Visual and Performing Arts is a deceptively broad field to those who may be unfamiliar to it.
Under visual arts alone you have a discipline for every medium there is, whether it be painting, sculpting, drawing, weaving, etc. Meanwhile performing arts can include everything from acting and singing to dancing and directing, and has a ton of crossover into other creative fields like film, creative writing, and, of course, visual arts as well.
Even if you're set on sticking to the strictly creative side of things, your options are pretty broad. And as opposed to a lot of other majors, you might not be as worried about making money from your career just starting out, given that expectation isn't as built into jobs in the arts as much as it is in most other jobs. Ideally, you're looking for the kind of job that doesn't have you making those kind of creative or financial sacrifices, but that option isn't always on the table.
Which is all to say that when graduation day comes around, you've got a lot of tough decisions to make about where and what you're going to be.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Visual and Performing Arts Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as a Visual and Performing Arts Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for Visual and Performing Arts Majors
The skills of someone in the Visual and Performing Arts tend to revolve around either the concrete, medium-specific skills used during the completion of various projects (painting, set design, etc.) or the meta-skills learned through the process of mastering an artistic medium, such as creative thinking or the ability to work in mind of larger projects (vs. concentrating on just a single day's work at a time).
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career. Here are some of the common skills that you should have when trying to get a job with a Visual and Performing Arts degree.
You've spent a lot of time in the abstract space of your own creative mind, developing solutions to problems that rarely exist to anyone other than you. After all, it typically isn't anything a simple as "you have to make a thing" when it comes to creating art.
When it comes to creating something in either the performance or visual arts spheres, it's typically a matter of aesthetics and personal taste -- as well as understanding the conventions of the medium you're working within -- more than anything else. This kind of creative problem-solving is exactly what you need when it comes to thinking of outside-the-box solutions to work problems.
As an artist, your work is measured in terms of individual works, not the amount of time you've spent working. You can take hours and hours of work to make something that, technically speaking, ought to be impressive -- but if (creatively speaking) its a dud, then no one will buy it or be impressed by it, and you won't even have learned much about art in the process.
As a result, your time in art classes gets you used to thinking about your work output in terms of these individual projects, considering not only how much time you'll have to spend on them to finish them, but (often more importantly) how these projects will ultimately fit within the larger context of your field.
It takes a lot of passion and dedication to work in the arts, even to accomplish one specific project. Because art is the sort of thing where any amount of time could be spent on it -- you could, after all, throw a little paint on a piece of paper and proclaim it "done" -- there's a lot of personal responsibility tied in with making a work into a finished piece.
Working with art, you get a better understanding of when exactly you're "finished" working on something, and how personally invested you ought to be in the success of your work. There's no one else to hold accountable except yourself, unless you're contibuting to a larger work (like a performance) in which case you learn early on just what kind of effect not doing your job properly can have.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting a Visual and Performing Arts Degree
Internships in the Visual and Performing Arts field tend to be related to a particular location or company specializing in one aspect of the arts field, or else a larger venue for the arts to be performed or otherwise displayed.
As with most internships, these internships can often be parlayed into an eventual position with the group or venue. However, much of the value of these internships is the ability to use the artistic knowledge you already possess in the context of a professional working environment.
Here are some common types of internships for Visual and Performing Arts Majors:
- Dance/Theatre Troupe
- Art Gallery
Before you settle on an internship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. Available Jobs For Visual and Performing Arts Majors
As your experience within the major itself might suggest, jobs for a Visual and Performing Arts Major tend to be very involved with creativity, particularly when it's able to be directed in service of a larger problem.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Visual and Performing Arts major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Graphic Designers combine artistry with IT skills, often working with website developers or content creators in order to make eye-popping visual content, typically for marketing purposes. A working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and InDesign are essential, as well as the ability to draw (or otherwise create) attractive digital content.
While creating designs and visual content is still often required of an Art Director, some of the more creative responsibilities take a backseat to administration and management. As an Art Director, you'll be working with marketers to help manage the overall image for a product; this may include working with artists and photographers who work to complete your vision for you. However, your primary responsibility will be in managing and editing entire projects rather than in necessarily creating each of the individual assets used in a project.
A specialist focusing in the creation and manipulation of photographs for purposes that can range from the mainly mercenary to the purely artistic. As the range of specializations you could have in the Visual and Performance Arts field is so vast, Photographer is one example of a possible specialization that is focused entirely on the mastery of a specific artistic medium.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Visual and Performing Arts Majors
Start building your portfolio already.
This is essential for any artistic position. If you want to get a job, you absolutely must have an existing body of work you can point to. You can start your portfolio even if you're not in college yet. Start documenting every art piece you create, be it a product or performance.
Use a high quality camera if you can -- see if your school has one you can borrow. You don't want to have to go back and retake these later, especially if something ends up happening to the work you're documenting. This is especially important once you get to college. Make a habit early on of filing away works that you create. Find a system that works for you as far as documentation goes.
In no time, you'll find that you have a sizable portfolio already, in which case the only thing left to do is think of a good story for your portfolio. What do these works put together in this way say about your progress as an artist?
For performance arts jobs, consider starting small.
This sounds almost insultingly obvious, but the meaning is literal -- although they're where all the big stars are, New York and Los Angeles may not be the best place to go if you're trying to break into performing. You might get lucky and catch a break, but you're much more likely to blend into the crowd of thousands of other talented twenty-somethings who are trying to become the next big sensation.
Instead, try joining up with a troupe or company in a less obvious (but still sizable) city. You'll still get the experience of living in a city as a young performer, but there's a little less pressure on "making it," and the connections you make there can help you break into a bigger city later on.
Or you never know -- maybe you'll prefer the vibe of someplace a little less hectic than the Big Apple and the big...uh...Angeles.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in Visual and Performing Arts
Pursuing an advanced degree
As with many other fields, advanced degrees in Visual and Performing Arts is often something you only want to pursue if you're looking for 1) a slight pay bump, 2) to do research, or 3) to teach. However, with the Arts there's an additional reason to consider continued education: networking.
Art and working artists are often connected to the university system in a way that is not always possible with more business-oriented majors. With Visual and Performing Arts, successful alumni are often working directly with the university itself, either being funded by them or else being allowed to display/perform their work at a university-owned venue (in exchange for giving talks or attending certain functions).
As a student, especially a graduate student, you'll frequently get the chance to work one-on-one with these artists, to help them set up or to even get some professional eyes on your own work. You never know which of these people might have that connection that gets you an "in" at the company or venue of your dreams.
Graduate school is still a pretty risky endeavor either way, as you might be taking on even more debt and forgoing the chance to make some money at the same time, but it's worth giving it a little bit of thought when it comes to the arts.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with a Visual and Performing Arts degree normally consider:
MA (Master of Arts)
- The MA is one of the earliest forms of post-graduate education available to those Bachelor's degree-holders. There is certainly a focus on research, but it's not always research-intensive in the same way that PhD is. The MA typically culminates in a thesis of some sort, which may include creative work or output.
MFA (Master of Fine Arts)
- A more advanced post-graduate degree focused more on creative output and less on Academics. This is in most cases a terminal degree. While a student can often move from an MA into an MFA, the MA can typically be skipped in its entirety for those focusing on the creative side of things.
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
- An intensive study of the theory and philosophy behind numerous different artistic fields. Very research-intensive, the PhD is typically reserved for those who intend to remain within academia rather than necessarily going on to become professional artists -- although, obviously, the PhD is not an impediment to being a working artist.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
A website designed to help actors find jobs, including postings for auditions and open casting calls.
The American Dance Guild
A national dance association dedicated to spotlighting the work of dancers and choreographers across America. Holds a yearly festival in NY which showcases the work of over 30 choreographers and highlights two "master choreographers."
The American Institute for Graphic Arts
One of the largest professional associations for graphic designers. Resources available to members includes design news, continuing education and certifications, contests, and networking opportunities.
Enter "Visual and Performing Arts" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.