Get to know the higher education system
The entrance barriers are high, but German training in the arts is recognized worldwide. Your artistic talent and motivation are the factors determining whether you will be accepted at one of the country’s arts or music higher education institutions. Studying music in Germany is especially popular around the world. About a quarter of the students at the 24 state music colleges come from abroad.
Developing a unique artistic style is the goal pursued by everyone who decides to study the arts or music. That’s why visual artists and designers, in particular, enjoy a great deal of freedom in organizing their studies.
Some higher education institutions in Germany offer a wide spectrum of fundamental art courses. At the beginning of your studies, you can freely explore your creativity without having to decide on a particular major. Others offer specialised courses that focus on painting, photography or graphics. In addition to areas of study that focus on producing art, there are also courses that deal with art, music, theatre or film on a scientific or educational level.
While most music colleges in Germany have adapted their course work to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, you often graduate with what’s called a Diplom at art academies and art colleges. There is no numerus clausus as in other disciplines, but admission criteria are tough. Aptitude tests are administered to determine whether your artistic talent will benefit from studies. In the fine arts you submit a portfolio with your own artistic work, and at the music conservatoires you usually demonstrate your talent through written tests and an audition.
Studying at one of Germany’s 24 state-recognized academies and universities of fine arts combines practice and theory. Artistic techniques are taught, for example in visual, plastic or digital design, but background knowledge is also provided in academic subjects such as art history or media studies. Free artistic development has a high priority at German art schools. You’ll be given a lot of freedom to develop your own ideas and turn them into art. Because art students are largely independent in what they work on and how they plan, success requires a lot of initiative and discipline.
In 2015, some 17,000 students graduated from an art college or art academy in Germany. That is more than ever before. Half of these people are self-employed and seek commissions for their work. Others work for galleries and art associations. With appropriate additional qualifications, still others go in to museum education or work for graphic design companies.
Interesting professional fields are developing for art graduates in the fairs and exhibition sector. With digital media and growing opportunities for the art business, new, interdisciplinary courses such as „Curatorial Studies“ have emerged. They are aimed specifically at working as a curator or collector, and also prepare students for careers in exhibition design. In a globally networked art world, another trend is an emphasis on intercultural skills.
The path to an artistic career is often not easy. Still, more and more people in Germany are choosing to study music.
Courses in music education are particularly popular, followed by the subjects of instrumental and orchestral music. During your training, you will usually specialize in a certain instrument, the voice, or in composition or conducting. In the master’s degree courses, you can be even more specialized, in the direction of chamber music, piano accompaniment, and old or new music, for example.
A traditional career as an orchestral musician or soloist, in a choir, or at a music theatre in Germany is becoming increasingly rare. This is mainly due to a dwindling number of full-time jobs. It is much easier to establish yourself on the open market if you have developed an original or unusual style as a soloist or with other musicians.
Jobs in the areas of concert education, music education and music management are promising. New fields of work with interesting perspectives are emerging in elementary music education. These include early childhood support and cultural programmes for children from families with a migration background.
Many new courses of study are developing, often as master’s degrees, to reflect these trends. The talents of musicians and musicologists are also increasingly valued in adult education. Many find jobs, for example, in the development of cultural programs for senior citizens.