ug art show 2015

Career Paths

Debunk the myth that art students will not be successful upon graduation! What do you say when well meaning family and friends ask 'What are you going to do with that degree'?

This video produced by Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts with data from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) (a research effort led by Indiana and Arizona State Universities, supported by the Surdna Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and others) shows the success of arts students post-graduation compared to students coming from other degree programs. Respondents were at different stages of their careers, they came from more than 150 arts programs from a diverse set of institutions and *spoiler alert* the majority are:

  • employed
  • satisfied with their careers
  • would choose their program again if given the choice.

Museums and Galleries

  • Art direction
  • Administration
  • Curatorial
  • Conservation
  • Restoration
  • Registrar
  • Collections management
  • Exhibit design/preparation
  • Archive management
  • Education
  • Tours
  • Sales
  • Publications
  • Development
  • Public relations
  • Historian


  • Art museums: University, Public, Private
  • Archives
  • Historical societies
  • Natural history museums
  • Living history museums
  • Galleries
  • Community centers
  • Auction houses


  • Gain relevant experience through internships or volunteer positions in museums or galleries.
  • Visit museums around the country and world to gain exposure to art. Learn a foreign language and plan to study abroad.
  • Supplement curriculum with courses in history, religion, anthropology, and classical civilizations. Most art historians will specialize in a period or region.
  • Acquire strong skills in research, fund-raising, speaking, writing, and an attention to detail.
  • Plan to earn a graduate degree in art history, museum studies, or other related discipline depending upon specific interests. Each specialty has varying qualifications and required training.
  • Develop good interpersonal skills, including the ability to work well on teams.
  • Become a member of local museums.
  • Read published resources provided by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

Fine Arts and Crafts

  • Glass
  • Ceramics
  • Textiles
  • Printmaking
  • Multi-media
  • Fiber
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Illustration
  • Film
  • Performance
  • Installation
  • Video


  • Self-employed
  • Studios
  • Living history museums and historical sites
  • School and community programs
  • Colleges and universities


  • Complete a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) to continue developing skills and to increase professional opportunities in art related fields.
  • Consider whether you want to pursue art as a full- time job or as an avocational interest.
  • Opportunities are limited for full-time work. Many artists hold other jobs to supplement their income.
  • Participate in juried shows and exhibitions.
  • Maintain an up-to-date physical and digital portfolio of your work.
  • Gain additional skills and experience through an apprenticeship, internship, or volunteer position with a professional artist or organization.
  • Secure guild membership.
  • Learn to network and make contacts.
  • Build a reputation by circulating art work and developing a particular style.

Commercial Art

  • Graphic art
  • Motion design
  • Web design
  • Graphic novels
  • Illustration
  • Story boards
  • Advertising
  • Medical and scientific illustration
  • Typography
  • Animation
  • Art direction
  • Logo/Branding
  • Design: advertisement, magazine, layout, book, packaging, stationary, wallpaper


  • Advertising agencies
  • Public relation agencies
  • Design firms
  • Company marketing departments
  • Publishing companies: magazines, newspapers, books
  • Department stores
  • Television and motion picture industry
  • Governmental agencies
  • Universities
  • Manufacturing firms
  • Greeting card companies
  • Internet media companies
  • Self-employed
  • Large corporations


  • Develop excellent technical and computer skills in a variety of platforms and design software.
  • Maintain an up-to-date physical and digital portfolio of your work.
  • Gain relevant experience through part-time jobs and internships.
  • Obtain summer or part-time experience with book, magazine, or newspaper publishers.
  • Develop attention to detail and ability to meet deadlines.
  • Supplement curriculum with course work in advertising or business.
  • For medical illustration, undergraduate coursework in anatomy and biology may be necessary, as well as a master’s degree in medical illustration.
  • Participate in the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition to build a greater understanding of the industry and to gain recognition.


  • Formalized instruction
  • Recreational instruction
  • Research (art history)
  • Art curriculum writing
  • Administration
  • Library/Information sciences
  • Visual Resources curating
  • Student affairs: student activities, leadership development, admissions, orientation, career services, residence life, multi-cultural affairs, study abroad, international student services.
  • Academic affairs: academic support services, advising, educational advancement programs, honors programs.
  • Community education
  • Educational program coordinator


  • K-12 schools, public and private
  • Universities and colleges
  • Art schools
  • Adult and community programs
  • Museums
  • Recreation centers
  • Libraries
  • Group homes


  • Develop strong communication skills and teaching ability through coursework and campus activities.
  • Learn how to develop curriculum and workshops and how to use multimedia.
  • Acquire a teaching certificate for public school teaching. Learn about requirements by state.
  • Gain experience working with children through volunteer or part-time work.
  • Participate in art clubs, juried shows, and exhibitions.
  • Maintain an updated physical and digital portfolio of your work.
  • To teach art history in higher education:
    • Take general history classes in addition to art history classes.
    • Learn one or more foreign language to research original sources.
    • Earn a doctoral degree in art history.
  • To teach studio and fine arts in higher education, earn a graduate degree in a specific area of art.
  • Earn a master’s degree in information science for librarianships or college student personnel/higher education administration for other positions in colleges and universities.
  • Study, memorize, and analyze art movements around the world.
  •  Maintain a high grade point average and secure strong faculty recommendations.
  • Seek campus leadership positions such as peer mentor, orientation leader, or resident assistant.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a mental health profession that utilizes the creative process of art to enhance functioning in individuals experiencing mental or physical difficulties. It combines the creation of art with theories of counseling and psychotherapy. (Adapted from AATA resources.)


  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Mental health facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Community agencies and centers
  • Schools, colleges, and universities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Domestic violence and homeless shelters
  • Art studios
  • Private practice


  • Take courses in art, as well as courses in psychology, social work, education, and child and family studies.
  • A master’s degree and coursework in art therapy from a program accredited by The American Art
  • Therapy Association (AATA) is required to enter the field.
  • Volunteer in a rehabilitation setting.
  • Learn to work well with many types of people and develop excellent communication skills.
  • Cultivate a strong sense of empathy, patience, and interpersonal skills. Learn to work in a team environment.


  • Journalism: production, design, art criticism, editing
  • Art direction
  • Sales
  • Programming
  • Video
  • Illustration
  • Animation
  • Story board
  • Film
  • Social media
  • Digital imaging and editing
  • Website design


  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Websites
  • Book publishers
  • Studios
  • News departments of local, public, and commercial radio and TV stations
  • Syndicated radio services
  • Movie studios
  • Production companies


  • Develop excellent grammar and writing skills along with knowledge of the history and culture of art.
  • Consider obtaining a minor or double major in journalism or broadcasting/electronic media, English, or theater depending upon interests.
  • Learn web design skills to prepare for online work. This area of journalism is growing while print is declining.
  • Become comfortable working in a deadline-oriented atmosphere.
  • Work with campus or local newspapers. Create a portfolio of work samples, especially those that have been published.
  • Seek opportunities for recognition and networking through writing contests and freelance writing submissions.
  • Complete internships in movie studios or other relevant organizations.


  • Fine arts
  • News
  • Commercial and industrial
  • Portrait
  • Nature
  • Scientific
  • Journalism
  • Food
  • Underwater
  • Weddings/Events
  • Fashion


  • Museums
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Websites
  • Photo agencies
  • Studios
  • Libraries
  • Large corporations
  • Self-employed
  • Venues


  • Develop proficiency with photo editing software.
  • Because more than half of all professional photographers are self-employed, it is important to develop knowledge and understanding of business principles.
  • Apprentice with a free-lance photographer.
  • Maintain an up-to-date portfolio of both black and white and color photography.
  • Obtain an internship or part-time job with the campus newspaper, local newspaper, website or other media outlet.

Art Sales

  • Appraisal: art and estate
  • Sales
  • Antiques dealing
  • Antiquarian book dealer
  • Art authentication
  • Public relations
  • Website management
  • Photography


  • Self-employed
  • Dealers
  • Galleries
  • Museums
  • Auction houses
  • Specialty stores
  • Interior design firms
  • Insurance agencies
  • Commercial art manufacturers


  • Learn to communicate effectively with a wide range of people. Take additional courses in interpersonal communication and public speaking.
  • Pursue a business minor to increase knowledge of business principles. An understanding of public relations is also helpful.
  • Prepare to work independently and to be self-motivated.
  • Plan to work irregular and/or long hours.
  • Cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit, including self-discipline and perseverance, are keys to success.
  • Pursue a business minor to increase knowledge of business principles.
  • Obtain sales experience through internships or summer and part-time jobs.
  • Volunteer in museums, membership drives, local galleries, and community outreach programs.
  • Serve as a student assistant in a university gallery.
  • Develop solid public speaking skills.
  • Become familiar with marketing techniques using social media platforms.
  • Research certificate programs in appraisal studies to prepare for that field.
  • Consider earning a minor in a foreign language.


  • Administration
  • Management
  • Public relations
  • Development
  • Research
  • Grant writing
  • Direct service


  • Local and national nonprofit agencies:
    • Arts Education Partnership
    • National Arts Education Association
    • Americans for the Arts
  • Foundations:
    • International Child Art Foundation
    • Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
  • Trade or professional associations
  • Special interest groups
  • Libraries
  • Museums:
    • University
    • Public
    • Private
  • Historic sites:
  • Historical societies


  • Gain experience through volunteering or completing an internship.
  • Supplement curriculum with courses in business, psychology, sociology, or social work.
  • Obtain leadership roles in relevant campus and community organizations.
  • Develop strong communication and research skills.
  • Learn how to write grants.
  • Research organizations’ values to find a good fit with yours. It is critical that you are knowledgeable about and committed to the work you’re going to do.
  • Investigate term of service or service corps positions as a way to gain entry into the field.
  • Earn a graduate degree for more job opportunities and advancement.


  • Public affairs
  • Writing/Editing
  • Audiovisual producing
  • Museum work
  • Curating
  • Development


  • State arts agencies
  • Local, state, and national councils for the arts
  • Historical commissions
  • Museums/Galleries: Smithsonian Institute, The National Gallery Film boards
  • Libraries and archives
  • Endowments/Grant making agencies
  • Cultural affairs agencies


  • Maintain a strong grade point average as many government programs are very competitive.
  • Complete an internship with the federal government.
  • There are a large number of specialized agencies within the federal government. Do extensive research to find the area that best fits your interests.
  • Earn a graduate degree for advancement.
  • Become familiar with the government application process. Utilize applicable websites and seek assistance from your college career center.
  • Develop a network of contacts through informational interviews and referrals.


  • Management
  • Sales
  • Public relations
  • Market research
  • Creative design
  • Art insurance adjuster
  • Art economist


  • Product and service organizations
  • Retail stores
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Wholesalers
  • Manufacturers (e.g., commercial art)
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Insurance companies
  • Real estate agencies
  • Consulting firms
  • Other business corporations


  • Develop strong analytical, verbal, and writing skills.
  • Acquire a business minor or add business as a double major.
  • Gain experience in an area of interest through internships or other employment.
  • Obtain leadership roles in campus organizations.
  • Demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Hone computer skills and learn software packages for databases, spreadsheets, and presentations.
  • Be prepared to start in entry level positions, such as management trainee programs.

General Information

  • A bachelor’s degree is valuable for entry-level positions, but an advanced degree is usually necessary to attain competitive, upper-level positions.
  • An art degree can and should be tailored to areas of specialization.
  • Explore more specific careers related to art history such as art appraisal or art authentication. Careers also exist with auction houses and the storage and transportation of art work, art investment, corporate curation, art law, and law enforcement.
  • Develop career goals and then gain the necessary education, skills, and experiences to achieve them.
  • Save artwork for a strong portfolio – too much is better than too little.
  • Be prepared to relocate to the larger markets of metropolitan areas where more opportunities exist.
  • Join art-related professional and student organizations.
  • Volunteer with fundraising efforts for the arts.
  • Gain valuable experience through volunteering, internships, part-time and summer jobs, and apprenticeships.
  • Seek exposure to art by visiting museums around the country and world.
  • Conduct informational interviews with professionals in areas of interest to learn more about opportunities and strategies for these areas. Learn to network.
  • Gain experience in fundraising and grant writing techniques. Often research and nonprofit organizations must be funded in this manner.
  • Pair an art degree with other career interests to increase opportunities and provide supplemental income.
  • According to the Department of Labor, many Artists are self-employed.
  • Develop skills in business management, computers, marketing, and other related areas to increase marketability.
  • A career in the arts takes dedication, patience, flexibility, talent, and some luck.

Making a career out of being creative!

Hear from Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of GoPro, as he talks about the significance of his UC San Diego Visual Arts degree in the creation of GoPro. He thought about GoPro like one of his art projects and was able to find a life joining passion and success.