Choosing a Career in Art and Design


We’ve all heard it: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Indeed, choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. But let’s be honest. When it comes down to it, people tend to choose a career based on pay, not because they’re passionate about the work.

In recent years, however, more people are turning to art and design careers. Service members and veterans are discovering that they can follow their dreams by pursuing degrees in art and design — and still get paid. Transitioning from military service to higher education doesn’t mean your military experience is a thing of the past. A 21st century art and design education provides military students with the tools and entrepreneurial knowledge needed to establish a successful career in the arts.

A thriving, well-paid career in creative fields such as visual arts, game development, web design, or communications may seem difficult to achieve, but for motivated individuals, all it often takes is a school that can nourish that passion and equip students with the necessary skills. Elisa Stephens, President of the Academy of Art University, says, “What we believe in is that anyone with commitment and passion can learn the skills necessary and that the creative class that we are training here are the problem-solvers and visionaries of tomorrow.”

So if you have the passion and commitment, then Academy of Art University is a good fit for you. To us, the qualities required in the military such as determination, dedication, and drive are precisely what our students need to thrive and succeed.

Academy of Art University isn’t your typical art and design school. Over the past 90 years, the Academy has evolved to meet the needs of a wide array of students in various industries and professions. With over 30 creative programs, the Academy has been very successful in building the artists of tomorrow — artists who have gone on to create Super Bowl commercials, win Emmy and Oscar® awards, engineer some of the hottest videos games, produce blockbuster movies, establish their own companies and more.

As one of the top art schools in the country, the Academy has created an environment that supports learning and builds successful careers by excelling in three key areas:

  • Equipment and Facilities: We offer some of the best and newest technologies, such as soundstages, voiceover studios, high-end PC and MAC workstations, robotics labs, metal shops, fully-equipped woodshops, industry-level anchor desks and teleprompters, the latest cameras (robotic, 4K, and 360-degree immersive), and the largest green screen in Northern California — unmatched when compared to other schools around the country.
  • Working Instructors: Learn from instructors, job coaches, and mentors armed with years of experience in their respective fields and regarded as some of the best industry professionals.
  • Innovative Curriculum: We are always looking ahead and incorporating new technologies — such as drone flying, virtual reality, and augmented reality — into our degree programs.

The Academy is also the only art and design school in the country with an athletics department in the NCAA Division II. We are extremely proud of our student athletes regularly competing and winning on the national stage. Just recently, Academy junior and 2016 Rio Olympics Olympic Bronze Medalist Mobolade Ajomale won his 6th NCAA Division II National Title.

A Student Journey

“A scout has to do three things: shoot, move, and communicate,” says former US Army recon scout Daryn LaBier. “I feel this is also appropriate as a photographer.” After graduating with an MFA in Photography from the Academy, LaBier found a niche in commissioned work for companies that create apparel for hunters, extreme campers and the military. LaBier urges other vets to explore their artistic side: “Take all the things that made you a soldier, all the skills to be mission-oriented. You can apply those toward a degree in the arts.”

A former botanist, Eden Slezin jumped from one career to the next, touring twice overseas during his six years in the United States Marine Corps as captain and aviation intelligence officer. One day, inspiration struck, and he started a small company making men’s vacation clothing. “Very quickly, I knew this was the path for me,” he says. “Once I found my passion, I set out to master the craft by enrolling in the Fashion Design MFA degree program at Academy of Art University.”

Immersing himself in the craft at the Academy was hard work, but following his passion revealed endless opportunities. Slezin’s skill and dedication caught the attention of department faculty, earning him and eight fellow student designers the chance to debut their collections at New York Fashion Week. In September 2017, he presented his first clothing line on the highly coveted runway.

Veteran Support

For service members and veterans, the Academy of Art offers a unique blend of benefits and resources:

All G.I. Bill® benefits are welcome at the Academy. Each benefit depends on the student’s VA-determined status, but according to Kenneth Ortiz, associate director of financial aid, a majority of current students utilize Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Additionally, the Academy is enrolled in other aid programs like the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps with any veteran expenses exceeding the VA’s GI Bill annual cap. “The school will cover 50 percent of [the eligible student’s] tuition and fees to match what the VA will pay,” says Ortiz. “Not all schools are Yellow Ribbon schools and if they are, sometimes they’ll have a program limit. At the Academy, any veteran who the VA determines is eligible for the Yellow Ribbon program will receive the Yellow Program match.”

Veteran Resources

The Academy’s 79 New Montgomery campus houses the Veterans Resource Center (VRC). Here, veterans can enroll for their U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) identification card and healthcare, as well as enjoy amenities like the lounge area and multiple workstations. For Marine combat veteran, School of Illustration student, and Veterans Club President Austin Coulter, “having a [veterans] resource center like this helps us better connect with the services we need.”

With the demand for and value of creativity rising, the skills that veterans and service members learn at an art and design school like the Academy can make a career in the creative arts possible. Whether you are looking to study on-site or online, as long as you have the passion and commitment, then the Academy has the tools to help you create your own legacy.


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