Art majors can be practical

Tyler faculty believes students have opportunities in today’s job market.

Professors at Tyler School of Art said they believe that art students are at no disadvantage to break into the job market, provided that they adapt to the trends of the digital world.

“The job market is tough today no matter what you are,” Therese Dolan, an art history professor at Tyler, said. “But the use of digital media does help.”

With students of all majors concerned about finding tangible career paths post-graduation, many misinterpret an art degree to be frivolous or disadvantageous to the process, which Tyler professors said is a very common misconception. The pressure to have a marketable skill set is indiscriminate among all students.

Like most other professions, the expansion of technology is helping to create new opportunities for art students. Without any digital or computer software knowledge or skills, artists may have a far more difficult time, faculty members said.

“I would think the most practical majors are ones using technology,” Dolan said. “Like graphic design, photography and perhaps illustration.”

Graphic design students have the ability to generate their art in a digital format, which opens doors to a wide variety of careers.

“With a design degree, you can get a job at a design firm, an ad agency and in a lot of other fields,” Abby Bennett, a Tyler professor of graphic design, said. “We’ve been really pushing active design for iPods. That’s really where a lot of work is at.”

Bennett said using technology in art is an invaluable tool for current students. The ability to convey art with computer programs opens multiple job possibilities.

However, Bennett said she does not believe other careers involving art must become obsolete simply because of a rise in demand for digital skills. She said careers that don’t primarily use technology still exist, and can potentially lead to great success for art students.

“Some of our students have worked as critics and researchers,” Dolan said. “One of my students is the registrar at the National Constitution Center, and another is working at the American Philosophical Society and a lot [of students] work at the Philly Museum of Art. We actually have a lot of success for our students.”

Tyler faculty said the ultimate decision that an art student must eventually make is where to go after graduation. There are many more careers involving art than people may think, so many in the art field believe that making the decision can be difficult.

“In terms of its function in society, art has a unique position,” painting and drawing professor Philip Glahn said. “It makes the question of ‘what [does] an artist to do for work?’ hard. But I do believe that when people get out of here, they have artistic careers.”

Glahn said that producing painters and illustrators is not the most important thing they do at Tyler, although some graduates do find success in that specific art field.

“Some students show their work in museums, in galleries and to collectors,” he said. “But another thing is that we do teach skills, like how to read the world in a more tangible way and critical thinking.”

He says these skills may not be limited to art-related topics, but they help prepare students for the rest of their lives.

“The most crucial part is that because we are an academic environment, we owe it to our students to find new ways in which art is useful to society,” Glahn said. “You can also go off with these skills in another job.”

Faculty at Tyler agreed that sending students off not only well-prepared for a career, but life as a whole, is the end goal.

From a student perspective, being passionate about life and their career is at the forefront of their minds.

“I feel really good about my future,” Stephanie Cayer, a junior graphic design major at Tyler, said.

The 30-year-old student decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in art. She said that it is important to find a balance between stability and a career that clicks for each person.

“I’m definitely more of a fine artist, but I also need to think about job prospects,” she said. “But I’m not really about money. I want to be able to do the most creative thing possible.”

Bennett agreed that creativity can take art students down any career path they choose, provided that they have the drive to pursue the avenue of work enthusiastically.

“If a student is in a major just for a job, it won’t work,” Bennet said. “They have to be passionate about what they are doing.”

Alexa Bricker can be reached at


  1. I’m quite disillusioned and somewhat bitter that I followed my father’s advice and chose not to do art at university. -Apparently it wasn’t practical, and I’d “just end up teaching.” …I studied science. Did not get very good grades and even quit a job later for some reason, but it really was down to lack of interest.

    Why the hell did I listen to him? ….It angers me that he was allowed to pursue his dreams -and because his expectations were then not met in his career, he had to go and stop me before i even started.

    Sometimes once the opportunity is gone it is much harder to get back in.
    I’m quite angry about it. Angry that I betrayed my self. Angry that I let his cynicism and fear of failure prey on my own fragile self belief. And I’m angry that I believed every word he said -when his version of reality was NOT the truth. …There are other jobs within art -namely Art Conservation that I could very very much have loved to do.

    Am so angry that what I am and was best at I was told was useless. …Rendering my to be a fraction of what I could have been if I had never listened and was more sure of who I was. …Now, it is harder to get back in and some avenues may no longer be open at all.

    All of that to learn that my first instinct and wish was the right one.

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