Why a Design Degree isn’t the Career Death Sentence your Parents Suspected

This is back to school week for me. It’s always exciting to meet a new crop of students. Every year I get to see parents send their kids off into the wild on their own. Frequently, I am posed with questions from these parents to ease their fears about their child pursuing a degree in the arts.

I get it. Really, I do. I am hoping that my own 3-year-old sticks with her game plan of becoming a doctor (I’m not exactly as comfortable with her plan of her Mom being the nurse and myself serving as the receptionist, though she assures me that the medical school she attends will have classes for the two of us, as well).

The fact is, a life in the arts has never been a golden ticket to wealth and leisure. It is, in fact, a career filled with hard work, long hours, and (at times) less than glamorous work conditions. The entertainment industry is particularly challenging in that your job happens when other people want to relax. Nights, weekends, and holidays are your work week. Monday is your weekend. If you freelance, there is the added pressure of working to secure the next job (or jobs) while working on another. Believe it or not, this is the beginning of my pitch to those parents mentioned above. It’s the follow-up that’s so important.

If your son or daughter is committed to learning, works hard and proves to be a good collaborator, they are going to get a job after graduation. How can I make such a claim? It’s pretty simple, really…

Supply and Demand

Statistics say that those in our field looking for work stand a much better chance than most other fields. In this economy, we all know jobs have been hard to come by. People have gone back to school in record numbers to learn new skills and the market is now flooded with graduates. At the undergraduate level, recent polls show the greatest majority of undergraduates majored in business (358,000 majors). On the other hand, all of the Visual and Performing Arts combined together numbered less than 100,000 majors. In short, while other professions are being flooded with graduates, the arts have less people competing for the jobs.

What about the jobs, though? Are there enough of them? Well, that is where we see some other good news. It seems that when times are hard, people still want to be entertained. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the Arts, Entertainment and Recreation industry is predicted to grow 15% by 2015. This is second only to the Healthcare and Social Assistance industry! In other words, not only are there jobs available, but there are jobs being created.


The other reason for future job security with design and technology graduates is the versatility of their training. Designers are not trained to only do one thing – they are trained to solve problems within given constraints of time, budget, and resources. This is why we see major business schools increasingly creating partnerships with design programs so that tomorrows CEOs can be trained to think like a designer. Designers are problem-solvers, and problem-solvers are always in demand.

That’s why I feel good about what I do. Let’s be honest, a college education isn’t the the panacea it was made out to be for so many years, but if you can can find a program that gives life skills and helps prepare students for the realistic demands of today’s world, then it is still worth it. Just remember, though, even the best education is only worth what you put into it.


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