Should students only major in Art if they want to be a professional artist?
I am not a professional artist, never have been, and my major is in Art & Art History. My goal was to attend law school, so I knew I could major in anything. I love art history and still appreciate my degree. Unless you want to work as an accountant, engineer, or architect, most employers don’t care about your undergraduate major. Yes, I have a Master’s in Counseling Psychology to be a school counselor, but my art history major never held me back. I believe you can develop critical thinking, reading, writing, interpersonal, and problem solving skills in any major. These are what will get you a job, not your major.
No, unless art is their life, and they eat, sleep, & breathe it all day every day.
Some students who major in Art fully intend to become professional artists (painters or sculptors), but there are many other art-related career opportunities. Consider some of the following:
Art Education – A majority of Art Education majors go on to careers in elementary or secondary schools as art teachers, curriculum specialists, art supervisors, or art administrators. Art education credentials are also helpful, if not necessary, for careers in museum education, community art centers, and arts and crafts centers. Students who want to teach at the college or university level will usually be expected to hold advanced degrees.
Art History – Art History majors will typically graduate with a liberal arts degree and will have been trained in observation, analysis, and communication. These skills are the basis for many jobs in business and government. With appropriate graduate education, Art History majors may become college or high school teachers, educators in other institutions, or curators/archivists in museums. They may also choose to work with art through galleries, publishers, or government or corporate collections.
Arts Management – Degrees in Arts Management could lead to jobs as theater managers, public relations representatives, symphony orchestra managers, dance company managers, admissions directors at art-related institutions, and other administrative positions with arts organizations. (Note that many, but not all, of these careers are related to performing arts.)
Film Arts – Jobs in the creative and business aspects of film are extremely competitive. Professional possibilities include entry-level production positions such as production assistant or production office staff and apprentice positions in editing, cinematography, art direction, wardrobe, and props. Specialized training in animation, computer imaging, special effects, and sound mixing can lead to entry-level positions with companies specializing in those areas. Film Arts majors would also be prepared for graduate level studies in film.
Fine Arts – A Fine Arts graduate, particularly if the degree is awarded from a liberal arts institution with a broader general education component, is prepared well for many professions, but explicitly for none. Careers in government, business, education – in fact, any job requiring a general education background, are all strong possibilities. Employment as an art educator or curator in a museum or government agency will generally require at least a master’s degree. A doctorate is necessary to be a professor of art history, while a Master of Fine Arts degree is required to teach art at the college level. Architecture is another option that requires further, specialized education. Most liberal arts students who have a degree in Fine Arts continue their studio work in graduate school if they seek careers as artists.
Graphic Design – Graphic Design training can lead to careers with design groups or studios, publishers, museums, various non-profit institutions, government agencies, corporations, architectural firms, multi-media studios, computer graphics firms, and exhibition design firms. Graphic Design graduates may also work as consultants, freelance designers, or design educators.
Studio Art – Majors in Studio Art may lead to careers as artists, teachers at all levels from elementary school to graduate school, commercial artists, art critics, museum curators, restorers/conservators, graphic designers, art book editors, art agents, or art administrators.
As you can see, there are many other directions that a major in Art can take you, other than a career as a professional artist.
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The sources for school statistics and data is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. The information on this site is for informational and research purposes only and is not an assurance of financial aid.