The worst major? Arts graduates stay positive

By Ke Xu


Aubrey Iwamoto, a 2012 graduate of Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts with Bachelor of Fine Arts, has a four-year gap in her resume.


The picture was taken on Iwamoto’s (on the left) commencement day

From 2004 to 2008, she took four years off between high school and college. Although accepted for admission at her dream school SMFA, she passed it up because she could not afford the tuition. In 2008, she enrolled in SMFA again with scholarship. Four years later, she fulfilled her life-long dream since she was very young: to be an artist.

Being an artist seems not to be an easy choice for some people. But not for Iwamoto. Last October, Forbes published a list of “The 10 Worst College Majors” based on high initial unemployment rates and low initial median earnings of full-time, full-year workers. Arts ranked the No.1 on the list.

“My mother didn’t want me to be an artist. She didn’t want me to go to a school for that.” Iwamoto recalled. “She wants me professionally to be a doctor. I tried to understand. You want you kids to be secure.”

During the four years between high school and college, Iwamoto never forgot her dream. “It isn’t even seen like a choice, that’s how I am,” she said. “I applied and got scholarship. So I came. I did it because there couldn’t be any other way in my mind.”

After spending four years in SMFA, Iwamoto met another crossroads in her life. She needed to find a job. Getting a job in the arts is hard enough, but even harder in a recession, because she had working experience at café, Iwamoto became a barista at Refuge Café in Allston right after she graduated.

“It isn’t really a full-time job. It’s very flexible, but it does allow me to work my schedule around.” Iwamoto said she is satisfied with her current job. “I don’t think I’m underemployed. I’m very busy everyday and the job keeps me social.” She said. “It is helpful to my soul. I’m a happier person when I am more social.”

After work, Iwamoto will focus on her art work. She puts glitter on shoes and makes hair clips. Last December, she sent her art work to a store named “Live Fast” in New York and sold two pieces. However, the store closed at the end of March. Iwamoto had to pick up her stuffs and find other outlets.

Though the situation is tough, Iwamoto still feel positive about her career.

“I really think you can do anything if in your mind there cannot be any other way,” she said. “If you want a job in the field of arts, there are so many things you can do. You can work in a gallery; you can start you own gallery; you could push your work to art shows or put your work to local places. There is a lot you can do if you are resourceful and ambitious. It is such a broad field.”

Alex Barbosa, a graduate in the class of 2012 from Mass College of Art and Design with a BFA in graphic design, also feels positive about the job hunt situation for art major graduates. “The design field in Boston is also growing so it’s not hard to find a position in my major.” He currently is a full time first responder at a retirement community and also freelancing.

For Barbosa, first responder is a transitional job. “I see myself moving into my freelance position in the up and coming weeks,” he said. “Hopefully moving to another state and starting fresh. Boston is a great city but other parts of the country specialize in different types of design. Like New York is currently the hub of interactive work. So I am just eager to jump into a full time design position.”

Iwamoto plans to move to New York or San Francisco next year and she wants to be her own boss someday. “I’m happy when I am working with my hands and creating something and making things happen. I like doing things myself rather than purchasing things.”

Maryellen Schroeder, Director of Career Services at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, agreed that new graduates have to keep their options as broad as possible. “You’re looking for connections that will connect your creative skills to possible employment and opportunities,” she said.” For instance, if there was a painting major, they could be getting adopted in video games development because they know about color and composition.”

Schroeder also cited a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education and NPR Marketplace Radio in March saying that completing an internship was the most important criteria for employers hiring recent college graduates.

“Don’t just do it [an internship] to get experience on your resume. It’s very important for students to exercise all the skills they may have, not just their art and design skills, but their communication and organizational skills in an internship.” Schroeder suggested.

According to Open Education Database, there are 10 Fastest-Growing Careers for Art and Design Majors. Want to see what the jobs are? Click here.

About Ke Xu 8 Articles
Ke Xu is a second-year graduate student in journalism at Emerson College and an intern at Latitude News. She believes that a good story should be both audience-centric and story-driven, and a good journalist should not just care about the facts, but also the human beings or issues behind the story. Outside of journalism, she is passionate about reading, music, food, skiing and running.