10 Reasons to Stay on and Do a Master’s Degree in Art


10 Reasons to Stay on and Do a Master’s Degree in Art

If you’re a third-year art student thinking about what to do next after you graduate, there are a number of art and design postgraduate courses to consider.

Staying on at university has a multitude of benefits, and at the University of Bolton, we have a thriving postgraduate community where students and their needs come first. The Bolton School of Arts celebrates over 160 years of visual and performing arts education, making it one of the best places to continue your journey of learning and personal development.

Does a master’s degree in art sound like something that could be right for you? Here are 10 reasons that staying on for postgraduate a course could be the best decision you make for your career!

1)  Focus on developing YOU

One of the main reasons for pursuing a master’s degree, in any subject, is to continue your own growth journey. University provides a framework for learning and a safe place where students can experiment with their art, while also exploring their own personalities and inner passions.

If you’ve enjoyed the self-reflection and self-growth of your undergraduate degree, a master’s gives you more time to explore this further. Perhaps you feel like you’ve just come out of your shell. Or maybe you’ve just started to find your purpose.

Staying on at university allows you to flourish at your own speed, whether that’s deciding on the right direction for your career, or honing the skills you feel you’re best at. Everyone matures at a different pace, and some students find postgraduate study to be the perfect stepping stone before entering the workplace.

Fine Art - gallery/ portfolio image


2) Build your portfolio  

Another reason to study a master’s degree in art is to have more time to build your experience and add to your portfolio. Your portfolio is a demonstration of what you have learned, and how you have learned to apply it. It shows your creativity, your personality, and also your level of commitment.

Furthermore, it tells others how your skills and ideas have developed or changed over a period of time, making it a great way to display your growth to potential employers. With more and more diversity and selection within your collection, you will also have a bigger variety of works to choose from when it comes to tailoring your portfolio for different job applications.

But even more important than all of that, your portfolio is a historical checklist of your own accomplishments. It’s a record for you to look back on. This sort of reflection is incredibly important for creatives, as it gives you the chance to celebrate your own milestones while embedding the value of change and continual improvement.

3) Diversify your skills  

The University of Bolton’s art and design postgraduate courses are designed to help students develop their skills in the direction they want. While many students are able to go into a meaningful line of work with an undergraduate arts degree, others may want to find a different way to apply their creativity.

For instance, our MA Applied and Community Arts degree course can be taken with your chosen specialism, but it also allows you to develop a range of new skills. This course connects the power of arts and culture with creating positive change in communities, such as using art for social regeneration and to improve health and wellbeing.

If you love being creative and excel in the arts, but you’re unsure of how to apply these skills or your undergraduate degree to finding a career path, a master’s could help to give you a bit of direction.

With this particular degree in community arts, you even get the opportunity to earn additional qualifications such as safeguarding, health and safety in the workplace, and first aid. That means you’ll get to build a strong professional profile in preparation for employment.

4) Attract more employers   

A lot of students often wonder whether it’s better to stay in education or to get out there to gain relevant work experience. There’s no right answer, as everyone’s experience is unique, and it’s possible to be hugely successful with just an undergraduate degree or by choosing the postgraduate route.

But one of the benefits of postgraduate study is being able to show a high level of commitment to your craft. Students who stay at university to continue with their education are usually very passionate about their vocation, and they want to access every opportunity to learn more. This is something that employers love, and in some cases, this can be more valuable than work experience.

A second degree could also improve your financial situation, as it could help you advance to a higher-paid position. There’s data to show that postgraduates earn an average of 18% more than first degree holders, so if you want to increase job prospects and earning potential, a master’s degree in art could be worth the investment.

5) Prepare for a role in management 

If you want to turn your creativity into a career in arts management, curation or business, art and design postgraduate courses will help you develop the necessary skills and knowledge.

The University of Bolton’s MA Arts Management course is the perfect programme for those who see themselves working in senior management. A degree like this combines your creative abilities with a set of transferable skills that can open up amazing job prospects, across multiple sectors.

Our course helps students develop essential workplace skills that are required for professional arts managers. These skills include things like project management, leadership and networking, as well as things like time management and general business skills.

6) Network with the creatives of the future

One of the benefits that rarely gets talked about when it comes to postgraduate study is the incredible opportunity to grow your professional network. There’s no better time in your life to start building your little black book of contacts.

Not only are you surrounded by like-minded individuals with the same passion and dedication for the arts, but you’ll be studying among the best in class. Anyone who invests that much in their education is likely destined to go far, so you’ll be surrounded by the top artists and arts people of the future.

Our teaching staff are also actively involved in the industry, and we have great connections to local galleries and art organisations. Can you imagine a better environment for personal and professional development?

7) Improve problem-solving and decision-making 

Further study is a fantastic way to focus on building vital life skills, and not just for the workplace either. During your master’s degree, you will find different ways to apply your creativity.

Through art, you can find ways to problem-solve. You can nurture creative thinking and conceptualisation. And you can develop your confidence while also improving your critical thinking skills, leading to better decision-making in everyday life.

There are many uses for the arts in modern society. From education and community arts services to lucrative events or even in therapy. Art has a place in everything, so it can open many doors in terms of careers. But you don’t have to work in the arts sector to gain value from an art master’s, because all the skills are life-changing and highly transferable.

Creative Arts Class


8) Gain experience before entering the workplace    

If you’re wondering whether education or experience is better when it comes to your CV, remember that an educational setting can also combine practical experience (such as work placements and live projects).

The University of Bolton’s art and design postgraduate courses are designed to act as a platform between education and employment, bringing you one step closer to the professional workplace. We do this by introducing students to elements of industry but in a structured way.

For instance, we work with a range of arts and cultural organisations across Greater Manchester and the North West region on live projects. We also have industry-engaged staff who are experienced in developing and leading arts and cultural projects, so they can bring their own personal experiences into the classroom.

For those doing our MA Arts Management course, we’ll also help you with navigating freelance jobs or entrepreneurship. We can teach you about tax self-assessment, invoicing, intellectual property and risk assessments, and can offer business start-up sessions to prepare you for the real world.

9) Upskill for a growing sector  

According to government data, the creative industries contribute almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour! This research also tells us that the creative industries sector is growing at a rate that’s five times faster than the national economy.

This sector includes advertising and marketing, which have been two of the biggest drivers of growth, and these are both areas in which an art degree can come in handy.

While the pandemic caused a lot of the arts to come to a standstill in 2020, the industry is set to bounce back and continue on its upward trajectory. So there has never been a better time to upskill to gain relevant skills, knowledge and experience. And many of our graduates don’t just find themselves presented with one single career path. An art master’s can lead to so many different careers, including arts administration and fundraising, arts and cultural leadership, education and teaching marketing and public relations, policy management, and more.

10) Prepare for further study or research  

A master’s degree in art is the traditional route for anyone looking to study for a doctorate. Professionally, a doctorate opens doors more doors, particularly in academia and even in the world of business.

Having a PhD makes people pay extra attention to your experience, and can help you access higher-paid roles with more responsibility. From an art practice perspective, it can be highly worthwhile if you don’t mind the extensive learning and training involved.

While it’s possible to get a PhD in art without a master’s degree, having a second degree can enhance your application. By studying a master’s, you will also have better preparation for doctoral study, adding to your academic journey and giving you the tools you need to hit the ground running in any research project.

This is because, at master’s level, you’ll be getting a taste of what it’s like to conduct your own research and work independently. These skills will be vital once you begin your PhD studies, so those coming from a second degree may find it much easier to adapt to a new educational environment.

Of course, there’s no obligation to go on to further study after your master’s degree. But the option is there if that’s what you wish to do so. By studying for a master’s, you can increase your job prospects and earning potential while keeping your options entirely open for the future!

As a leading Greater Manchester university that is dedicated to delivering #UniAsItShouldBe, there’s nowhere better to study your master’s in art. The Bolton School of the Arts offers a highly creative and vibrant range of courses, led by staff who are practising artists, designers, makers, critics, writers and performers.

Plus, our industry-focused art and design postgraduate courses have an excellent staff-to-student ratio, giving you an intimate learning environment where you can get the support and attention you need to reach your potential.

We also have strong external links with local arts venues such as neo: studios, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, Rogue Artists’ Studios and Octagon Theatre Bolton, as well as many Manchester-based galleries and arts organisations. This means you’ll have access to amazing live projects, work experience and networking opportunities.

To find out more about applying in 2022/23, see our course page for details.


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