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Finding Your Career’s Footing As An Art School Graduate

Finding Your Career’s Footing As An Art School Graduate

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For some college students, an educational major is more of a choice stemming from one’s personal passion and interest rather than what might be most practical for a traditional post-education career. This can certainly be said for the bold, brave, and visionary individuals who go into art education to expand their knowledge.

Related: 6 Ways Recent Graduates Can Stand Out As Professionals

And there certainly are career opportunities for those skilled in providing new perspectives. Those with creative vision can make extraordinary artists, authors, and inventors—but when that vision is applied recklessly or without focus, graduates can be burned by hiring managers like a fledgling Icarus flying too close to the sun.

Art majors may not have as surefire of an employment rate as other fields. In fact, photographic art, fine arts, and graphic design all appear in Forbes’ “The 10 Worst College Majors” list due to higher unemployment levels than more traditional business-oriented degrees.

However, bearing in mind the following food for thought can help you reach your professional aspirations. While statistics can be grim, the fact is that individuals with passion and an original vision are always in high demand in today’s workforce. So, before taking the college plunge, how do you find your footing in a real world career with an art degree in hand?

Identify What Makes An Employable Artist

Unemployment in the arts is not a reflection of poor artistic skills. Rather, it can indicate a wide range of problems, most of which can be corrected with patience and persistence.

Take freelance opportunities whenever you’re able. Whether a Fortune 500 company is looking for a new visionary for their ad campaign or a local band is soliciting posters on Craigslist, keep in mind that no job is too small when it comes to expanding your portfolio, experiences, and network.

Just make sure you’re compensated fairly for your hard work and make sure your clients value your time as much as you do. This will keep your rent paid, expand your body of work, and help avoid those dreaded unemployment gaps while you’re looking for a steady job.

Make the effort to network with your peers and with any clients with whom you’ve worked or freelanced for in the past. In an industry where anyone with access to a computer can slap together a logo on free image editing software and call it a day, you need a network of believers who can vouch in your work and rely on you when something professional needs to be created.

Reassess Your Need For Professional Qualifications

It’s worth considering that such a nontraditional career choice might not necessitate a traditional 4-year Bachelor’s degree. At a fraction of the cost and time, earning a lower credential at an accredited online university or trade school may be all that you need to develop your portfolio and gain the experience necessary to catch the eye of potential employers.

For many art-related careers, personal skill amounts to far more than alengthy formal education. A vocational certificate in fine arts or digital arts can provide the base skills necessary to create a portfolio in a sliver of the time it takes to acquire a full degree, and are more often than not applicable towards a full degree’s credits depending on where you transfer.

Ask Yourself: Is A Career For You?

For those reading this far, the question can feel redundant. Do you produce work that you feel requires a nine-to-five? Can you sustain yourself as a freelance artist, or do you need to zero in on a career for financial stability? While the starving artist persona may be romantic for some, it’s not a lifestyle that every artist is cut out for.

For those who feel iffy about their prospects, expanding your education by acquiring a certificate or Associate’s degree in a related artistic field can help expand your opportunities if you lack the experience or skill set to produce marketable or business-oriented work. Even taking one course to refresh your skills in modern editing software or applications can be a tremendous boon to your abilities.

Nobody wants to consider themselves a sell-out, but at the end of the day, steady employment depends on your ability to create relevant, impactful art that businesses can use, people can connect with, or that users find desirable. Staying hip to current design trends while being a proactive networker are your greatest assets in keeping your career on the up-and-up. As long as you’re able to meet those needs, you just might be surprised with your opportunities as a visionary.

This is a guest post.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Tim Hand

Tim Hand is an author from South Carolina with an interest in the arts. He writes with the blogging team of Sessions College for Professional Design, an online university based out of Tempe, Arizona. Besides writing, Tim’s interests are in web design, marketing, and musical production.