Crafting career possibilities
Art majors have many options "if they are passionate"
Walking across campus, it isn’t hard to spot art majors struggling to lug their black portfolios or
gingerly cradling their latest creation. For many students, the pieces probably took over 40 hours
In October of 2012, Forbes magazine stated that art is one of the least valuable majors based on a
high initial unemployment rate of 11.1 percent and low initial earnings. That is the key word,
“I’ve noticed a lot more this semester that our art majors are turning to minors and then doing a
major in economics or business,” said Renee Zettle-Sterling, an art professor at Grand Valley State
University. “That’s unsettling because I think their impression is that they’re not going to be able to
make a livelihood out of this, and that’s not true. If they are passionate about it, they can make it
happen. I don’t think everybody has the same level of passion.”
There is hope for those students who do stick with it. Degrees in art and design can lead to jobs in
many different areas of business, including production design, consumer services and education.
Andrea Mulder-Slater, a creator of kinderart.com, created a list of 209 job possibilities for art
majors, such as children’s book illustrator, art therapist, gallery owner or promotion designer.
“Bottom line, if you are a creative person who enjoys art and wants to learn more about it, go for
it,” Mulder-Slater said. “In the end, opportunities will present themselves if you are open to them.
An artist is never out of work.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor in May 2012, the median income ranged from $29,600
for craft artists to $80,880 for art directors. In most occupations, a bachelor’s degree significantly
increased the earnings.
“I think that (art) students learn that there is not one solution to a problem and they learn to think
outside the box,” Zettle-Sterling said. “I know a lot of businesses, especially larger businesses, like
to bring artists in to help them think differently. I think that art is an important form of nonverbal
communication and we don’t place enough value on it. I think an art major gives students the
ability to find resources and figure out how to do things for themselves and not just be set in
structures. We teach them transferable skills. Something you’re learning in this class they can apply
elsewhere. That’s the power in a degree in art.”
E.B. Clousing, the marketing coordinator for Feyen Zylstra, an electrical contractor in Grand Rapids,
combines her love for art and business every day. Her job includes photography, design, content
creation, event planning and branding through social media, the company’s website and other
communication outlets. In addition, she now has her own photography business and does
weddings, engagements and senior pictures.
“I’ve always loved art and seriously considered majoring in it,” Clousing said. “I chose business
because I wanted a solid framework for the creative career I hoped to land. There are so many ways
to use art in the business field.”
Clousing majored in business at Calvin College but also took several photography classes and
minored in studio art.
“While job searching, I found that there were so many companies seeking creative thinkers with
artistic skills who also had a thorough understanding of the business world,” Clousing said. “Being
creative isn’t just about producing art, writing content or cultivating new ideas. Creativity solves
In today’s ever-changing world, there is an unmistakable need for artists, Zettle-Sterling said, and
passion makes all the difference. It takes guts to major in the arts or any of the other degrees that
regularly make the foreboding “Top 10 Worst College Majors” lists, but it can be worth it.
“When we look back at history we look at art, writing and culture and it shows what a society valued
and what they were about,” Zettle-Sterling said. “I think if we don’t value those things and if we
don’t nurture them then that’s a really sad day. When a person goes back and looks at 2012 or
2013 architecture, fine arts and crafts, they will show who we were. They mirror the things that are going on.”