art education

So you want to study an Art, Craft or Design degree?

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So you want to study an Art, Craft or Design degree?

Well, there’s some great news! The number of jobs in the Creative Industries increased by 5.5 per cent between 2013 and 2014 to 1.8 million jobs. This was an increase of 15.8 per cent since 2011.


Government data shows that the Creative Industries are growing faster than any other part of the economy. The increases compare with a 2.1 per cent increase in the total number of jobs in the wider UK economy between 2013 and 2014. The Creative Industries used for the statistics are: Advertising & Media, Architecture, Crafts, Film & TV, Design industries, IT and computers, Publishing, Museums & Libraries, Music & Performing Arts. The biggest area for employment is Museums, Galleries and Libraries and the least is Crafts.


So does this wonderful news mean that you should now study arts degrees? Well, if you’re in it for the money, then no. Wages for arts graduates are the second lowest, just behind Humanities degrees at 21K per annum compared to 45K for Medical graduates. Study for an Arts degree and you are likely to be comparatively low-paid!


Well what about job satisfaction, doing something you love? Surely that’s worth more than money? Yes of course it is! But all I’m saying is be careful, don’t bank on a lifetime of vocational bliss. UK Statistics on University leavers from 2012 show that only 23% of fine art graduates went on to work in art, design and media jobs. And of the other trades that art graduates ended up in, approx 29% were in retail/service industries. 12% of fine art graduates were unemployed six months after completing their course. It gets a little better for Design graduates though. 53% of Design graduates were in full-time employment six months after qualifying in 2012, however only 38% of these had jobs in arts related industries and many of those described themselves as freelance or self-employed.



So the chances of you ending up in your dream career are heavily stacked against you; only one in four fine art graduates will find work in their chosen profession and just over one in three design graduates. Of course this data illustrates employment for graduates only and does not account for what happens after six months. Nor have all graduates been surveyed, but the data spread used is secure enough to give a strong indication of employment trends.
It is also important to highlight the very real transferrence of skills that occur between industries when arts students move into other employment sectors. In short, these skills don’t go to waste and industry needs creative people, but the trick is to hone that creative talent in the right direction for maximum effect.

Now of course having a degree increases your life chances enormously. Statistically speaking you increase your lifetime earnings potential and you also increase the range of career options you have. It is much better to have a degree than not have one. Without that piece of paper you will almost certainly find yourself working in low, mimimum wage jobs that often have little in the way of job satisfaction, unless you have kind, rich parents or you win the lottery. What I’m saying is that studying for a degree is expensive so make sure you make the right choices with your eyes wide open!

With estimates from the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicting levels of student debt to rise to 53 thousand pounds for the poorest 40% of students, studying fine art and graphics to degree level is one that has me (as an Art education professional) fraught with concern. Yet in 2012 nearly 50 thousand people graduated in creative arts or design degrees compared to just over 30 thousand in Engineering, 20 thousand in Law and under 14 thousand in Architecture. Creative Arts and Design are one of the largest areas of graduate study, after Business studies and Medical related degrees.  So it pays to know how competitive it is for those (very welcome) new creative jobs.

Ending on a positive: the latest government data shows that the Creative Industries are booming compared to other UK industries so it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom. But you need to be aware of the cold, hard facts of the life defining options you are taking. You need the right information so that you can be fully informed before deciding what is best for you.

In my opinion: taking the decision to study an arts degree should only be done after carefully weighing up the options.

1. Is it the right decision for you and the future you? i.e. the kind of person you are and where you see yourself going?

2. Are you prepared to accept that studying for an arts degree will be expensive for you, that the chances of you getting employment in your field are lower, and that rates of pay will be statistically lower than that of other graduates?

3. Are you realistic about your artistic ability and motivation; are you good enough and how hard will you work at your degree and chosen profession?

4. How emotionally and financially supportive are your family? They can make all the difference!

Of course I wouldn’t put anyone off from studying arts degrees, I did one myself after all, but both of my children studied arts degrees, and one is now training to be a nurse whilst the other works in a factory on minimum wage and they are both nearly 30 thousand pounds in debt!!! So be careful about what you decide to do and I wish you good luck.


What do graduates do? 2013 by the HECSU and the Education Liaison Task Group.

Office for National Statistics – Graduates in the UK Labour Market 2013

Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Creative Industries: Focus on Employment  – June 2015

Institute Fiscal Studies July 2015 Budget Student Finance Proposals