Friday, September 12, 2014

What's the payoff for a degree in art? (Plus a new POLL)

It's coming up the beginning of a new academic term in higher education. So what's the payoff for a degree in art?

Plus a new POLL! - See the side bar for the new poll - Education and art: which route did you take? - for some really silly reason which Polldaddy really needs to sort out, you can only vote if you view the results first!

The poll will run to the end of September.  I'll do a report back on the results at the beginning of October.

Below you can see an infographic about Pathways after a Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts. These are the nature of the choices people make who achieve some sort of Bachelor's Degree in Visual Arts in terms of what they do next and its financial outcomes over a lifetime. The infographic has been created by the United States Census Bureau. It was based on a census done in 2010 and it was first published in 2012 - so a little out of date.

In a nutshell it asks how much can you expect to earn over a lifetime if you follow different career pathways.

One of the aims of the exercise is to demonstrate that what look like small differences early in your career become magnified over time as the differences in earnings begin to stack up. That, in due course, has a major impact on our economic wellbeing in later years in terms of pensions etc.

Some art graduates go on to higher degrees and some go on to occupations in the visual arts field. The infographic is based on the numbers who have achieved the highest level of degree they finished with. (In other words - those who got an MA or a PhD are not counted in with the BAs)

It suggests that:

  • there is a clear financial payoff for all those who go on to an advanced degree - particularly if it has a professional orientation - or pursue a professional path related to art.
  • art teachers have a mixed picture. Artists do better than elementary art teachers! However if you teach in a secondary school or higher education, on average you do better than full time artists.
  • those who work in design and marketing do best of all those who have careers in areas related to art.
What do you think of the picture it paints?

Personally, I'd like to see more up to date data and I'd also find it very interesting to see the same sort of data for people doing degrees in different countries.

Pathways After a Bachelor's Degree  - Visual Arts image
[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]
Click to see a larger version
Read Creation of the Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates for Field of Degree Brief and Infographics to find out how they calculated the work life earnings for different pathways
Synthetic Work-life Earnings are a way of looking at how small differences in earnings can add up to big differences over an extended period of time. For example making $12 per hour more adds up to $480 per week or $25,000 per year or $1,000,000 in a 40-year work-life. While this way of looking at earnings is very useful one should note that these estimates are based on many assumptions, discussed below, and they should be used for illustration purposes rather than an exact projection of a persons earnings.


  1. I cant' tell if the poll is accepting my vote, but it appears some votes are being recorded so perhaps it's on my end or my browser. I checked degree-full time.

  2. Hi Tessa - did you see the comment at the beginning about the need to view the results first if you have any problems voting?


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