Research finds business training leads to stronger career outcomes for arts graduates

  • Feb. 16, 2017


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Recent graduates with arts degrees have better career and entrepreneurial training than those who came before them, according to a report released by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project at the Indiana University School of Education.

The research, based on a survey of arts graduates, demonstrates that new approaches to arts education are helping prepare students for careers and give them tools they need to succeed.

Students who graduated with arts majors between 2011 and 2015 reported higher confidence than older alumni in their abilities to be resilient and adaptable and to recognize opportunities to advance their careers. The majority of recent alumni said their arts curriculum emphasized creativity, risk-taking and innovation. Recent alumni are also 10 percent more likely than those who graduated in 1985 or before to have had coursework that emphasized generating new ideas or brainstorming.

Of the recent alumni surveyed, those who developed financial and business skills while at their institutions are:

  • 39 percent more likely to feel their education integrated all aspects of career development.
  • 36 percent more confident in managing their finances.
  • 35 percent more likely to feel they were exposed to a broad view of careers in and outside the arts.
  • 14 percent more satisfied with their income from their primary job.
  • 8 percent more likely to have had coursework emphasizing multiple approaches to problem solving.
  • 6 percent more likely to locate a job within four months of graduating.

However, a significant skills gap still exists in basic business and financial management. Only 34 percent of recent alumni and 26 percent of all respondents said they developed entrepreneurial skills in school.

“Not surprisingly, those arts alumni whose education included an emphasis on business and entrepreneurial education had stronger outcomes in terms of satisfaction with income and other aspects of their career,” said Sally Gaskill, SNAAP director. “More emphasis is needed within the curriculum on developing key career skills, including finance, business and entrepreneurship, so that arts graduates not only can create art but can also successfully manage their careers.”

Other key findings include:

  • Women from all cohorts generally reported the same confidence levels in creative and entrepreneurial abilities as men. However, African-American respondents consistently reported lower levels of confidence than their white, Latino or Asian peers.
  • Use of career development services is up -- 60 percent of recent graduates say they took full advantage of career development services while in school, compared to 53 percent of all cohorts.
  • The majority of all alumni said they would have benefited from more knowledge of key career-related skills: 91 percent would have benefited from knowing how to market and promote their work and talents; 87 percent would have benefited from more finance management skills; and 84 percent would have benefited from knowing how to monitor legal and tax issues.
  • There remains a variance between majors. Architecture majors indicate the highest level of coursework emphasis on inventing new methods to arrive at unconventional solutions (92 percent), while music majors indicate the lowest (70 percent). Fine and studio arts majors are among the least exposed to a broad view of careers in and out of the arts (41 percent), while those studying dance and arts education (73 percent and 70 percent respectively) are most exposed.

The SNAAP Special Report, "Career Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for Artists," analyzed data from over 26,000 arts graduates from 43 institutions in the United States. Arts graduates responded to questions about their educational experiences with entrepreneurship and other career skills, and how confident they are in their abilities to act in creative and entrepreneurial ways in their careers -- both in and out of the arts.

This study received support from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project invites institutions that give degrees in the arts to join the national movement to collect data and learn about their alumni outcomes. Registration for the 2017 SNAAP survey will open in April and close in July at the SNAAP website.


SNAAP is a collaboration between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University and the Center for Postsecondary Research at the Indiana University School of Education.

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Media Contacts

Sally Gaskill


  • Strategic National Arts Alumni Project
  • Office 812-856-5824