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ASU dean argues the merit of an arts degree

While many people may believe an arts degree is a dead end in terms of career progression, research suggests otherwise.

According to Steven J. Tepper, dean of ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and research director of the he Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), which tracks the career paths of arts graduates nationally, employment rates and the time it takes to find employment for art graduates is actually on par with the average college grad.

“Many arts graduates also work in jobs that are relevant to their training,” Tepper says. “In fact, more arts graduates work in jobs relevant to their training in the arts than do students who majored in accounting.”

What differentiates art graduates from other grads is the kind of employment they find. Often, art grads are less likely to have a full-time job and more likely to do freelance work or project work.

According to SNAAP research, more than half – nearly 60 percent – of all arts graduates hold at least two jobs concurrently, and are more likely to work in a variety of roles, such as teaching and community engagement.

“In art schools, we train the purists and labor under a false belief that artistic success means complete independence from the world,” Tepper says. “And that’s not helping our graduates because it’s not the world most of them will live in.”

According to recent studies, artists are generally satisfied workers compared to other occupations.

“We also find that they’re really happy when they’re teaching, and they’re really happy when they’re engaged in deploying their art to serve their community,” Tepper says. “Those are not signs that they’re less successful. Those are actually very rewarding ways of being an artist in the world.”