Let’s Get Practical – The Real Value of an Art Degree

So mom and dad are a little anxious that you want to study art in college – let alone attend an art school. That’s understandable, especially in today’s job market. What kind of job can you get with a degree in painting – or any other art field for that matter? Thinking long term, what kind of career choices will you have? Will you earn enough to make a living? And how about paying back those pesky student loans?

Ceramic color tiles

Ceramic color tiles

First things first; when deciding to pursue an art education you need to realize that not everyone who studies art will be as successful as Ralph Lauren or Georgia O’Keefe. But the skills learned are transferable and invaluable.

Steven Tepper, Associate Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University and Research Director of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) recently explained the growing need for artists in the workplace in Fast Company magazine. “It’s common today to debate the comparative merits and economic value of various college majors, but those of us who track issues and trends around the nation’s creative economy contend that much of the comparisons miss the mark in important and fundamental ways.” He continues, “no less a force in global business than IBM found that the most important skill for successfully navigating our increasingly complex, volatile, and uncertain world is none other than creativity.”

Art school outwardly teaches the creativity of art and design. Subliminally it instills problem solving skills, patience and determination, flexibility, collaboration, and a strong work ethic that lets you fail and begin again. All these skills are critical to become a successful artist, a valued employee and a trusted leader.

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman approached creativity from a different perspective in “Need a Job? Invent It.” His observation, and that of Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner, is that today’s and tomorrow’s job seekers will not only need to be creative in their search efforts but more than likely need to design their own jobs and career paths.

Creativity and innovation are at the heart of what every artist studies. And the idea of a starving artist probably isn’t going away soon. But the reality of an art education being the stepping stone to a growing and prosperous career is more plausible today than ever before.

What do I think? Well, it’s about time.

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