Dear Estelle. Is there a job market for graduates of fine arts, writing, and performance majors? Many high school graduates are interested in creative careers focused on theater, music, or the fine arts such as painting or ceramics. Having pursued these passions in high school, they plan to continue them in college. As parents, we’re concerned about their future financial security. Can you tell me whether we should underwrite our daughter’s education in a field where her chances for making a living are questionable?
JJG, parent, Arapahoe High School.
There are no guarantees in any field. However, your question is not unusual. Frequently I’m asked whether there are career opportunities for students who’ve devoted their educations to the arts. For some, it started in middle school when an English teacher suggested journalism for a young writer; A student has performed in every high school play and attends theater camps in the summer; Fine art students attend summer workshops and paint or learn photography under the supervision of established artists.
Without a doubt, young students feel passionate about the arts just as athletes dedicate themselves to their sports. Shouldn’t these young artists have an opportunity to pursue a livelihood in their chosen fields? For those interested in pursuing an arts, writing, or performance major as a career, It is important to seek objective opinions of their abilities in the field. Students should ask teachers and outside experts for a private evaluation of their talent.
Visual arts students can receive portfolio evaluations and college information at the National Portfolio Days** which are sponsored by art schools and art departments from various colleges and universities. For aspiring artists, this provides a perfect opportunity to check out one’s talents with professionals.
Visiting colleges prior to attending is important for all students and aspiring artists and performers should also consider:
- Location. Is there access to professional venues such as museums, galleries, theaters, and concerts? Will there be an opportunity to exhibit your work or perform, and have active internships in your field?
- Facilities. Look for a college’s studio or practice space, performance or exhibit venues on campus, darkroom facilities (for photographers), computer resources, and other resources specific to your field of study.
- Career Opportunities for graduates. Ask the colleges what their alums are doing. How is their program perceived by professionals in their field?
- Balance of Academics and Creativity. How much emphasis does the college put on each factor when evaluating your credentials? What type of portfolio or audition is required?
Surely, for some, there are years of struggle, but pursuing any degree takes a certain amount of work and persistence to land a good job. Instant success rarely happens in any field. A recent newsletter from the Maryland Institute College of Art listed numerous fields where artists have found success. An important aspect of a degree from this college and many other universities are the number of available internships which frequently precede job offers. Here is an alphabet list of many fields where their students have found successful careers:
Animators, Architectural Photographers, Art Critics, Art Directors. Art Teachers, Biomedical Illustrators, Book Designers, Cartoonist, Ceramists, Children’s Book Illustrators, College Professors, Computer Game Artists, Conservationists, Costume Designers,Curators, Exhibiting Artists, Fashion Designers, Film and Video Producers, Gallery Owners, Intellectual Property Lawyers, Jewelry Designers, Master Printers, Multimedia Designers, Photo Editors, Photojournalists, Portrait Artists, Publishers, Set Designers, Sculptors for Public Places, Studio Artists, Textile Designers for Couture Fashions, Video Artists, Web masters.
Within the burgeoning field of technology, numerous opportunities exist for those with creative attributes to be a part of it. Interestingly, the STEM programs that have become so popular around the country are now adding an “A” to become STEAM to be inclusive of the opportunities available for those with creative backgrounds.
I suggest to my clients interested in pursuing creative majors in college that they attend schools that provide internships for exploring career opportunities. It’s absolutely necessary that they ask questions prior to enrolling which provide answers about job opportunities when they graduate.