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How an Arts Degree Can Help You in the Real World

Jul 17 2012 at 11:21 am by

college grad need job“So… what are you going to do with it?”

Pretty common question, right? You probably get this question all the time if you’re one of those poor, misguided young men and women going into the arts. When people ask this question, what they’re really saying is:

“So… you realize teachers are out of work all over the place, right? And professors aren’t doing much better… Do you plan to go back to McDonald’s with fifty grand in debt?”

But is that sentiment even true?

Not entirely.

Sure, it’s true that the world we live in nowadays values profit potential over creativity. Bow to the money god. Success is a six-figure salary. But all of that righteous yet ineffectual truth means nothing out there in world that is. As a student of the arts, surely you’re aware of the fundamental distinction between what is, and what ought to be (Students, you can brush up on this distinction by picking up A Treatise of Human Nature.)We can argue all day long about what ought to be, but we do live in the world that is, and with that in mind, a true defense of the arts requires acknowledgment:

1. The arts alter you, turning you into an Argument Ninja.

As long as you can stomach your fear long enough to keep from becoming a conflict-avoidant introvert, the arts can teach you a great deal about winning arguments. After all, life is like one big fight.

The absolute best time to use your rhetorical skill against a practice dummy is anytime you’ve been pulled over by the local authorities. When they ask whether or not you’re aware that you were doing over twice the speed limit, you will have the philosophical stones to simply reply that speed is relative, and that perhaps their perception of your speed may have been altered by all of that caffeine and sugar.

2. Art impresses people

people having fun at the beach


These folks are arts majors, and this is what an academic hipster party might look like if it were seen through the lens of a stock photographer.

The fact is that hipster gals and guys absolutely love brains. It gets their thick-rimmed glasses a bit steamy. When you land that Bachelor of Arts, you essentially have a big certificate that says you know your way around an intellectual party. You know, the kind where everyone likes microbrews and wine and everyone takes each opportunity to talk about their own research and accomplishments, like peacocks showing their feathers.

3. The arts force you to think.

This may be the most important reason to study subjects like English, philosophy, sociology, and the rest. Unlike many disciplines that simply explain the rules of the game and then ask students to use those rules to continue playing the same game, many fields within the arts encourage a complete break with tradition and the individuality of interpretation. In turn, students may understand that politicians are not infallible and so bad laws are passed, that judges and police are fallible and so bad laws are enforced. And that’s just one example.
This ability can be applied to more things in the real world that simple law. The ability to critically think about other life questions, such as:

- Should I eat four chicken nuggets or five? Would five be too many?
- Why do I hate Justin Beiber?
- What is my favorite animated sitcom?

It can mean the difference between life and death. Sure, this is the defense that most arts majors use, “We can think critically, like outside the box!”, but it’s a damned good one.

half eaten pizza in greasy box

Thinking outside the pizza box. Where’s the rest of it? Will we ever know? Can we ever know? A serious question demanding serious reflection.

4. Likely “successful” careers for arts majors.

Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: a comprehensive list of the best occupations for graduates of each particular arts major:
English: Best-selling novelist (Teen Vampire Sparkle Hunger series)
Sociology: A waste of four years.
Psychology: Poker God/Goddess.
Film Studies: Webcam “Artist.”
Philosophy: Lawyer.

With these helpful career guides serving as landmarks for your own program goals, you’ll be unstoppable.

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