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5 Schools for Art Students Who Don’t Want to Become Starving Artists

Topics: Data & Research
STEM degrees might lead to high-paying jobs, but not everyone wants to be a software engineer or a surgeon. If your heart yearns for a career in the arts, don’t despair: choose the right school, and you can skip the starving-artist routine.
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Death to the Stock Photo

PayScale’s College ROI Report ranks schools by return on tuition investment in a variety of ways, including by career after graduation. If you plan to be an art director, video technician, graphic designer, or other arts-based occupation, check out the list of Best Value Colleges for Art Careers.

Choose the right school, and you can skip the starving-artist routine.Click To Tweet

Here are the top schools on the list:

1. University of Massachusetts – Lowell (In-State)

20-Year Net ROI: $596,000

Total Four-Year Cost: $104,000

Average Loan Amount: $28,500

2. University of Massachusetts – Lowell (Out-of-State)

20-Year Net ROI: $538,000

Total Four-Year Cost: $161,000

Average Loan Amount: $28,500

3. The New School

20-Year Net ROI: $517,000

Total Four-Year Cost: $246,000

Average Loan Amount: $38,000

4. Loyola Marymount University

20-Year Net ROI: $509,000

Total Four-Year Cost: $233,000

Average Loan Amount: $32,500

5. Fashion Institute of Technology

20-Year Net ROI: $504,000

Total Four-Year Cost: $87,600

Average Loan Amount: $32,000

6. Georgia Institute of Technology

20-Year Net ROI: $504,000

Total Four-Year Cost: $96,200

Average Loan Amount: $31,700

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Beyond Choice of School

Picking a college or university with relatively high-earning alums is a good first step, but if you want to make art and make a living, you’ll need to tailor your education to the reality of the job market. That means:

  • Acquiring technical expertise. That’s right: there’s no escaping STEM, even if you’re an art major. Most creative career paths require some sort of technical knowhow, generally learning relevant software or picking up some code. Ask your advisor for tips on what employers will be looking for — and if they don’t seem to have the answers, seek out information from people who are already in the field. Don’t assume that your school will automatically prepare you. Hiring managers say that recent grads are routinely underprepared to enter the workforce, lacking skills that will help them succeed.
  • Planning on internships. The best way to prepare for life after college is to do internships with employers in your prospective field. The right internships will help you make connections, learn new skills, and enhance your profile with future employers. Even the wrong ones can be useful — they’ll show you what you absolutely don’t want to do after graduation.
  • Building your network. As a college student, you might not be thinking in terms of developing your professional network, but you should. Up to 85 percent of jobs come through networking, and college is a great time to get started. In addition to internships, your school experience provides you with hundreds of opportunities to connect with faculty, students, advisors, employers at your student job, friends from extracurricular activities, and so on. Any one of those people might have a line on the internship or job that could launch your career.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you an arts graduate who makes a good living with your degree? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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