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A Fine-Arts Degree May Be a Better Choice Than You Think


For every fine arts major who goes into his chosen field of study with his head held high, there’s another who cringes as he registers for classes, following his heart but fearing a future of unemployment. Well, fear not, our artistic friends: your employment opportunities might be better than you’d expect.


(Photo Credit: Safdave/Flickr)

“Artists can have good careers, earning a middle-class income,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “And, just as important and maybe more, artists tend to be happy with their choices and lives.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

A 2011 report from the center found that students who graduated with bachelors of fine arts degrees had an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent for the first two years out of college and 4.5 percent for those who’ve been in the workforce for longer than two years. Their median salary was $42,000 a year.

Earnings and employment rates improve if students go on to graduate work, according to WSJ. (Although it’s fair to ask if a boost from a median income of $42,000 to $50,000 is worth accruing student loan debt.)

Perhaps most importantly, artists are happy. Ninety percent of arts grads say that their overall experience at their school was a positive one, according to a 2010 survey of graduates by The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. Two-thirds of those surveyed said that their first job was “a close match for the kind of work that they wanted.”

“Arts graduates are resilient and resourceful,” says Steven J. Tepper, associate director Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, to the Wall Street Journal. Tepper says that although 60 percent of grads work more than one job, “they are happy with what they put together.”

Tell Us What You Think

If you had to do it all over again, would you pick a different major? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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