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Making It Work: The Education and Employment of Recent Arts Graduates

Annual Report 2014

February 25, 201525 February 2015

Situation of artists / Arts education

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Based on three years of surveys of "over 92,000 arts alumni … from 153 institutions – 140 post-secondary institutions and 13 arts high schools”, this report examines the situation of graduates of arts and arts-related programs, including architecture, art history, arts administration, arts education, creative and other writing, dance, design, fine and studio arts (including photography), media arts, music history, composition, and theory, music performance, and theatre. The largest groups of respondents graduated from fine and studio arts (32%), design (15%), and media arts (11%). Because the survey respondents were not randomly sampled, the representativeness of the sample relative to all arts-related graduates in the United States is difficult to assess.

Three key findings from the surveys are that arts-related graduates “have found meaningful employment, are satisfied with their lives, and are pleased that they chose to go to an arts school”.

The report compares the experiences of recent graduates (i.e., who responded within five years of graduating) and less-recent graduates (i.e., who responded more than five years after graduating and would typically have more work experience):

  • Among respondents who were working at the time of the survey, a large majority were either very or somewhat satisfied with their current job (75% of recent and 82% of less-recent graduates).
  • Similarly, a large majority of graduates were satisfied with their opportunities to be creative at work (67% of recent and 79% of less-recent graduates).
  • A slim majority of recent graduates (52%) were satisfied with their income, compared with 63% of less-recent graduates.
  • 64% of recent graduates thought that their current job was either “very relevant” or “relevant” to their arts-related training, compared with 69% percent of less-recent graduates.
  • A somewhat higher percentage of graduates found their first job after graduation to be related to their studies. Among respondents who had found employment since graduating, 80% of recent graduates had a first job that they considered to be either “closely” or “somewhat closely” related to their education, compared with 82% of less-recent graduates.
  • 14% of recent graduates had more than $60,000 in student debt at graduation, while only 4% of less-recent graduates had such a high level of debt. At the other end of the scale, only 31% of recent graduates had no student debt at graduation, compared with 46% of less-recent graduates.

The surveys also found a high degree of community engagement among arts-related program graduates, including arts attendance, donating money to arts organizations or artists, volunteering with an arts organization, and volunteering to teach in the arts.

The report provides an analysis of many other issues, including graduates’ views on their arts-related training programs and factors that would help retain graduates in the arts.

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