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Art grads debunk the starving artist myth


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

There is good news for those who want to major in the arts in college. A recent study conducted by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) showed that art majors are finding work related to their studies, and they are also some of the happiest professionals in the working world.

About the study
The SNAAP research polled individuals who chose college majors such as design, architecture; music, dance and theatrical performance; creative writing, music composition, fine art, film and illustration. More than 92,000 arts alumni from 153 institutions took part in the survey, which collected data between 2011 and 2013. Of the participants, 65 percent had found work in an arts-related field. Additionally, many of those who graduated with a degree in art were satisfied with their careers and salaries, a statistic that challenges the idea of the starving artist.

Battling the stereotype
Those who study some form of art could experience criticism for their choice — and there's some validity to these concerns. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected job growth through 2022 for both creative writers and fine artists is expected to be 3 percent, which is slower than average in comparison to other professions. The slow job growth, combined with the fierce, competitive nature of the art industry, could pose obstacles to job seekers in the arts. However, those who enter a creative field are usually prepared to experience these obstacles in exchange for the opportunity to pursue their passion.

Surprisingly, the research from SNAAP reveals that there aren't as many challenges as other data may show. In fact, certain artistic job markets are expected to grow at a faster rate. For example, the BLS projected a 13 percent growth for interior designers through 2022, which is as fast as average compared to all other lines of work. Additionally, the SNAAP study found that recent graduates in art professions feel secure in their careers — 69 percent reported being satisfied with their job security.

Useful skills
College art programs do more than help students to hone their aesthetic and technical skills. The SNAAP study found that, upon graduation, many art students were equipped with soft skills, those that could be applied to a variety of careers. Many students reported that they received training in persuasive speaking and networking, attributes that are beneficial in any professional setting.

"[My training] has given me skills to think on my feet, when I'm in a bind," one participant noted in the study. "Problem solving, verbal communication, social skills, talking about work, having a discussion, technical skills of many sorts."

This combination of art-based and soft skills training may be the key to allowing artists to navigate the diverse and often unconventional career paths available to them, facilitating their success at self-employment and entrepreneurship, and allowing for the incorporation of artistic skills in a variety of social and occupational situations.

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