A colleague suggested that to advance my career, I should consider going back to school for an MFA degree. My full time job would make it hard to go for an MFA at the school I’d like to attend, but my big picture goals include being internationally known and exhibited, and lecturing about my work. Should I invest time and money in an MFA?
– Video Artist, Brooklyn, NY
I get asked this question so often that I actually have a pre-written response that I cut and paste as my email reply.
I’ll be honest with you.
I hate the idea of artists going into debt to get an MFA. Inevitably, the debt forces them to get one or more “day jobs” to cover their student loans and pay their bills. They end up never making art. Unless you have a clear solid plan for how you will pay for a home, studio, health care, AND pay your students loans after you graduate, you could find yourself in a desperate situation.
I speak from experience here. By the time I finished grad school, I had amassed $60,000 worth of student loan debt. Even worse, I had no concrete plan for how to get out from under that debt while still making art. In retrospect, I understand this was a very, very stupid move on my part.I had to work 3 jobs to pay off my debts. Ultimately, it was my health and my art career that suffered. Ironic, no?
If you really feel an MFA would help you improve your craft, I say go for it! But also understand that simply having the degree isn’t a short cut to more credibility, legitimacy, or opportunity.
A very good article on this exact subject: MFA: Is It Necessary? The Debate
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Subject Line: Fresh Rx