I appreciate and enjoy the arts as much as anyone, and while I don’t want to sound like the parents who are only happy when their children pursue medicine or engineering, I am forced to recognize the fact that in our society, “I’m studying (insert art major here)” has become a euphemism for “I’m studying unemployment.”
The arts undoubtedly enrich our society and it would be an exaggeration to say that an arts degree is useless, but the fact of the matter is, life after college is cruel to art majors, as it favors those who have studied STEM related subjects and can readily contribute to a market that is driven by technological advancement. The skills learned during years of education in the fine arts or performing arts are not seen as marketable job skills, leaving students who have chosen to pursue the arts at a disadvantage in the job market.
This risk of financial security is most often the largest deterrent to pursuing the arts in college, and rightfully so. An art degree is just as expensive as any other, but the benefits of it do not outweigh the costs ‒ literally. According to a 2013 report published by Payscale, fine arts majors on average earn a starting salary of $31,800 per year, which is $18,756 less than the average annual income in the United States for someone with a college degree.
Additionally, a degree in the arts very rarely leads to an actual career in the arts. An article published in The Atlantic stated that only 10 percent of those who graduate with an art degree continue on to earn their living as artists. Because of the nature of the arts industry in regards to hiring, an arts degree may not even help when applying for jobs in your field of study as recruiters tend to favor candidates with relevant experience and a portfolio over those with art degrees, according to Kristen Harris, the owner of a staffing agency.
It would be wiser to place your time during college studying a field that may help you find a job later on, should the dream of using art as a source of income not work out.
While I applaud those who are brave enough to pursue their passion of the arts in college regardless of all the reasons not to, the bottom line is that a degree in the arts isn’t going to help you pay the rent or make car payments. It is so easy to idealize a future of deviating from the traditional path and taking risks to follow a passion of art, but when reality hits, and it inevitably does for most, you’re left only with the realization of the truth behind the stereotype of a struggling artist.