Studying art, music or design in Germany: Turn your talent into your career
You have an artistic talent and you'd like to make this into your career? In that case, studying an art, music or design-related subject could be the right thing for you. And Germany wouldn't be a bad choice of place to do so.
Even though Germany is better known as a country of exact sciences and engineering, it is also possible to study arts subjects here very successfully. In many cases it is even possible to obtain support in the form of a scholarship, not only for Germans but also international students.
Have you discovered a special artistic talent in yourself, and do you feel the need to develop this through your studies and make a career out of it? In that case, Germany has a lot to offer as an academic location. The German Higher Education Compass is a website that provides information about German universities and their degree courses. Under its “Art, music, design” category, the site lists almost 1,600 courses.
Proof of your artistic talent is required
When you have chosen the course you want to study and the place to study it in, you still have a lot of work to do. For arts subjects, the main focus is on the individual’s creative and artistic work. So if you want to pursue a degree in this field, you’ll have to prove in your application that you have a special artistic talent. What exactly you have to do to demosntrate that talent, and what documents you need to submit is usually made clear on the website of the respective university.
The application process could look like this:
- First I have to submit a portfolio of artistic works I have produced.
- If the university likes my portfolio, they invite me to kind of interview.
- Here, too, I have to prove that I have an artistic talent and that I’m a suitable candidate for the degree course.
- If I’m also successful at the second stage, the university will accept me and I can start my studies.
The artistic aptitude test often takes place a year before the course actually begins. Submission of the artistic portfolio is usually also required well in advance of the course. So anyone interested in doing an artistic degree should find out as early as possible about the application requirements and deadlines of the university in question!
How did you decide which subject to study?
You need staying power and good planning
Unlike courses in subjects such as law, economics or engineering, which are generally seen as promising routes to success, for an artistic degree course you need more than just a special talent. If your studies are to pay for themselves later in your professional life, as well as plenty of patience and staying power you’ll also need to do some good long-term planning. That’s because finding a job in art, music or design after your studies in is anything but easy. The German news magazine Spiegel Online also makes this clear in an article from March 2017:
“You don’t just need artistic talent but also organisational talent, especially after graduation.”
Therefore, you should always ask yourself the following questions, both before your course starts and for the whole time you’re studying:
- What exactly do I want to do with my qualifications later? What kind of career will be possible for me with an artistic degree?
- What key qualifications and skills will I acquire from my course, which will be useful for me in my later working life?
- What qualifications should I acquire in addition to my degree – for example through internships, part-time jobs, time spent abroad or targeted further training?
- How can I establish a good network for myself, even while I’m still a student, which could help me later when looking for a job? For example, could I attend particular events or establish and maintain contacts to more senior students?
- Which companies or institutions could I imagine working with later? I could, for instance, write on-spec applications to these companies for a part-time job?
Scholarship support for an arts degree course
Germany not only offers a large number of courses in art, music and design subjects; in certain circumstances you can also get a scholarship to support you with your studies.
To get that kind of support you need a lot of personal initiative. First you need to obtain the information about the different options. On some websites you can find databases with search engines to find appropriate scholarships. We’ve put together a collection for you here:
- DAAD – How do I get a scholarship?
- Initiative für transparente Studienförderung (“Transparent Student Support Initiative”, in German only)
- myStipendium – Europe’s biggest scholarship platform (in German only)
- StipendiumPlus – thirteen organizations for the promotion of young talent
- Stipendienlotse – Scholarship database of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (in German only)
Besides this, for a foreign student it is well worth asking the university in question. They usually have a contact person for “international students” or an “international office”. The staff working there will give you a good overview and advice on how to find the right scholarship. Many universities’ website also highlight opportunities to get support.
Even if you don't assess your chances of getting a scholarship for a degree in an artistic field very highly, it is still worth a try. According to the figures of the Initiative für transparente Studienförderung (Transparent Student Support Initiative), there are more than 2,000 foundations in Germany which issue scholarships for schoolchildren, undergraduates and Ph.D. students. This means the chances of getting a scholarship are not as slim as many people assume.
Being stubborn pays
And even if you are rejected at first, by all means try again! In this situation, it's often true that patience and stubbornness pay off in the end. After all, to pursue an artistic degree subject you’re going to need staying power and absolute determination, in any case, to cope with all the challenges.
Because one thing is for sure: although studying an art, music or design degree does enable you to develop and unfold your individual skills and talents, it is much more difficult to find a decently paid position after the end of your studies compared, for example, with a masters degree in economics.
Conclusion: You can become not only successful but probably even quite happy by studying an arts subject, provided you
- factor in the difficult job search from the outset,
- regularly question your own commitment,
- start to prepare yourself properly for the world of work, even while still studying, and
- acquire additional qualifications in different areas.
An artistic degree: Is contentment better than a career?