Forks in the Road: The Many Paths of Arts Alumni

Strategic National Arts Alumni Project 2010 Findings

Center for Postsecondary Research, School of Education, Indiana University

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More than 120,000 visual and performing arts degrees are granted each year and stereotypes abound about what happens to these people. One common view is that few make a living doing art and are dissatisfied with their education and career opportunities. Findings from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) suggest this portrait does not comport with the reality experienced by most graduates of arts-intensive educational programs. In general, arts graduates are happy with their training and have few regrets.

SNAAP is an annual online survey, data management, and institutional improvement system designed to enhance the impact of arts-school education. The project will provide the first comprehensive look at how artists develop in the U.S. and will help identify the factors needed to more effectively connect arts training to artistic careers. This report is based on responses of 13,581 alumni from 154 institutions to the 2010 field test questionnaire.

Selected Findings
  • Ninety-two percent of arts alumni who wish to work currently are, with most (81%) finding employment soon after graduating.
  • Two-thirds said their first job was a close match for the kind of work they wanted.
  • More than half (57%) are currently working as professional artists (41%) or did so in the past (16%).
  • More than six in ten (63%) were self-employed since graduating, with 14% founding their own company.
  • Fifty-seven percent of current professional artists hold at least two jobs concurrently; 18% are working three or more jobs.
  • Of those who currently only work outside the arts, 54% said their arts training is relevant to the job in which they spend the majority of their time.
  • Arts alumni are critical for populating the teaching field, as more than half (52%) of arts graduates have taught in the arts at some point in their careers.
  • Seven of ten (71%) of arts alumni who are not currently professional artists continue to make or publicly perform their art.
  • Arts graduates are happy with their training, with 90% reporting their overall experience at their institution was either good or excellent.
  • Most (76%) arts alumni would attend the same institution again.
  • Arts school graduates are 18 times more likely to volunteer at an arts organization (37%) than the population at large (2%) (Independent Sector, 2001).
  • Almost a third (30%) of former professional artists and those who wanted to be an artist but did not do so pointed to debt, including student loan debt, as a reason to find other work.

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