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.


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.

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Ask the Art Prof Live is a weekly live video broadcast on my Facebook page where I provide professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  Ask me your questions by commenting on the live video post as the video streams, and I’ll answer right away. I’ll discuss being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more. Like my Facebook page and you’ll receive a notification when each live video begins.

Video Critique Program
I offer 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for aspiring/professional artists working on a body of artwork, and for students working on an art portfolio for college admission. Watch sample video critiques and get more info here.

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What is your advice to young students who have just graduated from their undergraduate degree?”
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