Value of a degree in the arts

I have written a lot here about the importance of degree attainment—and I often cite the economic value of a degree (Education still pays; Economic value of professional certificates) in improving the lives of individuals, families, and communities. As a first-generation college graduate myself, this is a topic very close to my own experience. 

I recently came across a very interesting report by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (or SNAAP).

This report focuses on the value of an arts degree, both visual arts and performing arts. If we’re talking about economic prospects, the common perception is “you’ll never be able to make a living in the arts” or “I hope you like waiting tables or driving a taxi.” We’ve probably all heard, or uttered, these cautions again and again.

The SNAAP report is an important counterpoint to such statements. Highlights from 2010 report:

  • Over 120,000 visual and performing arts degrees are granted each year
  • 92% of alumni who wish to work are working
  • 81% found employment soon after graduating
  • 66% said their first job was a close match for the kind of work they wanted
  • 57% are currently working as professional artists
  • Of those who currently work outside the arts, 54% said their arts training is relevant to their current job
  • Arts school graduates are 18 times more likely to volunteer at an arts organization (than the population at large (Independent Sector, 2001)
  • 90% of graduates reporting their overall experience at their college or university was either good or excellent
  • Job satisfaction levels are very high for those in many arts occupation

So to you arts graduates, all I can say is: “good for you.” For others who gravitate toward the arts, but who chose another “more practical” path (like myself), perhaps it’s time to consider following that inner muse?

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