If the artist in your life who is getting ready or is a recent college graduate, they may face a lot of uncertainty in the current job market. The Great Recession was still impacting students graduating in 2016.

There are fewer job opportunities and more people competing for those jobs. Those who have the education, but don’t yet have the experience, find it a struggle to land a good paying job right out of college.

Still, there is a bright side. For one thing, those with a college degree out-earn those without one. Millennials with a bachelor’s degree or higher are reported to have an above median income compared to those with some college or high school only. When trying to figure out what to say to a recent college grad with an art degree, be honest and encouraging at the same time.

Finding a Job in the Arts Is Challenging

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Traditionally, finding a job in the arts has been challenging. When young people state they are studying art history, your first reaction might be to wince and wonder how they’ll ever earn enough of an income to take care of themselves.

Being a starving artist is a real possibility. Art falls into one of the categories of majors that have a high unemployment rate at around 11.1%. Even if graduates are able to find a job in their field, the earnings aren’t going to be great.

Around 25% earn a mere $14.06 per hour. While some artists do earn noticeably more (as much as $99k a year), this is likely those who’ve been in the arts for many years and have established a strong following.

With all that in mind, it’s vital that you offer some strong words of encouragement as well as some reality checks for the recent graduate. It is important to support creative types while showing them how to apply their skills in various areas and make the most of a difficult job market. Tips to share with your graduate include:

1. Make a Game Plan

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Whatever the goal of artistic grads, they will find success more easily with a strong and strategic plan than if they go through life without one. If a graduate is struggling to find a job because of their major, then encourage them to come up with a game plan to survive on their own.

What other types of jobs can they apply their knowledge to? Can they work on art part-time or get a volunteer position with a local art museum on the weekends? This can allow art graduates to get their foot in the door and gain experience in their industry while still working a job that pays the bills.

2. Consider Adding Skills to Your Resume

A degree that has a high unemployment rate isn’t exactly fixable after graduation day. Fine arts graduates see starting salaries around $29,000 a year compared to nurses who start around $48,000 a year. Around 62.3% of art graduates take a low paying job that doesn’t even require a college degree.

Another piece of advice you can offer, if asked, is to add skills to their resume. This might include metal working, where the person could offer freelance work as a welder. Consider looking into online courses, like CodeAcademy and encourage them to learn basic HTML and CSS. Reviewers want to see a diverse scope of knowledge, and this is a great selling point to feature on their resume!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Your Dreams

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Those just graduating are frightened. The world is a big, scary place and an art graduate has heard over and over how their particular field is difficult to break into and they won’t earn anything as an artist. While it is a good idea to offer practical advice, what the artist’s soul really craves is recognition for the thing they love most in the world — art.

Don’t forget to tell the graduate what you think they are particularly talented at and ask what their dream job is. Encourage that dream while also pointing them to more practical things.

Don’t say: “Oh, you’ll never get a job at the Big Time Art Museum. Only famous artists work there.”

Do say: “That’s an amazing museum. What are the steps you need to take to achieve your dream of working there? How did other people accomplish it?”

4. Have Something to Fall Back On

No matter what career graduates go into, there are some good financially sound things they should do. For example, financial advice guru Dave Ramsey recommends starting with a $1,000 emergency fund, staying out of debt or paying it off, and then saving enough for six months of living expenses.

One thing you could do, if you have the extra funds, is start a small savings account for the graduate as a graduation gift. Explain the concept of an emergency fund and let the student know you’ll help them get started with a financial gift.

5. Be Proactive

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Sending out resumes to jobs listed on websites can seem never-ending. One survey showed that about 85% of jobs are filled via networking. That means that graduates need to let everyone they know they are seeking a job, what type of job they are looking and be open to utilizing connections to land an interview.

Advise your graduate to think outside the box when job hunting. Explain why networking matters.


Despite the hurdles art graduates face, many art majors are thriving. Some may not be in their original chosen career, but they have found other ways to explore their creativity while earning a living. Others are budding artists, and who knows where the future will take them? One thing is certain, though — they will always remember that you offered support and sage advice.

About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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