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Educating Artists

An analysis of the educational backgrounds of working artists and the labour market activities of arts program graduates in Canada

November 25, 201525 November 2015

Situation of artists

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Based on the 2013 National Graduates Survey and the 2011 National Household Survey, this report examines the labour force situation of arts graduates and the post-secondary education of artists in Canada.

Looking at the 326,300 Canadian workers 25 years of age or older who have graduated from post-secondary visual and performing arts programs, the report finds that they have a range of occupations. Of note, 11% of visual and performing arts graduates worked as artists in 2011, and “another 20% worked in other occupations within the broad category of arts, culture, recreation, or sports”. Important proportions of visual and performing arts graduates worked in sales and service (18%), business, finance, and administration (14%), management (11%), and in education, law, social services, and government (also 11%).

The report finds that the 134,500 artists 25 or older have a “diverse array of educational backgrounds”, with 28% having “graduated from a post-secondary visual or performing arts program”. In addition, 6% of artists graduated from an education program, and the same number graduated from communications and journalism. Five percent of artists graduated from business, management, and marketing.

The report indicates that there is limited “overlap between working artists and arts graduates”, given the fact that 11% of visual and performing graduates are artists and 28% of artists are arts graduates.

Another key finding of the report is that there are “signs of underemployment of recent arts and communications graduates” when compared with other graduates:

  • Only 36% of arts and communications graduates have a job that is closely related to their studies, compared with 58% of all graduates.
  • “23% of arts and communications graduates worked at a job with gross annual earnings below $20,000, compared with 10% of all graduates.”
  • “Arts and communications graduates are much more likely than other graduates to be employed in sales and service occupations (22% vs. 13%).”

Despite their labour market challenges, “72% of recent arts and communications graduates would choose the same program of studies again. This is only slightly less than the percentage of all graduates (76%).”

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