Arts students: determined or doomed?

As convocation approaches, arts students consider what awaits for them after they step across the stage

There is a well-known saying that suggests that if you find a job doing something you love, you will never work a day in your life. Some students may begin to question this counsel as convocation weekend quickly approaches, accompanied by uncertainty about next steps for their careers. In my experience, those of us in arts programs have been fed this saying time and time again by family, friends, mentors and professors, but fear about finding jobs can leave us discouraged. What really awaits fine arts and music students after they cross the stage at convocation? It turns out that there might be more than you may think.

There is an extensive list of potential jobs for students coming out of a degree in fine arts or music, though none of these come without hard work and determination. A fine arts graduate might consider illustration, printmaking, designing or even creating and selling their own work. A graduate of a music program may consider a career in the military, teaching, therapy, freelancing or as a professional musician. These options are just the tip of the iceberg. Interestingly enough, medical schools often take interest in students with music degrees as they are known to have good work ethics as well as steady hand movements.

Hard work is the key, and Mount Allison offers many tools to set its students up for success. One helpful workshop offered on campus is targeted to those interested in pursuing business after completing their arts degrees. This “artpreneurship” workshop focuses on collaborative entrepreneurship in the arts industry. Students are assigned projects involving their chosen arts field to be completed with guidance from professionals and faculty members. Erik Garf, a graduating drama major, attended the workshop. “This weekend helped me realize how beneficial it is to work cooperatively with business students who can teach me how to build a business plan to effectively produce my art in my career outside of university,” he said.

Marcie Meekins graduated from Mt. A in 2012 with a BA in history and religion. She always had a passion for music and eventually decided to pursue it as a career. “Ten years of formal piano lessons and a real passion for music as healing therapy drove me to get involved with the music industry,” said Meekins. Throughout her career, Meekins has learned that no one just hands anyone a job. “You can’t buy your way in music or arts careers,” she said. “It takes hard work, dedication and pure talent to succeed. What I find the most striking about graduates of these programs [is] how deeply passionate they are about their vocations. They live art. It’s not something that you leave at the office at 4:30 p.m. and head home; it is their lives. Their dedication is an inspiration to those watching.”

When Meekins went back on the job market in 2016 after a few years in the industry, there was one thing that struck her about her search for careers. “No matter what posting I looked at, they all had one thing in common. You needed a bachelor’s degree to even be considered.” Many long-term career opportunities won’t even consider the possibility of hiring someone without the skills learned while working toward an undergraduate degree. “I use the skills that I obtained during that time every day of my life. Writing, research, debate, communication skills – those are the backbone of successful careers.”

Meekins concluded by saying, “In short, what is next for Music and Fine Arts grads? Whatever they put their minds to. They have the skills and the education needed to succeed and we know for sure that they have the dedication.”

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