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What is the best way to utilize a degree in fine arts

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Celeste’s Answer

I have a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and have had a successful 25+ year in Corporate Communications, and without having to return to school for a Master's in Communications. One of the inherent benefits of a fine arts degree is your innate creativity -- this is valued no matter the industry in which you choose to work, and it's a natural fit for a Corporate Communications career.

I'll give you a bit of my career history...though I majored in Drawing with a minor in Art History, the summer before graduation I applied and was accepted for a paid internship through Pratt's Department of Architecture with the Architecture team at Rockefeller Center. I spent my time filing drawings and plans, and combing the files of the Center archives for support materials for the team. While in the archives I got to know the Center's Marketing team who offered me a full-time job upon my graduation. I jumped at the chance -- it would provide me with a steady paycheck to support my work, regular hours in the studio, paid vacation, and health insurance -- all things my peers didn't have.  

I spent eight happy years at Rockefeller Center learning the basics of Communications -- writing press releases and visitor brochures, negotiating contracts with vendors and attorneys, and planning events including the annual Christmas tree lighting broadcast for television. I was fortunate to leave the Center with a severance package that allowed me to find the right next move.

My next move was to the American Cancer Society's New York City media relations office. Two and half years there gave me excellent experience with reporters and building relationships, which ultimately led to a recruiter call for a role in Media Relations at Pfizer.

Twenty years at Pfizer has been an education in and of itself -- I've done Media Relations, Human Resources communications, employee communications, commercial/portfolio communications, executive communications and speechwriting.

And yes, for the first 15 years or so of my career I was able to build a reasonably successful track record as a fine artist, showing my work in and around New York City.

So in sum, while I think many with BFAs may struggle to find a career, the key for me has been to keep an open mind and don't think of your creativity as limited to the visual arts. Hone your writing skills, and think about the fields that interest you. A role in Corporate Communications is an excellent way to put your Fine Arts degree to use and earn a great salary to support your work.

Good luck!

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Charles’s Answer

First of all research what you want out of your degree. Define the niches in your career you want to persue this.

secondly figure the cost of your degree and how far you may have to go into debt. Will your career pay for that in a suitable amount of time? I know people with B.A.'s and higher that paying those loans have been a major financial burden to them. It has hindered there lives in so many ways.

Next persue the degree that will make you multifaceted in your skills. When thinking of that degree, think 10-20 years down the road. Think of when your older and may want to be in a higher field managing or offering professional advice. On air talent frequently get axed because mgmt want a new, younger, cheaper, face. If you love being a videographer, there maybe a time when your too old to lug the gear but can excel at producing/directing.

next get internships. Het yourself in the room with people in companies doing what you want to do. Be hungry, ask questions, treat it like a paid job. Have a work ethic that your willing to put in three times more than paid employees. The people you meet and have a good relationship with will set you up for your entire career.., dont burn bridges.

arts degrees can be tricky if you are not focused on what you want to do and just because you have a degree doesn't guarantee a job. If you want a guaranteed job go into skilled trades or be a truck driver. They pay well and cannot find enough people. Always be hustling a job and forging relationships. Which is great for college as you can meet like minded people. For instance volunteer on student films, productions, projects, etc. If you're fun to be around, do exceptional work, those people may let you in on opportunities that lead to your next big thing. Something similar to that got me where I now.

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Barry’s Answer

Hi, Brenan!

I don't know if this is the BEST way to utilize a fine arts degree, but I know that a lot of my fellow audiobook narrators have fine arts degrees. They are performers, but instead of physical performance on a stage, their performances are vocal and in a studio.

It's far less taxing on the body, but just as demanding on the ability to interpret and create characters. In fact, in an audiobook, you might be asked to create 20 characters in a single story, and it is quite the challenge to keep each character consistent from page 1 to the conclusion of a story. Of course, you would need to understand their emotions, motivations, etc. - all the things you learn with a fine arts degree.

I personally do not have a fine arts degree, which is why I normally narrate non-fiction rather than dramatic storytelling. In the performance world (and frankly, in any other world as well), it is important to acknowledge not only what you're good at, but what you're NOT good at. I would not be the best for dramatic fiction (yet); perhaps YOU would. :)

Best of luck!

Barry Abrams

ESPN (and audiobook narrator, on the side!)