College graduates who majored in fine arts are not doomed to a life of poverty

by Grace

Most fine-arts college graduates are doing fine.

There’s a widely held conception that people who earn degrees in the fine arts — painting, sculpture, dance, music, theater, among others — are throwing money away on a degree that can reap no long-term benefits. But the fact is that a fine-arts degree is no real hindrance to making a decent living in the real world.

Maybe most won’t be rich, but they can enjoy a middle-class life.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a 2011 study from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in which it found that the median income of recent fine-arts graduates was a respectable $42,000 and that the unemployment rate for those recent graduates was a better than average 7.8%.

A happy middle-class life.

“Artists can have good careers, earning a middle-class income,” says the Center’s director. “And, just as important and maybe more, artists tend to be happy with their choices and lives.”

According to that report, former fine-arts majors are making about the same living as all those people who have a liberal arts degree. In some cases, those with a fine-arts background are actually doing better.

Other college majors may be worse choices.

“They do a little better than psychology majors, since counseling and social work is a very low-wage occupation,” explains the director.

Related:  Art Makes You Smart (New York Times)


3 Comments to “College graduates who majored in fine arts are not doomed to a life of poverty”

  1. I wonder if they have stats on a) how many of those art graduates are working in their field b) how many went back and got a masters in something else. I know a lot of music majors who went for their MS in computer science. I have a friend who was a theater major who is now a paralegal. And so on. Also, many arts majors go for a later education degree and end up with school system, which is actually related to the original field


  2. I was surprised that one survey found: “Almost 83% worked the majority of their time in some arts occupation, such as art teaching or in a nonprofit arts organization.”

    It does seem to me that many of the skills and characteristics demonstrated by fine arts students — poise, stage presence, persistence, etc. — can pay off in the workplace.


  3. I think going into K12 teaching is a classic career track. That is what my mother did with her MFA. Also lots of musicians take private students.


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