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BFA vs. MFA: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on March 3, 2024
BFA stands for Bachelor of Fine Arts, an undergraduate degree; MFA is Master of Fine Arts, a graduate degree.

Key Differences

The BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and MFA (Master of Fine Arts) are distinguished by their levels of study. A BFA is an undergraduate degree focusing on comprehensive arts education, whereas an MFA is a graduate degree that offers advanced study and specialization in the arts. Both degrees signify a dedication to the arts, but the MFA carries a deeper immersion and expertise.
The BFA provides a solid foundation in various artistic disciplines, the MFA allows for a more focused approach, often culminating in a thesis or final project. This distinction highlights the BFA's role in establishing a broad skill set and the MFA's aim at refining and expanding upon that foundation. The BFA prepares students for a range of artistic careers, whereas the MFA often leads to professional opportunities in academia and advanced creative positions.
Admission requirements also differ; BFA candidates typically need a high school diploma and a portfolio, while MFA applicants must have a BFA or equivalent, a strong portfolio, and sometimes professional experience. This reflects the MFA's expectation of a higher level of maturity and commitment to the field. The curriculum of a BFA program covers fundamental artistic techniques and theory, whereas an MFA curriculum dives deeper into conceptual development and professional practices, preparing students for leadership roles in the arts.
The duration of study is another key difference: a BFA usually takes four years to complete, while an MFA can take two to three years, depending on the program's intensity and the student's pace. This time commitment reflects the depth of exploration and mastery expected at the graduate level. Finally, the career paths for BFA and MFA graduates can vary significantly, with MFA holders often pursuing higher-level positions, such as university faculty roles, that are typically out of reach for those with only a BFA.

Comparison Chart

Degree Level



Broad arts education
Specialization and mastery in the arts


Foundation in various artistic disciplines
Advanced study, often with a thesis project

Career Pathways

Entry to mid-level artistic careers
Advanced creative positions, academia

Admission Criteria

High school diploma, portfolio
BFA or equivalent, portfolio, sometimes professional experience

BFA and MFA Definitions


BFA stands for Bachelor of Fine Arts, an undergraduate degree focusing on visual, performing, or fine arts.
She earned her BFA in Graphic Design from the state university.


MFA degrees often require the completion of a thesis or final project demonstrating mastery in the chosen field.
Her MFA thesis exhibition featured an interactive art installation that garnered critical acclaim.


BFA programs often include a mix of general education and intensive art courses.
Her BFA curriculum balanced art history classes with advanced sculpture workshops.


An MFA program is typically studio-based and includes a significant focus on creative practice.
During his MFA, he directed a short film that won awards at several film festivals.


Graduates with a BFA are prepared for various creative roles in industries like entertainment, design, and education.
After receiving her BFA, she became an art teacher at a local high school.


MFA graduates are qualified for higher-level positions in academia, such as teaching at the university level.
After earning his MFA, he joined the faculty of a prestigious art school.


A BFA can be a stepping stone to further education, such as an MFA.
He decided to pursue an MFA to build on the foundation his BFA provided.


MFA stands for Master of Fine Arts, a graduate degree that offers advanced study in arts disciplines.
She completed her MFA in Creative Writing and published her first novel within a year.


A BFA degree emphasizes practical skills and studio art experience.
During his BFA program, he spent countless hours in the painting studio honing his craft.


The MFA is considered a terminal degree in many arts disciplines, representing the highest level of academic achievement.
With her MFA in hand, she felt prepared to apply for artist residencies and grants.


A master's degree in fine arts


How long does it take to complete an MFA?

An MFA program usually takes two to three years to complete, depending on the institution and student's pace.

What are the admission requirements for an MFA program?

MFA applicants need a BFA or equivalent, a strong portfolio, and sometimes relevant professional experience.

What career opportunities are available for MFA graduates?

MFA holders often seek careers in higher education, advanced artistic positions, and leadership roles within the arts community.

How long does it take to complete a BFA?

A BFA typically requires four years of full-time study.

What are the admission requirements for a BFA program?

BFA programs generally require a high school diploma and a portfolio of work.

Can I pursue an MFA without a BFA?

Yes, if you have an equivalent degree and meet the portfolio and experience requirements.

Can I specialize during my BFA?

Yes, many BFA programs offer concentrations in specific arts disciplines.

What is a BFA?

A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) is an undergraduate degree focusing on visual, performing, or fine arts.

What is an MFA?

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a graduate degree offering advanced specialization in arts disciplines.

What types of specializations are available in MFA programs?

MFA programs offer specializations in areas like creative writing, visual arts, theater, dance, and film.

Are scholarships available for BFA students?

Many institutions offer scholarships specifically for students pursuing a BFA.

Do BFA programs include general education courses?

Yes, BFA students typically complete a mix of general education and focused arts courses.

Are scholarships available for MFA students?

Yes, scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships are commonly available for MFA students.

Can I work professionally while pursuing a BFA?

Many BFA students work part-time or engage in internships related to their field of study.

Is a portfolio important for MFA admission?

A strong portfolio is essential for MFA admission, reflecting an applicant's advanced skills and artistic vision.

What career opportunities are available for BFA graduates?

BFA graduates can pursue careers in design, education, entertainment, and various creative fields.

Do MFA programs require a thesis or final project?

Most MFA programs culminate in a thesis or significant final project demonstrating mastery in the chosen field.

Is an MFA required to teach at the college level?

While not universally required, an MFA is often necessary for teaching positions in arts disciplines at the college or university level.

Can I work professionally while pursuing an MFA?

MFA students often balance their studies with professional opportunities, including teaching assistantships.

Is a portfolio important for BFA admission?

A portfolio is a crucial component of the BFA application process, showcasing an applicant's talent and potential.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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