Fine Arts Majors Have the Worst Job Prospects in the US, Says a New Study

Their salaries are the lowest and unemployment rates the highest.

An artist at work in her studio. Photo by Burst from Pexels, public domain.

Fine art is the least valuable major in college, according to a new survey of 162 degrees in the US. The unemployment rate for graduates is a staggering 9.1 percent, while those who do get jobs face a lower annual income of $40,855 on average.

The survey, from the financial services company Bankrate, is based on data from the 2016 US Census Bureau American Community Survey obtained through the IPUMS-USA, University of Minnesota research program. Researchers also found that performing arts degrees came out near the bottom of the list, in fourth-to-last place, offering a slightly higher income of $43,996 and an unemployment rate of four percent. Cosmetology, culinary arts, and clinical psychology also ranked poorly.

The most valuable major was actuarial science, which has an average income of more than $108,000 and just 2.3 percent unemployment. This wasn’t actually the highest salary among all fields, or the lowest unemployment rate, but relatively few students in the profession held advanced degrees, likely lowering their rates of student debt. Other top majors included zoology, nuclear engineering, and health and medical preparatory programs.

The art degrees that rated so poorly was for “miscellaneous fine arts” majors and did not include art history, drama, theater, or music degrees. The most common professions for such graduates, according to the survey, is as art teachers, music contractors, craft artists, and illustrators.

Actuarial science vs miscellaneous fine arts majors. Image courtesy of Bankrate.

Actuarial science vs miscellaneous fine arts majors. Image courtesy of Bankrate.

But the news isn’t all bad for art students. “Obtaining a creative arts degree, or miscellaneous arts degree, or being in any sort of creative space is a terrific investment, and I would strongly advocate for it,” Philip Olson, a dance and theater major who teamed up with his wife, Julia Lorenz-Olson, to run a financial services firm, the Art of Finance, for people in creative fields, told Bankrate. “I would caveat that to say that if you get a degree in that space, expect to use it in a nontraditional way if you want to be successful.”

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