What can I do with a major in the arts if I don't get full-time work as a performer /artist ?

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Our counselors answered:

What can I do with a major in the arts if I don't get full-time work as a performer /artist ?

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

What can I do with a major in the arts if I don't get full-time work as a performer /artist ?

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) published a study this year entitled "Forks in the Road: The Many Paths of Arts Alumni". This is highly recommended reading for students considering studying either performing or visual arts at the post-secondary level who are wondering about their career options. Definitely, arts students need to be pro-active and take courses in business and management skills in order to prepare for an entrepreneurial and enterprising career. Some occupations for performing artists might be actors, dancers, choreographers, directors, producers or managers in theater and stage, film, TV or video artists, musicians, teachers, arts administrators and arts educators. Training in the arts is also valuable to a range of other careers because it teaches skills that are highly regarded in the workplace such as writing persuasively, thinking critically, working well with groups, and speaking effectively and clearly.

kathy hicks-freeman
Guidance Counselor Greensboro High School

Not a Full-Time Performer/Artist

If you majored in arts but are not working full-time as a performer or artist, there are options for you. You can teach others the knowledge and skills that you've learned in a classroom or a training studio. You can become an advisor for others who are interested in the field, work for a recuiting company, or fulfill some type of administrative duty in the field.

JoAnne Ellsworth

Dream maker, not dream taker

The great thing about majoring in the arts is that you are probably a creative type person. Literally, the sky is the limit as you plan for full-time, part-time, or volunteer work. My first suggestion is to keep your skills sharp and build your resume. At the very least you would be able to volunteer your services in local schools or community activity centers. This is also an opportunity for you to get current letters of recommendation from your supervisors who would by over-seeing these projects.Secondly, don't sell your creative spirit short. Many industries need a creative perspective in solving business problems. You can provide a different view in problem solving that could be reflective of your excellent critical thinking skills.

Ryan John
School Counselor Bethlehem High School

What can I do with a major in the arts if I don't get full-time work as a performer /artist ?

Students majoring in the visual/fine arts etc. can pursue internships with advertising companies or museums for example or can pursue higher education to further their marketability and breadth of knowledge. Some students may want to pursue a teaching degree in the arts to vary the opportunities that are available to them also. Students studying the performing arts can reach out and make connections with national and local productions to inquire about any volunteer opportunities available that will add experience to a resume.

John DeLorey

From Shakespeare to Sales

I have had experience with such a situation recently, a graduate from an arts college was having trouble finding a job in her major. She was able to find work for a company that leases out AV equipment and provides support services to major hotels in Boston. She used her arts and perfomance talents in a sales capacity, a position that required her to think quickly on her feet and deal with many types of people and personalities. She enjoyed a seemless transition from an out of work performing artist to a commission-based sales person.

Carrie Morris

What can I do with an arts major?

A major in the arts, like many college majors, can prepare you for a variety of positions and career opportunities beyond the performing or fine arts. Depending on which art major you're considering, there are a variety of "transferable skills" that are valued by employers. Creative problem solving, communication (both verbal and nonverbal), technical skill (for example, photography or other fine arts might involve heavy computer use for editing or creation), teamwork, analytical skills, and multitasking are just a few of any number of skills that would be part of an arts major and highly coveted by a range of employers. If you don't want to go into the arts directly, you might choose to pursue graphic design, marketing, teaching, law, or sales as potential career paths. Ultimately, which career will be based on a total package of what your skills and interests are--your major is just one piece of that larger picture. The arts encompass so many different forms, from theatre (so, perhaps future careers might draw heavily from verbal communication, persuasive techniques, or captivating crowds) to photography (so, perhaps advertising, sales, or web design), so thinking about what art form(s) you enjoy, the skills you're using, and other jobs that might use those transferable skills will help you find other potential sources of employment outside the traditional performer/artist role.

Lauren Carter
Director of College Counseling Louisville Collegiate School

There are many career paths for the "art" student!

Maximize your college experience and you maximize your options once you graduate. A good exercise to do is to identify 3-5 areas of strength that you possess. In doing this you will begin to move in a direction that "fits" who you are and what you do well. Make sure you diversify your time in college and all the while support your interests and talents. For example, if you consider yourself a strong writer, a good organizer, and have an interest in technology then begin to work on a plan to support these attributes. That could include writing movie reviews for the school newspaper, beginning an online blog for artists, or interning for a theater management company. Also make sure you utilize your network. You may not even know it yet but you have a group of experts at your fingertips. This could include your college academic advisor, a faculty member whom you admire, or the career and internship office at the college you attend. Through these people, you can easily be connected to opportunities to help you gain full time employment in your area of choice while also opening up the possibilities for other positions where you could also be happy and fulfilled.

Tracy Jackson
Coordinator Virginia Beach City Public Schools

What can I do with a major in the arts if I don't get full-time work as a performer /artist ?

Well, there are a couple of different options you can think about. If you still want to stay in the performing arts industry and are OK with not being a performer/artist right now, then think about the other aspects of the PA industry. Perhaps the technical part of the field (costumes, make-up, stage hand) or the business end (scheduling, sales, printing). If you feel that you really want to perform, then look to your local or neighborhood theaters. You can also teach and/or perform for elderly and children.That way you still are able to continue with your craft.

Allen Hill
School Counselor Antelope Union High School

Art Major Pathways

There are 3 pathways open to art majors. First is commercial art where you work on projects related to advertising, entertainment, apparel and graphic design. The second is fine art, which is the design/production of objects for aesthetics rather than usefulness such as paintings, sculputres and performing arts. The third option is education where you teach art classes or lecuture on specific artists and periods.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

BFA versus BA

Your career opportunities may depend in part on what type of degree that you would receive as an undergraduate. If you apply to a conservatory program, whether in Acting, Dance, Music or Film that would mean that two thirds of your college career would be spent studying in that discipline. Those programs generally require auditions or portfolios in order to be accepted and you would NOT be receiving a liberal arts education. However, if you attend a BA program in any of the arts, only one third of your time would be spent studying that major. Hence you would graduate with the many skills that a liberal arts education does afford- such as communication ( speech/writing), computation, research language etc and could easily work in many fields. A BFA would afford you less alternative options, if you decide to change directions and you might be in greater need of further education, whether for a post-bac or grad school.