Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between MFA and MA

graduate-hatMFA vs MA

If you are keen to take up an art related or design related master course in the United States, then it is ideal to go through information related to Art school and the Art department. There are considerable differences between a Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.

Art school aims at helping the students mold and develop to become a professional artist. Thus, all kinds of resources, including faculty, infrastructure and courses, are designed to aid the professional arts students.

It takes just eighteen months to complete the Master of Arts program. It helps the students to pursue an advanced professional degree program to equip the students to handle the market competitions. MA degrees help by focusing on one medium of art, and hones their artistic skills through academia. MA students can often take up a MFA degree to advance their education.

The MFA degree is classified as the most advanced qualification one can obtain. This is in spite of the fact that students can receive an art history PhD if desired. It takes about two to three years to finish the course and receive the certificate, and will help the students gain proficiency, and master the art.

Art programs designed by the art department enable students to explore various other subjects, like literature, language, science and business. They also offer opportunities for exposure to social initiatives.

When a student is pursuing his masters, he is forced to take up a particular area of art as his focus. Art school’s art department in varsity provide programs with strong academic value. When deciding between art school and art department, consider the opportunities where you can excel in your work area, and take up various kinds of training to gain professional exposure.

To obtain admission into art school and art department, you need have a work portfolio, past art course transcript, and a recommendation from one of the art instructors, along with your General Record Exam score if required. If the student is not from a native English speaking country, then he or she is required to submit the ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language’ score to get admission. Admission is finalized after evaluation of the various papers submitted by the student.

For an MFA admission, the student must have completed his or her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. Bachelors of Art degree students are not eliminated from the applicant list, as they need to complete the required courses, or Master of Arts degree, before getting admission for the MFA course.


· MA degrees can be completed in eighteen months, while MFA degrees take two to three years to complete.

· Art school aims at helping the students mold and develop to become a professional artist. While MFA degrees help the students gain proficiency, and master the art.

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  1. This comparison above between MFA’s and MA’s is actually incomplete and incorrect. In particular the information about an MA Fine Art. The duration of an MA Fine Art degree depends upon the school and the country in which it is being completed. In the UK there are a wide variety of MS programs ranging from 11 month studio focused courses to up to 3 years full time (at the Royal College of Arts). Some MA’s are research focused and some have a balance between studio and academic research. The best way to determine the type and value of an MA Fine Art is to compare information about the degrees on the websites of prestigious art schools and universities such as Goldsmith’s or the Royal College of Arts.

    The MFA is a terminal degree because it is a technical degree and not an academic degree (there is no PhD level above the MFA). The MA can lead to a PhD because it is positioned as a “research degree” (and universities are research institutions). Often in the UK, before going onto a PhD a studio based MA must then be complimented with a MPhil in research to provide the proper academic qualifications for progressing.

    Some MFA and MA programs exist that do not require a specialization, and some programs allow an interdisciplinary focus. However and as above, many require application to a certain discipline such as “painting” or “printmaking”.

    Also, there are various programs around the world that do not require a BFA for entry to an MFA or an MA Fine Art. Evidence of an active art practice and and exhibition history plus an assessment of the quality of the work is given prior learning consideration.

    Please do your own research carefully before choosing a degree path that is best for you.

    • I am currently looking forward to go to United Kingdom, my course of interest is Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Fiction). Though in United Kingdom they have a course equivalent to MFA, called as MLitt. After which I can also do my PhD in Creative Writing. Do you have any idea about it?

  2. While the UK educational model does indeed offer MFA’s and MA Fine Art Degrees, there is little qualitative differentiation between the two in the context of Fine Art / Studio Art. This is counter to the US system where MA’s are almost always seen as subservient to the terminal MFA.

    There is also confusion and ambiguity over equivalency for UK MA’s in the US. I gained an MA in Fine Art (MAFA) in London ten years ago from a leading, prestigious art school. At that time there was little if no differentiation between an MA in Fine Art and a Master of Fine Art, they were considered the same. Both Goldsmiths and St Martins offered a one year MA in Fine Art whilst the RCA a two year MA in Painting, Photography, Sculpture or Printmaking. The Royal Academy of Arts however offers a Post Graduate Diploma in Fine Art and is a three year course.

    In the UK the hierarchy between MA, MFA, PGdip is nonsensical. What matters most is the institution you attended and the reputation of the course. Better to have Goldsmiths or the RCA on your resume that an MFA from Manchester. If only US institutions would be aware and mindful of this when assessing UK candidates for teaching posts.

    One last thing. The MFA is no longer the terminal degree in studio art, it the the practice-based Ph.D. embraced across the UK, most of Europe and Australasia. The US will inevitably catch up at some point, but it could be a number of years.

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