What to Do With a Degree in Art

Alternative Careers

Artist and art dealers discussing paintings digital tablet
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If you love to photograph, sculpt, paint, draw, do graphic design or animation, or have a passion for fashion, going to art school or majoring in art at a traditional college seems like a natural fit. However, some people are cautious after hearing tales about starving artists who can't find a decent paying job (if any) in their field. It's possible to make a living in a professional art career, but if you choose to do something different, you can also work in an alternative occupation that will take advantage of the knowledge and soft skills you will acquire while earning your Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree (BFA).

These are several of those careers:

Art Critic

Art critics are professional writers who compose critiques of art for newspapers, magazines, and websites. By the time you graduate with your BFA, you will have extensive knowledge about the art world. Combine that with your ability to express yourself well in writing, which is one of the soft skills art majors can develop during their time in school. The average art critic makes around $45,000 per year, and those who work for top publications, like The New York Times, can earn over $100,000.

Curator

Curators manage museums and related facilities. They often specialize in a particular subject matter, such as art, for example. If you choose this occupation, your responsibilities will include acquiring, storing, and exhibiting collections. In addition to your undergraduate degree, you may also have to earn a master's degree in art or museum management. If you want to work in a museum, but not as a curator, you can also look into other positions in areas like the facilities department, registrar's office, or in an education role.

Teacher or Professor

To teach, you will probably need a bachelor's degree from a teacher training program, but to enhance your qualifications, consider a dual major in art. It will give you much needed soft skills—such as problem-solving, time management, and interpersonal skills—that will help you succeed in the classroom. If you want to teach art, it is a must. To become an art professor, you will need at least a master's degree, but it can be a lucrative job. Art professors can earn between $45,000 and $88,000 annually.

Event Planner

Event planners coordinate private parties, conventions, trade shows, and business meetings. They choose venues, entertainment, caterers, and decorations. With the skills you will develop as an art major, including time management, speaking, and listening skills, along with your eye for aesthetics, it is easy to see why this could make a good career choice. You may want to take some classes in event management or have a dual major in hospitality management. An internship in the hospitality industry would also be helpful.

The average annual salary for an event planner is $47,000.

Art Supply Sales Representative

Art supply sales representatives sell products on behalf of manufacturers and wholesalers. As an artist, you are more likely to be familiar with those goods, so you will be able to demonstrate art supplies and give customers your opinion of their benefits. Familiarity with your fellow artists' buying habits will put you in a good position to convince retailers of products' appeal to their customers. This makes you more qualified to sell art supplies than most people are, and the interpersonal and communication skills you gain in school will serve you well.

Fine Art Salesperson

Fine art salespeople work in galleries and other retail businesses and sell photographs, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and other works of art to the general public and collectors. While in school, you will learn how to describe art in a way that makes it easy for you to develop selling points and potentially perform better as a salesperson. On average, fine art salespeople can earn over $40,000 per year, with a chance for much more depending on the commission structure.

Art Therapist

Art therapists are mental health professionals who use art and the creative process to help their clients deal with mental health issues. This occupation combines knowledge of visual art with the study of human development, therapeutic practice, and psychology. Along with your BFA, a master's degree in art therapy will also be required. You can work in many settings as an art therapist, including traditional ones like hospitals, assisted living facilities, and schools; as well as nontraditional settings like correctional facilities, crisis centers, and clinical research facilities.

Art School Admissions Counselor

Admissions counselors at postsecondary art schools promote their institutions to potential students, their parents, and to high school guidance counselors. They meet with prospective students both on and off-campus. Counselors deliver presentations, answer questions, and give tours, as well as interview candidates, review applications, and participate in admissions decisions. Your experience as an art student and an artist will uniquely qualify you for this job. The communication and presentation skills you acquired while earning your degree will also prepare you well.