"What are you going to do with that art's degree?" (5 Min Read)
Updated: Feb 6
Your Education Doesn’t Dictate Your Career Path – You Do
For those entering University, you will quickly identify one question that each faculty is asked. For example, physical education students who are likely going into PT will inevitably hear “so, are you going to teach phys. ed?” For those in engineering, you will likely have someone ask you something about building bridges or architecture. But, easily the most common, condescending, and most offensive question (a personal favourite of mine) is “what are you going to do with that arts degree?” Ask any arts student how many times they have been asked that question and how belittling it can actually be. The answer will likely astound you. The arts degree has become one of those universally agreed upon jokes that all University students say to each other at one point or another. I’m guilty of it. Most of us are. I like to think that arts students, or the arts faculty rather, are like the band Nickelback. Not in relation to their music or artistic ability, but rather societies unconscionable agreeability in shitting on something regardless of the situation and despite its success. Similar to how people make fun of Nickelback and then proceed to purchase tickets to one of their sold out shows or listen to their music, students and the public make fun of the faculties students and then make references to film, read literature, or have a debate about politics in the next sentence like there is a disconnect between the two. The hypocritical nature and ignorance of peoples’ comments are confusing. For some reason, the arts student is only seen as an arts student until they experience some high form of success. Like an actor/actress (yes I know a BFA isn’t a BA), unless you’re a stud destined for stardom, people will likely look down on you. Until you make it. Please add me on Facebook! Remember me? We went to high school together!?
Here are some reasons to take an arts degree if you want to:
Depending on your view of the world, job mobility has its advantages and disadvantages. Often times, a Bachelor of Arts provide students with an education that has a higher rate of transfer-ability, giving graduates more voluntary career movement opportunities.
I’m surprised that I need to say this in 2017, but getting a degree in English, sociology, philosophy, or art history doesn’t sentence you to a life of unemployment, sadness, and donairs. All degrees and graduates have peaks and valleys of unemployment based on the current economic climate. Sure, the mean wage for a recent engineering graduate is roughly $25,000-$30,000 more than that of other degrees, but that doesn’t necessarily mean too much if a province reliant on energy, without a diversified investment strategy, starts to get beaten down by oil prices and you are left looking for a job.
There are more equitable employment outcomes for individuals of different sexes and races. For example, the unemployment gap between genders is less than 0.1% within humanities.
The social sciences and humanities together make up more than half of bachelor’s degrees among current professional leaders with higher education qualifications, across 30 countries and all sectors. Younger leaders (under 45 years) are more likely to hold a degree in social sciences or the humanities. Source: British Council, Educational Pathways of Leaders: an international comparison, 2015
If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty and bring big names into the mix, here is a list of some well-known and accomplished individuals with BA’s who aren’t necessarily within their field of study:
- George Soros, Philanthropist, Hedge fund manager, and 19th richest person in the world, Bachelor of Art & Science in Philosophy
- Desmond Tutu, Human Rights Activist, Bachelor of Arts in Theology
- Peter Thiel, PayPal Founder, Bachelor of Arts, 20th Century Philosophy Major at Stanford University
- Carly Fiorina, Former HP (Hewlett Packard) CEO, Bachelor of Liberal Arts, Medieval History and Philosophy Major at Stanford University
- Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice, Bachelor of Liberal Arts, English Major at Holy Cross College
- Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, Bachelor of Liberal Arts, English Major at Amherst College
- Conan O’Brien, Talk-Show Host, Bachelor of Arts in History
After seeing that list you may say, “But Seth, those people are anomalies. They got lucky. They are geniuses. They are benefactors of situation.” That’s part of the point. The degree you take or choose not to take in life doesn’t dictate your intelligence, your willingness and commitment to continual and habitual learning does. At the end of the day, an arts degree isn’t useless. In fact, it provides nuance in a way that many others fail to provide. Getting an education is about challenging your own intellect, over and over again. It’s about expanding the boundaries with which your thoughts rest so that when you leave with a $40,000 piece of paper in your hand (for us Canadians), you approach the world in a different way and develop critical thinking skills. For some, that’s an education degree, and for others, it’s a philosophy degree. I’m not saying that anyone should take an arts degree for the reasons I listed above. What I am saying is that people should quit falling into the iterative cycle of arts-shaming (yes I am coining this term) people for wanting to learn about something that excites them. The world needs individuals in every field to continually progress, and that includes the arts. And those people who are struggling with their decisions? Yeah, they need your support. You should give it to them. Oh, and don’t ask them what they are going to do with their arts degree. If you have any reservations about my bias in this article, I’m just some kid with a business degree.
Lastly, want to know which foreign band has sold the most albums in the US?