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What is a BFA?



The BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) is an undergraduate college degree offered in all areas of the fine and applied arts. Since World War II it has become THE standard degree for students seeking a professional education in art and design.

The National Association of School of Art & Design (NASAD, Reston, VA), is the nationally recognized accrediting agency for programs in art and design. It delineates two types of undergraduate degrees: “professional” programs, usually granting the BFA; and “liberal arts” programs, usually granting the BA. These two types of programs differ noticeably in their goals and objectives. In NASAD’s own words “the professional degree focuses on intensive work in the visual arts supported by a program of general studies,” whereas “the liberal arts degree focuses on art and design in the context of a broad program of general studies.”

ALL undergraduate college degrees, the BFA included, must have a general studies (liberal arts) component. The difference between a BFA and a BA is in the ratio between art and design, and general studies. In a BFA approximately two-thirds of the course work is in the “creation and study of the visual arts,” with the remainder in general studies (literature, history, sociology, etc.). In a BA approximately two-thirds of the course work is in general studies, with the remainder in visual arts.

AICAD believes that neither degree, BFA or BA, is inherently “better” than the other. The judgement of which degree is best for a particular student depends almost entirely on the student’s educational goals. However, AICAD does believe that the BFA is the most appropriate degree for serious, motivated students seeking to become professional artists and designers. With its specialized focus, a BFA degree program will tend to attract highly talented students and faculty, and to generate great intensity and commitment among its students and faculty.

Finally, it should be noted that the basic structure of a BFA degree (one-third liberal arts, two-thirds visual arts) DOES NOT change from one type of college to another. The ratio between these two curricular components in a BFA is the same anywhere; a large university, a comprehensive four-year college, or a professional art college like those in AICAD. Contrary to some impressions, one does not get more liberal arts if the BFA is taken at a university versus an art college. One gets more liberal arts by taking a BA degree rather than a BFA. It is the type of degree, not the type of college, that determines the amount of liberal arts.

All AICAD members offer the BFA degree (the Boston Museum School’s degree is offered through Tufts University). In addition, a number of members offer professionally oriented BS degrees in certain design subjects.

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