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FAQ: BFA & MFA Programs

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Will an MAT degree qualify me to teach studio art at the college level?

I attended the Maryland Institute College of Art for the first year of my undergrad. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue there, due to financial hardship, and ended up graduating from my local state university with a BA in Studio Art: Drawing.
I took a year off to save money and prepare my portfolio, and applied to both RISD and MICA’s MAT programs for Fall 2017. I was admitted to both (MICA awarded me their highest scholarship) and initially thought that receiving my MAT and starting out in a high school teaching environment would allow for a few years of experience before possibly later pursuing a teaching position at the college level.

I’m beginning to realize more and more that I feel most passionate about maintaining a balance between teaching at an advanced level and developing a professional studio practice, which seems to make college-level teaching the best fit. This leads me to believe that I’ve had the wrong plan all along and should truly be pursuing an MFA (especially after reading some of your insightful blog posts about the bias present in the competitive college teaching climate).

Is there any opportunity, that you can speak of, to utilize an MAT degree at the college level? Or am I better off waiting/preparing another year in pursuit of an MFA program? If it is more appropriately the latter, could you recommend any prestigious MFA programs that offer drawing as a concentration? Thank you so much for your time and I truly appreciate your input.

Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu
Art Prof & Partner

Unfortunately, an MAT will not qualify you to teach studio art at the college level. Today, pretty much across the board, all colleges are requiring candidates to have an MFA degree. I think if you are totally committed to teaching at the college level, your best bet is to do whatever is necessary to enroll at an MFA program.

The only MFA program I know of that offers a concentration in drawing is the New York Academy of Art, and their curriculum is extremely specific and geared towards students who want to work with the human figure as their primary subject in a representational style. I’m not sure what your drawings are like, that school would only be a good fit if you want to pursue representational figure drawing. It’s possible there are other programs out there that offer drawing, but I’m not aware of them.

Most MFA programs offer concentrations in painting, printmaking, sculpture, new media. I don’t know if you have any experience in printmaking, but that might be a good concentration for you since it’s so closely related to drawing. Keep in mind that your major in an MFA program does not necessarily need to be exactly what you end up doing.

I applied for MFA programs thinking I was going to be a painter; I ended up doing my MFA in sculpture, and now I primarily work in printmaking and drawing! So I think no matter what you choose as a major, there is a way for every experience to be fruitful and applicable to your future work.

Keep in mind that MFA programs are terribly competitive, simply because thousands of people apply every year for very few spots. For many people it can take them several rounds of applying before they’re accepted into the school they want to go to, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in right away. Hope this helps!

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