After the economic decline in 2008, many college graduates with a Bachelor of Arts degree found themselves without work. There wasn’t a great demand for artists and creative minds in the job market, and it seemed that having a college degree no longer meant job security.
However, according to former Meadows Dean Jose Bowen, Meadows currently has the highest employment rate of any art school in the country with 68 percent of first year graduates finding work in their field. The percentage of graduates with BA’s who work directly in their field is just 27 percent, according to sample research done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Also, a study from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project noted that 48 percent of arts graduates received job offers by graduation day in 2014.
Professor and Senior Associate Dean Kevin Paul Hofeditz said that a precise numbers for arts graduate employment rates would be almost impossible to calculate. He said that many students looking to work in an artistic career can be self-employed, or that they are constantly changing careers. He also said that many students perhaps find a job several weeks or months after graduation, but do not follow up with the university.
“Unlike Cox or Lyle students, Meadows students typically don’t have secured jobs until after graduation,” said senior journalism major Claire Kelley. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I think things like that that might give other students anxiety instead foster hope and optimism in creative-minded Meadows kids.”
These percentages can be misleading and difficult to comprehend particularly when considering that these degrees in art don’t necessarily correlate with a specific field. An article from The Atlantic pointed out that the Fed’s study was extremely specific when calculating what degrees and fields go together. The Atlantic said that in the study, a math major would only be considered to be working in his or her field if he were a mathematician, professor or math scientist. It does not count if that math major goes on to work as a stockbroker, even though that graduate is certainly using the degree skills on a daily basis.
When it comes to art degrees, this process of analysis only becomes more complicated and difficult to assess. In comparison, it would be much easier to measure the number of graduates with degrees in psychology who work in psychological fields or math majors in mathematics. However, the artistic field is so much harder to define.
Many graduates pursue secondary degrees, and The Atlantic points out that the Fed’s document excluded those graduate degree holders, which made the employment percentage smaller. Besides self-employment, art students are also more likely to pursue new careers online that don’t necessarily have the stability of say, a job as a doctor. Perhaps a graduate with a degree in acting is making a living by creating online web videos or a graduate with a journalism degree is writing for his or her own blog.
While they are making a living and have a job, they’re technically not employed by a particular company, and therefore they’re distorting the statistic for employment rates.
While these statistics may reflect a harder job market for creative careers, students are still pursuing BA’s. One reason for this could be SMU’s willingness to help students find jobs.
According to the SNAAP study, 70 percent of recent graduates felt their institution helped them with network and relationship building skills. This statistic would suggest that students have more contacts in creative fields who helped them find work. Many SMU students feel that Meadows is very focused on helping students with networking to build their careers.
“I think SMU has been really helpful in preparing Meadows students to find jobs,” said Kelley. “I’m constantly getting emails about internships and job opportunities, and people are really willing to hire SMU students. In fact, I’ve had a few internships that have been offered exclusively to SMU students because so many students are smart and capable even before they meet us.”