, painting, drawing, graphics and goldsmithing. We offer explicit courses in photography, as some of them also focus more on journalism.
The School subject art deals with the visual arts and is therefore also called visual arts in some federal states, sometimes also the subject at the university. You can find all teacher training-oriented arts courses with the teacher training filter.
The artistic courses without teacher training reference that have a “free” in their name or that specialize in a trade such as sculpture, painting or goldsmithing are part of our subgroup free art collectively - without saying that these courses actually offer more freedom in artistic activity.

1. Why study art?

Anyone who wants to study (free) visual arts should not only have a pronounced idealism and the necessary ounce of creativity, but also a high degree of commitment and personal responsibility. Because not only your own creativity and the desire for free design are required here, but also assertiveness and a talent for self-marketing. So, despite all the freedom, the course is always strategic - and it is important to prove yourself as well as possible in the first few years.

It is not just about learning to draw. A lot of interesting artistic strategies have developed over the past few decades. Participatory art, land art, art in public space, performance and body art, conceptual art in general, to name just a few possibilities, have significantly expanded the range of classical visual arts (painting, sculpture, graphics, etc.). Not to forget the new technologies, the use of which in turn resulted in their own artistic styles and areas of study, which can by and large be summarized under the heading of media art. This includes, for example, web art, experimental sound, video art, and much more.As different as these different art directions and strategies are often also the concepts of the individual universities, so it is important to get the best information and to do persistent research before starting your studies.

It is also worthwhile to waste a few thoughts in advance on your own future, because it is an old truism that art is a jobless profession - and like so many truisms this also touches a true core: Only a few of the art students create the great one Jump and can assert yourself as a working artist after graduation. And if you manage to make the leap, you are far from certain of a regular income. It is therefore definitely advisable to complete an apprenticeship or training course before starting to study art. This opens up opportunities for the time after graduation that can prevent long periods of unemployment or retraining in completely different professions.
Certain trades such as photography, graphics, tailoring, carpentry, etc. are particularly suitable because they often provide considerable advantages and benefits for later studies.

And not infrequently, as it turns out, the not so strong desire to study art with the completion of an apprenticeship or apprenticeship is superfluous. And the decision to study art should be carefully considered in view of the very high drop-out rates.

In the following, some aspects are addressed and explained that must be taken into account before starting to study art and before deciding on a place to study. Among the most important are the decisions, firstly for a study concept, secondly an orientation of the university and thirdly for the workshops. Furthermore, some information is given about applying to art colleges and about the process of studying art. Finally, the time and the possibilities after the (successful) art study are pointed out. In the end she has Students online-Editorial information on study costs and funding added.

2. At which universities apply?

Art courses are not easily accessible, practically everywhere there is the hurdle of aptitude test / portfolio test (often multi-level). Very few are lucky enough to be accepted with the first application. Multiple applications are almost inevitable. But where should you apply? What are the differences between the individual courses and universities?

Class or project ...

However, if the desire is still there or even more developed than before, it is important to take a closer look at the various profiles of the universities, art colleges and academies (see also the article University types). Almost every university, art college or academy pursues its own concept or a certain direction of study. The place of study should therefore be compared with your own goals and needs, as far as these have already developed.

A comparison of the two universities of applied sciences in Dresden and Weimar is an example of individual, very important differences: the traditional class system is still preferred at the Dresden State Academy, albeit with broken structures. This means that you study in a relatively small and constant group under the guidance and supervision of a professor. In Weimar, on the other hand, the fine arts course hardly differs from other courses. Every semester, the lecturers offer projects on specific topics in which one or more practical work should be done and in which you can enroll as a student. In addition, interdisciplinarity is valued and supported in Weimar. Therefore, it is possible for every student to take part in other courses in the Faculty of Design in addition to the field of fine art, such as those in product design or visual communication.

... bound or unbound

Another important difference between project studies and class studies is the way they work. While in the classes you often work within an art form, but mostly without a predefined topic, in Weimar you enroll in a project with a specific, i.e. predefined topic every semester. Elsewhere, however, the type of work is mostly entirely up to you. Only from the main course onwards, i.e. after several years of experience with topic-related work, is there an opportunity in Weimar to register a so-called free project, which includes an examination of a self-set topic under the supervision of a self-chosen professor.

Both structures contain Advantages and disadvantages: through topic-related projects you will get used to commissioned work, such as is common in art in public space. Such commissioned works later become part of everyday artistic life and therefore offer practical preparation for the profession of artist. A disadvantage that should not be underestimated, however, is that you can quickly unlearn how to work independently and maintain your own productivity. If the task then breaks away, it usually ends with the same. Furthermore, the pressure is noticeably greater to develop a fruitful and creative idea every semester anew and on time. It is not uncommon for students to wait in vain for the entire semester.

The artistic direction

The artistic orientation of the training centers also differs greatly. While in Dresden, for example, painting is still clearly in the foreground, following the tradition of the house, the course at the Bauhaus University Weimar is interested in a wide variety of artistic expressions. The downside: painting is rather underrepresented.

You can certainly change your university after you have started your studies, but you should think about the focus of your own work beforehand. To do this, it is essential that you have sufficient knowledge of various areas of art before your studies so that you do not only get to know different artistic strategies during your studies. For example, if you are completely sure that you want to study painting with a certain artist, you should try to be accepted into his class. If you don't have the security or if you want to be trained not only in painting, but above all in photography, installations and performance, project studies are often an advantage. Even then, it is worthwhile to check the professors of the various universities in detail with regard to their subject areas or their own work.

The reputation of the art teacher

Last but not least, the reputation of future teachers also plays a decisive role. Because this often has an impact on one's own later reputation, the relevance of which for future opportunities as an artist cannot be overestimated. The class systems are clearly advantageous here: As a student of a famous or recognized art professor, you are often better integrated and perhaps better prepared in and for the art world. But this system also has the reputation of the antiquated art monarch and his epigones; and it is often not easy to swim free of such dominant influences again in order (if you succeed) to establish your own formal language or to find your way back to it.

3. Aptitude test: portfolio preparation & selection test

Once the choice of location has been made, the next important step follows: the selection test. At most universities, this first consists of a own portfolio, which has a cross-section of your own artistic work as content, to produce and submit. Unfortunately there is no generally valid recipe for success for this portfolio production. Often, however, portfolio preparation courses are offered at universities, which you should also use in the event of great uncertainty. You can find interesting and helpful tips on this topic at Wikipedia / Wikibooks.

However, the portfolio is only the first step towards enrollment. So there is usually not just another test on site, in the sense of an exam that can extend over several days or a homework, but also a conversation or even audition (in the literal sense) to be mastered. Because the Selection test should not only serve to assess the technical ability, but also provide an insight into the personality (as far as possible) and motivation of the applicant. Often applicants are not accepted because they don't have much more to offer besides the gesture, the pose, the artist. At the latest after the hurdles of the aptitude test, the common naive ideas about studying art should be dispelled.

Even if we (see tab above) have "open" courses of study - in the case of art, that almost always means that the Abitur grade does not play a role. However, you cannot avoid taking an aptitude test.

4. The art course: duration of study, structure, possibilities, necessary skills

Basically, a course in fine art is made up of a basic course or the orientation phase (BA) and a main course or qualification phase (MA), whereby the basic course is completed with a preliminary diploma and the main course with a diploma. As far as the certificates of achievement are concerned, the practical artistic work is always in the foreground. Calculated in hours per week in the semester, this is the most important.

Tour of the Münster Art Academy
As a rule, you have to attend seminars and lectures on art history and aesthetics, which - including their relevance for the quality of the practical work - can hardly be underestimated: Good artists usually also have a very good knowledge of art history, art theory and aesthetics, if they do this does not allow generalization either. The weighting of the theoretical training differs depending on the academic concept of the university.

A special feature of all art colleges is certainly the tour, the public presentation and disputation of the works that were created in a semester or academic year at the university.

Duration of art studies

The visual arts course usually lasts 8 semesters and is called Bachelor of Fine Arts completed with a bachelor thesis. A total of 240 ECTS points (credit points) are earned.

Fine arts are often studied as part of a multiple bachelor's degree. It can be a major or a minor. There are also degree programs in which it is half of a 2-subject bachelor's degree.

You can then complete a master’s degree in fine arts or a similar master’s degree. The Master of Arts can in 4 semesters to be completed, with 120 credits must be provided.

In addition, the fine arts can be studied to become a teacher, mostly as a Bachelor and Master of Education, and more rarely for a state examination. For more information, see our article on studying teaching.

The first semester of art studies

If the selection test is actually designed to prevent wrong decisions on the part of the students and on the part of the university, it is of course not sufficient to be able to fully assess the suitability of a student. Often it becomes apparent in the first semester whether the decision made was the right one. In order to accelerate this process, the so-called alternating current project has been introduced at the Bauhaus University Weimar, for example. The term alternating current is part of the program in the first semester. This project is compulsory for all students of fine arts in the first semester. It is important to create an artistic work every 2 weeks, under the changing direction of different professors. Artistic perfection is not the only thing that counts.

Above all, it should be tested how the students can withstand the pressure, generate and implement ideas and apply new artistic strategies in the shortest possible time. In this project, and also in the first semester at other universities, it very often becomes apparent that knowledge of contemporary visual arts usually does not extend beyond the school curriculum. As already mentioned several times, this deficiency should be remedied before commencing studies. Because even after Picasso and the Expressionists there was exciting art, but it is not always included in the curriculum.

Critical ability

The first semester is not only suitable for a well-founded (self-) assessment of the students, but also for checking the personal basic attitude towards the course: Do you prefer to be self-taught or a student? Here, too, the universities differ significantly. In Weimar, for example, project studies and the associated constructive criticism are in the foreground. In open discussions in front of all project participants several times during the semester, first the ideas, then the implementation of these and ultimately the quality of the finished work are discussed. You learn that there are objective errors and objectively bad artistic work and that subjective feelings must take a back seat and cannot be used as a justification. Many autodidacts find it difficult to suddenly find themselves exposed to criticism and sometimes tiresome justification after years of and perhaps also successful independent work.


The jump from an hour-based school curriculum to a free course of study is also very difficult for many. Even more than other courses, the study of fine arts is based to a large extent on personal responsibility. There are hardly any “compulsory courses” and also no externally determined curriculum. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to spend your studies in a coffee house or work in a committed and disciplined manner. There are no real sanctions to fear; except maybe (long-term) tuition fees.

The freedom associated with studying in general and with this course in particular should and should be used.It is not advisable to go to the retreat in order to forget about your own production: It is important to be interested in a variety of ways and also to continue training, to visit exhibitions and art fairs, in the broadest sense that is, to make provisions for starting your later professional life as a self-employed person in galleries, create a portfolio, take part in exhibitions or organize exhibitions, etc.


Each university has workshops in which you can acquire basic knowledge of a wide variety of material processing, such as wood construction, plaster, metal, photography. At some universities, the basic course consists largely of the acquisition of such skills, the mastery of which is not only useful but essential for the implementation of ideas. In other universities, on the other hand, workshop courses are offered as an option. This means that the workshops are made freely available and can be used as required.

If you already know before starting your studies that a focus of your own work will be on photography, for example, you should urgently inquire about the infrastructure of the workshops at the universities. Because the differences in the equipment in terms of material and devices are great. In addition, some universities do not have certain workshops at all.

Stay abroad and change of university

For the study of fine art, it cannot hurt to spend one or more semesters abroad, even if this is not absolutely necessary. Because here, too, applies what also applies within Germany: studying in other study concepts, with other lecturers or in other art disciplines can be useful. As has already been emphasized several times, it is also an advantage here to inquire about structures, teaching methods or artists who are also conducive to one's own development.

Visiting semesters at other (domestic) universities can also be helpful; if a change of university is deemed necessary, these are highly recommended as an orientation aid. But also as a trial course, in the broadest sense, or to get to know the way a class works better, it is a worthwhile offer.

As for the change of university, this is not a rare case, because even the most diligent research remains a dry run. So it can happen in the course of your studies that you have to realize that you may have chosen the wrong university. It is not uncommon, in fact even advisable, to then change universities. Most of the time, all you need is a new interview or a folder - that is, you are spared the complete renewal of the admission procedure. However, if the structures of the universities are too different, you may be downgraded by one or two semesters when you change universities.

5. (Professional) opportunities and opportunities: There are more producers than buyers

Did you Art for teaching studied, is satisfied with the work at the school and also gets a job - great, then you don't have to read any further here. At some universities (e.g. Uni Weimar) this path is also available as a dual subject in art. This is a teacher training course without a second subject, that is to say, besides a little education, you only study art. In the past few years there was definitely a need for art teachers - mainly because few were trained. You cannot make reliable statements about the need in five years or later (and that is how long it takes to complete your studies and legal clerkship), but a certain need should still be present.

But what else do you do with studying art? After successfully completing your degree, it is important to get up to speed Grants or. Tenders to apply for a gallery to search or to found a producer gallery, somehow to bring you into conversation and thus to the market. Anyone who is too shy here and hopes for the miracle of discovery has more or less already wasted their chances. It is not uncommon for art students to fail in the first few months after graduating from these hurdles. But your studies don't have to be lost immediately.

Alternatives to working as a freelance artist

First, there's a lot more interesting and helpful Postgraduate courseswhich, although more professionally oriented, are therefore not far removed from art studies or even alien to their species. On the one hand, you can opt for a career as an art teacher (see also our study guide studying teaching).

On the other hand, you can also study cultural management or complete the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) - e.g. on the subject of art in public spaces (Weimar). The possibilities for artistic further education after graduation are extremely varied. However, in view of the lucrative offers, you should not forget that your financial reserves are considerably exhausted after at least four to five years of study. And a postgraduate course alone does not guarantee successful employment.

Second, of course, there is also one for the artist scientific career open. Once you have proven your scientific ability, it can potentially start. Unfortunately, it is usually not that easy to provide this evidence: After all, you don't have a degree in art history or philosophy, even if you dealt extensively with art theoretically during your studies.

In order to make it easier for artists to embark on a scientific career, the PhD model was introduced for fine arts. Like the diploma thesis, this model aims at a practical artistic work as well as a theoretical work. But in this case the theoretical work is not just an accessory but equally weighted. However, if you no longer want to be practically artistically active, but want to concentrate completely on theory, you should either change the subject in good time or optionally study philosophy or art history (verifiable) to enable you to get started.

Nevertheless: Anyone who successfully completed their studies in fine art or simply studied with enthusiasm was certainly rewarded.

6. What does studying cost?

Total cost of living

During an art degree you need a financial basis for accommodation at the place of study, for food, clothing, travel expenses, telephone & internet as well as books & workbooks. Depending on the location and your own thrift, the monthly expenses between € 630 and over € 1,500. On average, students now spend over € 850 a month.

Munich is the front runner in terms of rents and the cost of living, but Frankfurt / Main, Hamburg, Cologne and increasingly Berlin are also well above average. It is cheaper to live in smaller cities away from the metropolises, especially in the new federal states.

Main cost: rent

The Rent for a room in a flat share, depending on the city 269 ​​euros and 585 euros (2018 values ​​plus five percent). Since the 2019/20 winter semester, thanks to the 26th BAföG Amendment Act, the rental fee has been at least € 325. Despite the increase, this amount is not enough in many cities to cover the costs of a room in a shared apartment or even an apartment.

Costs depending on location and personal situation

There is another half-yearly for the course Semester fee to pay. This enables cheaper cafeteria prices, for example. In some study cities, a semester ticket for local public transport is included, which increases the semester fee, but is significantly cheaper than other season tickets for the respective transport association. There are also student bicycle workshops at some of the larger universities.

Health insurance costs must be taken into account if family insurance through the parents is no longer possible.

When studying art, you still have to pay for material that should be above average as in the article mentioned below. As a rule, there is the option of receiving some basic materials free of charge, or material cost subsidies are available upon request. Depending on your own specific consumption and possibilities at the university, this may sometimes remain within limits, but it can also be that the costs are higher. If you want to inquire about this in advance, you should ask students at the university - unfortunately, the fluctuation range is very high.

Do I have to pay tuition fees to study art?

Practically all bachelor's and consecutive masters can take part state universities without tuition fees to be started. Consecutive Master’s degrees follow a bachelor’s degree in the same subject (or at least a similar one) and do not require any professional experience. In some federal states, however, a long course or a second course is subject to a fee.

At private universities become tuition fee raised. The amount varies depending on the degree program and university.

7. How can I finance my art studies?

Parents' maintenance

A job of yours parents - and that is even explicitly regulated in the German Civil Code (BGB § 1610) - it is to you one adequate professional training to enable. This also includes you during your studies financially or with board and lodging to help out. The decision as to whether it should be a degree and which subject area is primarily up to you, if your school leaving certificate enables you to take this path. The state supports your parents with child benefit, among other things, which in exceptional cases can also be paid out directly to you.

If your parents have little income or are no longer obliged to support them, BAföG comes into play.

BAföG benefits: it pays to apply

BAföG for students should step in when your parents - from the point of view of the law - have too little incomein order to provide sufficient support for a course of study. If you are under 30 years of age and have not started any vocational training, BAföG is usually safe for your studies - otherwise check your BAföG entitlement. With our BAföG calculator you can calculate the amount of your BAföG.

Student BAföG is a social benefit, of which a maximum of 50 percent must be paid back. The BAföG repayment is limited to € 10,010, starts only years later and only if enough is earned. If you've been at work for a long time, you might Parent-independent BAföG give for you.

Scholarships for studying art

Scholarships are available to a much smaller group than BAföG. Greatest advantage of a scholarship: The received Funding is given. Often there is also one ideal support. In order to apply for a scholarship, a letter of motivation, curriculum vitae, recommendations and certificates are usually required. You can only be suggested for a few scholarships.

The major student funding agencies award scholarships according to BAföG rules (i.e. depending on the parents' income). In addition, there are 300 euros “book money” per month for everyone. The application process usually begins six months in advance.

In addition to the large student funding agencies, there are still many other foundationswho each award a few (or really only individual) scholarships. Such small foundations are often very persistent special funding purposes, so that not always just performance Is a preferred feature.

For Stays abroad during your studies there can be funding in the form of ERASMUS grants or through the DAAD.

Jobs as a student trainee / mini job / self-employed

Most students work at least part of the time during their studies, often as Mini jobbers or as Working student. Working hours are allowed during the lecture period 20 hours per week do not exceed.

BAföG will be offset if your average earnings are over 450 euros in the month. In contrast to tax, the decisive factor is not the calendar year, but the period in which the BAföG is granted.

Special features apply if you are self-employed as a student.

State education loan and other options

There is the for students in higher semesters or in the Master’s program state education loan with low interest rates and a payout of up to 300 euros / month for at most two years.

A student loan (or an education fund), on the other hand, should only be considered as a last resort if the cheaper options are insufficient or if, for example, at the end of your studies you should be able to concentrate on studying without a job.

If you have already reached the last semesters of your studies, can possibly - especially in social emergencies - also a Graduation loan or bridging loans are possible. Do not be afraid to inquire and - if possible for you - to take advantage of one. The conditions are significantly better than for educational loans or even student loans!

We have collected all the relevant sources of funding for your studies: BAföG, educational loans, jobs, child benefits, scholarships, student loans, parental support and much more

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