An arts degree is sort of like a bad word. Parents don’t want to hear it, employers are rumored to shirk from it, and the general public uses an art degree as a symbol of money wasted. Many high school students are told to choose any degree path besides the arts, and some do. But, the truth is, a world without the arts is not a world many of us would like to live in. Without music, movies, photos, and all the other cultural contributions made by artists, our lives would be very dull, indeed.
So, simply based on merit, there is something to be said for becoming an artist. And beyond that, there are many ways in which an art degree can prepare students to succeed in almost any industry with flair and creativity straight out of college. Here are just a few reasons why high school students should not hesitate to consider pursuing the arts in college:
1. The arts cultivate creativity in all walks of life.
Creativity is becoming a more and more desirable asset in the working world today, and an education in the arts is all about fostering creativity. With the transition to outsourcing and the advent of technology, many cut-and-dry jobs have been replaced by computers or overseas competitors. One thing that will always beat out the competition, however, is a creative mind. The ability to come up with a new idea and see it through is what’s important now. The propensity to create a product or service that is more complex or interesting than a competitor’s is what will win the game in the future. Knowledge and creativity will speak to some employers much more in the future than any specific degree program.
2. There are more art disciplines than people realize.
There are many misconceptions about art programs. Namely that art is only about painting, or pottery, or photography, or looking at old sculptures. While an art degree may very well include a number of the typical disciplines people think of when referring to art, there is so much more to the arts than these stereotypes. The arts include communications, film, video production, speech, theatre, graphic design, lighting, digital and mixed media, fashion design and online and print publishing. Virtually any form of visual communication falls under the umbrella of art, and these skills are more than worthwhile; they are an essential part of human culture and business.
3. Not every artist is starving.
The notion of the starving artist is no understatement. It’s true that, in many art industries, newcomers must struggle and work hard to become recognized or move to positions of higher pay or more responsibility. However, this is true of most industries. And, unlike some industries, there is no cap on the income an artist can potentially make if they hit it big. In fact, artists working full-time in most industry jobs will make adequate incomes. The idea that an art degree is a quick route to squalor is just simply not true. People with motivation and talent have room to succeed in the arts and make money doing so.
4. Art is applicable in many industries.
It is not uncommon for parents to cringe at the thought of paying for a degree in art history or music criticism. The inevitable question most parents and relatives ask art students is, “Well, what are you going to do with that?” The answer is simple: almost anything. Any career that requires a specific degree plan will always be there (such as health care, education, or law). The requirements for some fields will always be rigid. But, the reality for most fields is that they are much more fluid than people realize. You don’t need an English degree to work at a newspaper, just as a business degree will not be a surefire route to becoming an entrepreneur or even getting hired by a reputable company. Arts degrees can be applied to many different industries, from entertainment and publishing, to business and advertising. Any industry that seeks creative minds has the potential to accept art majors.
5. Following a passion usually pays off.
Never underestimate the power of following your dreams. Even if it seems unreachable or everyone in your life begs you to reconsider or take the safer route, there is no better security for your future than pursuing what makes you tick. It is the people who never gave up, stuck with an idea that everyone else discounted, or got rejected a million times before making it big who turn out to be the huge success stories of our times. And, if nothing else, there is something to be said to doing what makes you happy. If you really want to cover your bases, minor in a safety area, like accounting or business, but the true key to authentic success is following your heart.
Lenore Holditch is a regular blogger for Toponlinecolleges.com. She is a former career counselor and is passionate about helping students and parents connect with the best degree plans for their goals. She also strives to spread the word about the benefits of distance education.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.