So you’re thinking about an art major, and your friends and family might not be as excited about it as you are. You definitely don’t need to say anything to justify your decision, but if you want to, there are some amazing things you’ll gain from an art degree with which you can reassure them. You don’t even have to actually create art to have a major in the field–you could also opt for art history, arts education, or arts administration.
What you’ll be doing
At most universities, art majors have to sample a few different types of art in beginner-level classes (ceramics, drawing, painting, et cetera), but then they have the freedom to choose an area of focus. Sometimes this focus is an official specialization, but even without the label, making it to the advanced level classes of a particular form of art is considered mastering that craft. A few art history classes are sometimes mandatory for a general art degree as well.
1. “Not having traditional homework. Projects were self-guided and not usually on a weekly basis, but you had lab time to get a lot of work done. The labs were open to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you could work when you were able or when inspiration struck.” – Brittany Bruening, an art grad from UW-Madison.
2. “I think it’s a great way to learn critical thinking skills and visual analysis. No matter what you go into, business or marketing or something that’s actually in the art field, you’re going to have to use those skills. Having that kind of vocabulary and skill set is really important.” – Lauren Miller, an art history grad from UW-Madison.
3. “I loved it because it’s flexible. You can get a lot of varied skills out of it and you can make it what you want. For the career path that I wanted, there’s not really a set degree that you need to get, so I figured I would major in something that I loved. It’s helped me think outside the box, and now I’m working as a teacher and getting a master’s degree.” – Johnny Fuller, an art grad from Notre Dame.
1. “It’s a little tricky getting out of the gate if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after you finish your degree. There are a lot of options out there, but you have to explore them a little.” – Callie Mangan, a University of Wisconsin-Madison alumna with a bachelor’s degree in art.
2. “I think there’s a kind of annoying stigma around it. People think ‘Oh, you’re getting an art degree. What are you going to do with that?’ Or your parents might not be so thrilled with your decision. You have to convince people that it’s worth it, [but] I think that actually makes you a better candidate because you’re used to having to market yourself to everyone.” – Lauren Miller, an art history grad from UW-Madison.
3. “Tough Love. Not everything you make, even if you are confident and proud of it, will receive praise. Some of my favorite pieces were torn apart in critique. It takes time to see that criticism as a positive experience to grow from.” – Brittany Bruening, an art grad from UW-Madison.
So you’ve made it through the grueling four (or five, or six) years of college and it’s time to get a job. Something art grads love about their degree is its versatility, and many art graduates end up working outside the definitive art field. So whether you want to be an illustrator for Pixar or an elementary social studies teacher, know that you have options and your art degree will help you get there.