With the economy in such a dismal state, mocking people with art degrees has practically become a national pastime. After all, it gives everyone else a way to feel smug as they melt into financial ruin at the ripe age of 23. “Sure, things are shitty,” they muse. “It’s true that I have to move back in with my parents and I hate my job at Best Buy, but at least I majored in finance and didn’t waste $80,000 on art school tuition.” (Pats back.)
Think again, bro. Your superiority is a built on a lie. A new study is making that very clear with results that show art degree holders actually do have jobs, and good ones at that. That’s right, the very basis of all the validation you’ve ever had in doing what you’re “supposed” to do is kind of just wrong. Just as the cliches go, it turns out that doing what you love in life really does allow you to thrive.
According Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, the median income for those who hold bachelor of fine arts degrees is $42,000 per year. In the first two years after graduating with an art degree, the unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, and after that, it drops to 4.5 percent. Not too shabby. That median income is on par with other liberal arts degree holders. The awesome kicker here is that another study through the Curb Center at Vanderbilt University found that 83 percent of art degree holders actually work in the arts in some form rather than solely slaving away at a placeholder job they hate. If you choose to go on to get a master’s degree in art, you’ve got an even better shot – the recent graduate unemployment rate on that front is 5 percent, and the median yearly income is about $50,000.
Even more importantly, artists are generally very happy with their lives and the choices they make. Curb Center Associate Director Steven J. Tepper put it best when he said “arts graduates are resilient and resourceful.” The very traits that a productive life make. Sixty percent of those graduates work more than one job, but, according to Tepper, they’re happy with how it comes together.
According to Bruno S. Frey, a researcher at the University of Zurich, fine artists, writers and composers tend to be the happiest among those in the arts profession because their jobs allow for lots of autonomy. “Actors and musicians, on the other hand,” he said, “are less happy, because they are disciplined by various rules and have less autonomy.”
Basically, what we have long rationalized to ourselves and wanted to believe is actually true: doing what you love can make you happier and more successful. Tell that to your parents’ judgmental friends who ask “what you plan to do with” that creative degree.