What Career Options Are Open to Arts Graduates?
Translating your Bachelor of Arts degree into a rewarding, exciting and well-paying career can be an intimidating prospect.
Many recent and soon-to-be arts graduates are filled with anxiety related to their perceived lack of employment prospects and excess of looming debt from their student loans.
They may be confused about their professional fate, and they may be wondering if there are any careers at all that they can pursue with an arts degree.
So, will having an arts degree help you find a good job? The short answer is...yes! Just take a look at our "Job Board for Arts Students & Graduates" below to see some of the potential opportunities. Sorted by major, it lists job openings that are relevant to an arts degree.
More on What You Can Do with an Arts Degree
Sorted by major, this Arts Careers guide exists to provide undergraduate arts students and recent graduates with detailed occupational information on career paths they can pursue with an arts degree, as well as how to pursue them. From a career as an addictions counsellor, to a career as a mayor, whichever major you are pursuing while earning an undergraduate arts degree, there are a multitude of career options available to you.
We’ve included job descriptions, expected salaries, educational requirements and other pertinent information related to these career options. Not enough? We’ve outlined scholarships that you can apply for based on your major to help you pay for pursuing your degree.
Why is a Bachelor of Arts Degree Useful?
A Bachelor of Arts degree leads to many opportunities to find a meaningful, rewarding and lucrative career. Arts graduates are highly sought after because their broad education base has helped them shape their inquiring minds, and inquiring minds can help employers evaluate conflicting points of view during their business operations.
Job postings routinely emphasize qualities such as 'effective written and verbal communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills' as being the most in demand in their workplace. Because of the broad nature of undergraduate arts degree coursework, these skills are instilled by studies in the arts like they are in no other field.
Studying arts at the undergraduate level not only helps students expand their knowledge base in various subjects, it helps them develop intangible traits such critical thinking, effective communication, creativity and independent judgment. Critical thinking and independent judgment are attributes that can be valuable to employers for many reasons; for example they may give an employee the ability to suspect data is incorrect, even if told that it's accurate. An employee with a less inquisitive mind may take the data at face value without questioning it.
Arts Career Guides Sorted by Major
Employable Skills of Arts Graduates
While pursuing an undergraduate degree in arts, students learn about more than cultural traditions, the distribution of resources and other important aspects of our society. Throughout the course of their university education, arts students are taught many marketable and employable skills that will help them throughout their careers. These skills may include, but are not limited to:
Research: An extremely valuable skill for the workplace that undergraduate arts students, is the ability to perform research properly. They are taught how to find information and quickly assess its quality. An arts graduate can apply this skill to a wide variety of issues and problems they will encounter during their career.
Critical Thinking and Analysis: Undergraduate arts students are taught how to think objectively, and not take everything they are told to be factual. They learn to use carefully gathered evidence to ensure accurate conclusions are formed. This skill is also useful for seeing abstract problems from different angles and thus having a greater chance of solving them.
Creativity: Undergraduate arts programs teach students to think ‘outside of the box’, and to look at the ‘big picture’. During their careers, arts graduates can apply their creativity to find new solutions for old problems, and to view challenges as opportunities.
Effective Communication: A skill that can be applied to almost any career, regardless of educational background, is that of effective communication. Because of the plethora of writing they must perform, undergraduate arts students are taught to become skilled writers and presenters during their educational career. They must also be able to disseminate large amounts of information and articulate complicated ideas in a manner that is clear and concise. These skills can be applied to writing memos, letters, writing professional e-mails and preparing captivating presentations.
Interpersonal skills: Arts graduates make valuable employees and co-workers because they learn to be self-sufficient thinkers, as well as informed collaborators. Whichever career they choose, arts graduates can apply their strong work ethic and thoroughness to working independently or as part of a team.
Factors that Can Influence Your Future Earnings
The salary you could earn as an arts graduate primarily depends on what career you pursue; after all, you only get paid when you work! For example, a government researcher might earn less than a legal analyst, but both graduated with an arts degree. Within the career path you choose, other factors that determine how much you can earn include (not an inclusive list):
• Your level of education (such as if you went on to graduate studies)
• The industry in which you find work
• The type of job you have
• The size and type of your employer
• The region in which you work
• Other work experience you may have accrued
• Other skills you may have
Some Degree-Based Salary Numbers
Although we mentioned above that the career you pursue is the most important determinant of what level of earnings you might achieve, we were able to compile sample average salary figures for art degree graduates in general, regardless of what career field they chose. These figures are intended as a guideline only.
Arts Graduate Salary Canada: Below are the average salaries reported by nearly 20,000 Ontario graduates in 2010, based on the Council of Ontario Universities' study of the 2008 graduating class. No similar surveys were found for other Canadian provinces. Not all of the graduates who responded to the survey were arts graduates, or were working in arts careers. (1)
• $50,760 CAD - "Other" Arts and Science graduate salary
• $46,765 CAD - Education graduate salary
• $43,571 CAD - Journalism graduate salary
• $38,407 CAD - Humanities graduate salary
• $35,000 CAD - Theology graduate salary
• $34,653 CAD - Fine and Applied Arts graduate salary
Arts Graduate Salary United States: In the United States, the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University conducted a similar study, which reveals the salary levels for arts graduates of various focus within the United States. Note, the salaries reflect professional fields, rather than specific arts degrees. (2)
• $40,000 USD - Visual and Performing Arts
• $40,000 USD - Communication Disorders Sciences and Services
• $40,000 USD - Studio Arts
• $40,000 USD - Drama and Theater Arts
• $39,000 USD - Social Work
• $38,000 USD - Human Services and Community Organizations
• $38,000 USD - Theology and Religious Vocations
• $36,000 USD - Early Childhood Education
• $29,000 USD - Counseling/Psychology
Many students pursue an undergraduate arts degree out of personal interest, academic interest, or as a foundation for graduate studies, rather than for the hope of entering into a lucrative career field right after graduation. If your goal is to achieve a high level of earnings with your arts degree then pursuing a graduate degree is highly recommended.
(1) Dehaas, Josh. “The most (and least) lucrative degrees in Ontario” MacLean’s On Campus, Web. November 10, 2011.
(2) Dehaas, Josh. "The most (and least) lucrative degrees" MacLean's On Campus, Web. May 24, 2011.
Who Creates Jobs for Arts Graduates?
Graduates with a bachelor’s of arts degree are highly sought out by employers who are see value in having employees with great intuitiveness and a broad education. Many employers believe the most innovative ideas and products are developed by having an employee base that contains a balance of technically educated employees and broadly educated employees. After all, despite the large demand for employees with specific skill sets, employers still value new hires who can conjugate French verbs and develop well referenced research papers, as they can be trained to do a multitude of tasks.
Employers who typically hire arts graduates include:
• Government agencies
• Small, medium and large private companies
• Publicly traded companies
• Non-profit organizations
Arts Graduate and Student Jobs
Job Board for Arts Students & Graduates
Career Obstacles for Arts Graduates:
It's no secret that many arts graduates become bartenders, servers and barristas. Why is this? And what can be done about it? What's standing in the way of arts graduates who are trying to make an impact in the workforce?
Obstacle: Asking for a high salary or seeking a mid to senior level role upon graduation.
Solution: Accept an entry-level position.
Many arts graduates make the mistake of expecting a higher salary, or more impressive job title than they deserve upon graduation. While it's important to value yourself as a potential employee, it's also important to be realistic about the competition being faced. New graduates should note that many of today's employers feel that new recruits often lack the skill set and experience to fill mid-level roles. They prefer to hire employees for those roles who already posses the exact skill set required.
Accepting an entry-level role can be a great long term career move, as it often allows an employee to showcase their skills and move from department to department, gaining skills as they go.
Obstacle: Not being aware of the variety of possible career opportunities.
Solution: Search for job postings that match the skills you’ve gained by pursuing an arts degree.
Arts graduates may not be aware of the multitude of career options available to them. They may think that if they are a Political Science grad, they are only able to become a politician, or if they are a Psychology grad, they are only able to become a psychologist, and so on.
The fact is there are hundreds of broad career fields new graduates can pursue with an Arts degree. Browsing our career guides and speaking to your guidance counselor are two resources that will help you find a career that suits your interests, skills and abilities.
Advice for Finding the Perfect Career with Your Arts Degree
You’re about to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree and you’re eager to make your mark. How do you find that perfect job among a myriad of possible careers? Below we’ve outlined some common tactics that you can implement into your job search strategy.
Internship and co-op opportunities: Internships and co-op opportunities are a great way to ‘learn by doing’. During your final two years of your undergraduate arts degree, you should be actively searching for these opportunities. Speak to your professors and your school’s career resource office to find these opportunities. If you are able to land such a position, it is not uncommon to be offered a full time position with the company upon graduation.
Arts Job/Career fairs: Career fairs are a great way to interact with the recruiters of many organizations in a face-to-face setting. Be sure to ‘interview’ these employers by asking them why you should choose them, after all these organizations are just as eager to acquire strong talent as you are eager to find a great job. Bring multiple copies of your resume and engage with as many different companies as you can.
Your school’s career services/resources office: The career services professionals in your school are paid to help you make career choices and introduce you to career information resources; utilize their services early and often. Remember, they won't approach you and ask you if you want help with the process of finding a meaningful job after graduating, you need to take the initiative and approach them. The sooner you introduce yourself to these professionals during your academic career, the more thoroughly they can help you identify your interests, passions, capabilities and ultimately suitable career choices. They can often identify career options that many undergraduate arts students aren't aware of.
Networking: Your personal and professional network should never be overlooked. The more people that are aware of your job search, the better your chances of finding employment opportunities with your Bachelor's of Arts. Talk to your friends, family members, teammates, members of your church, classmates, professors, and anyone else in your sphere of influence. Odds are someone will know someone who is hiring an arts graduate, and they’ll be able to put in a good word for you.
Contact employers directly: Find out who the great, or common, employers of arts graduates are. Once you have identified these employers visit the “careers” section of their websites to search for current opportunities. If they don’t have any listed that directly pertain to an undergraduate arts degree, it may be worth your while to contact them directly and inquire about any unadvertised or upcoming opportunities. With this tactic, persistence might pay off; ensure that you keep record of whom you spoke to, when and what they said. After a few weeks, call them back and ask them if any positions have opened up yet. This is a great way for arts graduates to take advantage of the hidden job market.
By implementing some or all of these tactics in your job search, it won’t be long before you're an arts graduate with multiple job offers.
What Scholarships are Available for Arts Students?
If you’re looking for scholarships that will help you pay for your arts degree, we’ve got you covered. Our Scholarships By Major section has plenty of Canadian, American and international scholarships available to students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate arts degree, as well as many that are open to all students in general.
Arts Careers Success Tip: Attend Arts Career Fairs
Attend any job and arts career fairs you in your area that you can, just be sure you're properly prepared! Attending these fairs will allow you to ask employers about arts careers.