The BFA Degree Difference

by Sessions Staff | February 22, 2024
In 2024, in the era of microlearning, nano-courses, stackable credentials, and bootcamps, it can be tempting for young people to question the value of earning a degree. And yet, research in education and in the industry continues to show the benefits of garnering this time-tested credential.

In this interview, we spoke with Dr. Meryl Epstein, the main architect of the Sessions College BFA program, about the enduring value of earning a degree, and about her experiences working with students in the Sessions BFA program.

Q: What does earning a degree communicate to employers hiring for creative positions?

It’s exciting to live in time with such a proliferation of different types of programs and ways to learn. At the same time, employers have high demands of job applicants today. As our Advisory Board members consistently remind us, employers are looking for candidates who are not only talented and technically adept, but also adaptable, effective communicators, team players, and critical thinkers.

Where can students develop these multi-dimensional skills? Whether evaluating a candidate in an interview or by their resume, employers often use a degree as evidence of a foundation for success. Students who earn a Bachelor’s degree demonstrate their ability to stick with something that requires a multi-year commitment and perseverance.

That is why many employers are often more likely to interview candidates with Bachelor degree level education.

BFA student work: Samantha Nelson and Eric Azure

Q: Does earning a degree still bring financial and career rewards in the long term?

School career counselors have long argued that earning a degree pays off later in life, and the data still supports that argument.

Based on research, from a financial perspective individuals who have a bachelor’s degree can earn more money during their professional career than peers who have not earned a degree or never attended college. According to Ma & Pender (2023), in 2021, the median earnings for individuals 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree working full time earned $29,000 (65%) more than high school graduates.

There is also a relationship between education level and unemployment rates. In 2021, the unemployment rate for individuals age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree experienced half the unemployment rate of high school graduates. For more details regarding this research, check out the College Board Education Pays 2023 report.

Q: Why should a student choose to pursue a BFA degree at Sessions College?

The Sessions College team focuses on inspiring and preparing students for their future by providing opportunities to develop and enhance their technical and artistic skills as well as a professional mindset in alignment with their creative and personal goals. In a nutshell, we provide a myriad of hands-on experiences for students to gather and “pack” skills in preparation for their professional and creative journey!

Each student has different goals and passions. With that in mind, Sessions College provides multiple levels of creative education for students to choose from including self-paced certificate programs as well as online credit-bearing programs that can be funded by financial aid.

The BFA is the highest level of degree level offered by Sessions College including programs in Graphic Design, Illustration, or Digital Photography. These programs are built upon the foundation established during the first two years and provide students the opportunity to “dig deeper” into their creative industry, enhance their entrepreneurial and business skills, advance their ability to effectively work with future clients and employers, and prepare a compelling as well as relevant portfolio to WOW their intended audience.

BFA student work: Erika McNamara and Jaclyn Marr

Q: What are some things that make the Sessions BFA different?

Most Bachelor’s programs take four years to complete. The Sessions program is no less rigorous, but a full-time student can complete our BFA program in less than four years (10 semesters, three semesters per year). Students who transfer credits from previous college courses could complete the program even sooner.

The classes are designed to inspire creatives. We collaborate with industry professionals (our instructors, course developers, and advisory board) to develop relevant creative education to help prepare students achieve their professional and artistic goals ever-evolving industries.  Even our general education courses are geared toward professional creatives.

Throughout upper level courses, students are able to customize the focus of their work in alignment with their creative and professional goals. Special Topics courses provide students with the opportunity to develop projects that they are passionate about and have always wanted to pursue. During the Internship and Entrepreneurship course, students advance their professional industry experience and entrepreneurial mindset.

Q: As faculty member, how would you describe the experience of working with students?

We strive to create a supportive and collaborative learning environment where students can receive the feedback they need. Even though students work at their own pace and per their schedule, in each course students consistently engage with their peers and instructors through lively class discussions. During upper level BFA courses, students have the opportunity to meet with their instructors and peers to discuss and present their work (via video conferences).

This level of engagement and exchange of ideas helps integrate students into our creative community, enriching their educational experience, helping them build their professional network and visual voice.  At the conclusion of the BFA programs, each student gathers and finalizes their creative work into a professional portfolio ready to impress future employers and/or clients and demonstrate their artistic, technical, and professional expertise. BFA graduates participate in an online Portfolio Show featured on the Sessions College website and the popular creative showcase website Behance.

Throughout the BFA program, instructors inspire students to develop and advance their creative voice. We encourage students to follow their passion, advance their technical expertise, and consider how to package their skills to achieve their professional goals in their creative field. It is so rewarding and a privilege to be a part of Sessions College students’ academic and artistic explorations as they exceed their own expectations and prepare to “pack” for their professional and creative careers!!!

To learn about degree programs at Sessions College, visit our Bachelors Degree or Associate Degree areas and visit Degree Program Admissions. You can read other interviews with Dr. Meryl P. Epstein at Perspectives on the BFA: How the Program Was Designed and Making Art, Living Creatively, and Sharing Lessons Learned.

Sessions Staff is a restless soul who loves to share Campus News stories with current and prospective students.