The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), an organization committed to supporting arts education, released the results of its 2010 survey on careers for arts graduates in May. "Forks in the Road: The Many Paths of Arts Alumni" features information from more than 13,000 arts alumni and paints a picture of careers after art school that is in stark contrast to the starving-artist stereotype.
According to the report, "92 percent of arts alumni who wish to work currently are, with most (81 percent) finding employment soon after graduating. More than half (57 percent) are currently working as professional artists (41 percent) or did so in the past (16 percent)."
Careers for art and design graduates
The SNAAP report indicates people with an art degree have robust job prospects after school, with individuals finding employment in a diverse array of fields. Contrary to popular conceptions of art and design degree programs as lacking in marketable skills, survey respondents working outside the arts listed flexibility, resourcefulness, problem-solving, persistence and attention to detail as just a few of the abilities they developed during their arts education.
"My arts training helped to teach me collaboration and communication, as well as empathy for people in all types of situations. I use these skills daily in law enforcement," one survey respondent wrote.
The SNAAP survey found that 65 percent of graduates with an art degree were working within the arts, with the largest concentration (24 percent of those in the arts) working in arts education. Other major occupations within the arts include design (16 percent) and music (15 percent). Three percent worked as craft artists while 7 percent worked as fine artists.
Another 43 percent of respondents were working outside the arts (participants were able to select more than one occupation, so categories total more than 100 percent). The largest employers outside the arts were education (9 percent) and communications (6 percent), but respondents were employed everywhere from farming/fishing/forestry to health care to engineering and science.
The report also found that graduates of art degree programs were likely to be self-employed for some period of their professional life (63 percent) and that 57 percent hold more than one job.
Why an art and design degree program is so versatile
Artists need more than good artistic skills to succeed. As the SNAAP survey shows, art-program grads are entrepreneurial and versatile in their professional lives. One reason for this versatility may be the diverse skills taught in art and design degree programs. Art and design degree programs combine studio time with courses in art history, art criticism and museum studies. Students may study the historical and cultural context of a particular artistic movement or learn about the business of running an art gallery.
Many students studying art and design put together a portfolio or a studio show as part of their final year. According to The College Board, these projects help students develop business and marketing skills as they gain experience in what it's like to put on an art show.
Online art and design degree programs
Aspiring artists can consider online art and design degrees for a more flexible way to attend college. Online art and design degrees combine the same emphasis on technical artistic skills with academic art classes that campus-based programs do. Many art and design programs require students to spend a great deal of time working alone or in a studio on art projects, and online students can hone those same skills working at home, in a local studio or wherever it is convenient.
SNAAP survey results show promising career prospects for artists and perhaps can put that starving artist stereotype to rest once and for all.