Ask the Art Professor: When You Have a Fine Arts Degree, What Do You Do for the Rest of Your Life?

Final Crit

“When you graduate from college with a fine arts degree, what do you do for the rest of your life?”

The answer to this question is completely unique to every person, but I can give some general pointers about things to consider that might be useful to anyone.

The important thing to remember is that while the degree will certainly open some doors for you, in the end it is all up to you. With a fine arts degree there is no pre-determined path (as compared to fields like law and medicine) to take so you have to be the one to take charge of where you want to go in life. I know people who have all sorts of fancy degrees who aren’t doing anything, and I also know people who have degrees from less prestigious schools who are doing wonderful things. The degree is what you make it out to be.

One thing that I’ve learned since leaving school is that you can pleasantly surprise yourself with what direction you go in.  One of my peers who went to school for architecture ended up doing ceramics. A friend of mine who went to school for printmaking and now does very well as a caricature artist. Someone else I know who went to art school is now a successful baker and chef. Robert J. Lang one day dropped a very successful career to be a full-time origami artist.  At the same time, I know plenty of people who are working in exactly the field they studied in school.  The idea is that anything can happen, and that sometimes it can be wonderful to embrace the unexpected.

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Origami by Robert J. Lang

I know now that I’m definitely meant to teach for the rest of my life, but oddly enough, I fell into teaching by accident. When I was a senior in high school, there was this program for seniors called SPARC. (Senior Program and Alternative to Regular Classes) which allowed certain students to do a full-time internship instead of attending classes during their final semester.  I was so completely miserable in high school that I was willing to do anything to get out of going to class. I’ll admit that was my sole motivation for doing the internship. I opted to be a teaching assistant to my former elementary school art teacher, and ended up loving it.

That work experience led to a summer job teaching visual art at an arts camp for grades K-6 while I was an undergraduate student at RISD. So when I graduated from RISD, I had all of this work experience teaching elementary age students and got a job at a private elementary school in Boston. By that point I had caught the teaching bug and knew that eventually I wanted to be able to teach at the college level, which is where I am now.

Portrait Drawing

Lastly, try to strike a healthy balance of having ambition and goals, while also having realistic expectations for yourself. It’s best to go into things without expectations that are set in stone, doing so could potentially lead to a lot of disappointment and frustration. Be flexible and open to other possibilities that you hadn’t considered before, knowing that it could potentially lead you to new and exciting places.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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What is your advice to young students who have just graduated from their undergraduate degree?”
“How do you stay motivated after school?”

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