27 answers

Do companies truly focus on your college major when applying for jobs?

Asked Palm Bay, Florida

My major might be something broad like English, but I want to work in the creative arts. I want to know if employers truly care about your major even if it might not match exactly to what they want. #major

27 answers

Laura’s Answer

Updated

I've been working as a professional artist for almost a decade now. It's been my experience that when you are applying for jobs in the creative field, companies don't really care about your college major. They are looking for these 3 things:

  • The quality of your artwork (so focus on assembling a great portfolio!)
  • Whether or not the work in your portfolio looks like the work they'd hiring you to do (For example: If you're applying for a magazine design job, you need to show them examples of magazine page layouts before they'd consider hiring you)
  • Whether or not you know how to use the right computer programs (it's almost always something in the Adobe Creative Suite line of products, but the software depends on the job)

Hope that helps!


Laura recommends the following next steps:

  • Create a portfolio with 4-12 examples of your artwork + focus on showing off the skills that specifically relate to what type of position you want.
  • If you can, make an account on Behance.com and post your portfolio online.

Natalie’s Answer

Updated

From what I can observe, this seems to be a major concern for you, and you may have hit a few road bumps along the way. As an Artist myself, with a very broad range of skills that do not fit neatly into any pre-packaged job, I know what you are feeling.


Now, to get straight to the point- the answer is Yes, your employer will absolutely look at your major, and it will score points. However beyond that, the employer is even more interested that you WENT to College. Why? Because all colleges have something called a "Core Curriculum" which cover ALL major aspects of education ranging from Science and Mathematics to the Arts. Educated employers know this. That means that you yourself as an English major probably completed an Art course or two in college. Use this as a spring point for when you apply for jobs.


First thing is first, if you are interested in a field, then that means you have enough experience in that field. So if you are interested in the art field, you have some sort of experience in your favor, whether you are aware of it or not. Gather 2- 3 relevant experiences and note them down. These experiences will highlight why you love the art field, what knowledge you have gained or problems you have solved. Use these experiences to formulate your cover letter.


In addition build a portfolio. More then anything in the Art world, a portfolio is everything. Yes resumes are great, but if you are applying for a visual field I need to see your visual work. Gather 5-10 good pieces or photos of your work. Make sure they have good resolution and accurately reflect the color intensity and saturation.


Good Luck moving forward!

Natalie recommends the following next steps:

  • Brainstorm possible experiences and portfolio pieces
  • Nail your cover letter and pick your portfolio images
  • Talk to an objective friend, advisor or mentor to take a look at your work

Erica’s Answer

Updated

Hi Rokaria,


It largely depends on what industry you want to work in. Since you want to work in the creative arts, a strong portfolio that demonstrates your skillset can speak to your creative talents much more than a degree in a specific field can. Additionally, some employers will explicitly state what kind of degree they want a candidate to have, so you can always weed those out when job hunting. As a hiring manager I interview and screen many candidates for creative roles in filmmaking, photography, graphic design, etc who majored in something completely unrelated such as engineering or biology. The individuals who were hired even though they didn't have a degree in the arts still maintained an impressive portfolio of creative projects which they did on the side. When applying for jobs, they made sure to link to their portfolio or provide files for me to view. Even candidates who DO have a degree in the arts are often still evaluated for a role on the strength of their portfolio or CV. No matter what major is listed on someone's resume, when it comes to the arts a solid portfolio and/or CV listing your experience in the industry can often get your foot in the door during a job hunt. A good portfolio/CV shows employers that you can implement creative techniques or use specific media and software relevant to the type of art you are making. People are multifaceted and it is common for individuals to have skillsets that span a multitude of fields regardless of their major in college.


Networking is important in any field but especially for the arts, sometimes moreso than talent. It's often about who you know and what connections you have to colleagues in your preferred industry. Honestly, this can be a downer if you're not the networking type or it can work very much in your favor! Attend events geared towards your industry and make yourself known. Connecting with others via collaboration can provide access to resources you need to further bulk up your portfolio and get creative with you projects.


I recommend that you look through job openings that match the field you want to work in. You can also browse LinkedIn profiles to see what qualifications other successful people in the industry have. You will find some commonalities to focus on. You can then see what employers are asking for from candidates and determine 1) what creative field will be the best match for you and 2) what you may - keyword being MAY - need to do to be successful.


Lastly, not everyone's journey is the same, so don't get discouraged if what you're doing doesn't match up to what everyone else is doing. If you're wondering what my relevant experience is, I have a degree in art, went to a graduate program for art, worked in the art industry for a while (internships, galleries, exhibitions, freelance) and now am a Hiring Manager for a digital media company. I am also a professional artist. There are multiple ways to succeed in the arts and as you get to know yourself you'll figure out what works best for you.

Malcolm’s Answer

Updated Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Hello, my name is Malcolm and I am a 5th-year student at Clarion University studying the Bachelor of Fine Arts with a minor in Entrepreneurship Marketing Leadership. To answer your question it truly depends on the company that you are looking at!! I am currently applying for jobs in my field of study and outside my field. In my marketing courses and my professors at school are hiring people outside the business field to get a new diverse/creativities team to work for their companies/business. 

When applying for jobs you want to look over your resume and take out anything you feel that is not related to the job. Your resume can really help you when you are applying outside your field! If you have other work experience(s), organizations/activities, or volunteering work that you have done, and put that in your resume. I wanted to mention this because having information like can show a future employer that you may qualify for the job. Also when looking at job sites for opening positions it will look through their site for "keywords". Example if I go to Indeed.com and put in the search bar "English" it will show me opening positions for a whole list of openings and some jobs that seems not to be related to what I am looking for. They are showing me these jobs because in the job description or requirements it may have that word or words that are associated with it. If you find a job that you are interested in I highly recommend you applying for it. The best advice I got about applying for jobs outside my field is from my marketing advisor. He said "if you speak to their human resources department, representative, boss/manager, or whoever about the job and they question you about applying because its not your field. Tell them why you are applying for this position/company, what you can bring to the table, and make you different from the other candidates".

Malcolm recommends the following next steps:

  • If you are on an college campus see if your school offers an career development center. Talk to them about your concerns about jobs or internships. Step-up an meeting with them to look over your resume.
  • Look for job fairs, career seminars, resume/career classes, events, and keep your eyes/ears. You may find a future employer there and make connections with people as well. Those connections can help you find opportunities in the near future or beyond.

Riyanna’s Answer

Updated Chicago, Illinois

Rokira,

It depends on the company you are applying to. However, often times companies ask that, one, you have a degree and two, they will specify what type of degree is ideal. However, companies will often state "other relevant degree's or experience" that shows they are flexible on the degree requirement. I have my degree in Child Development with a minor in Psychology. I have several years of professional and volunteer experience working with children, youth and families. I have applied to jobs that have asked for someone to have a BSW, but then they will state "other relevant degree's or experience" and then list everything they are wanting the ideal candidate to possess, if I match half or over half of those requirements I will apply to that job. If you match all or most of the requirements for a job, apply! The worse than can happen is you do not get selected, what I have done in the past is even asked why I was not selected... doing this has helped me gain a better understanding of what areas I need to improve on or gain better/more experience in.

Jessica’s Answer

Updated

If you're applying for jobs in creative arts with your BA in English, they will most likely just appreciate the fact that you went to college. Your resume would stick out more if you had a degree in something fine art related. Your relative experience and work history will be what they care about most in this situation.


I have my BA in Studio Art. I have found that, depending on the job you're applying for, certain companies WILL care about your major. STEM fields in particular usually require you to have a specific major. I know I have a good shot at any art related job because of my major. Often times, the manager will tell me they are interested in speaking with me because my art background makes me a unique candidate who perhaps holds a different perspective than all the business majors they see.


When applying for jobs outside the realm of your major, cover letters are your best friend. Explain how the major you chose helps you be the best candidate for the job. Never ever say something like "I know I'm not qualified" or "I lack the skills required", say something like "my experience doing ____ and _____ makes me a unique candidate as I hold a unique perspective" or something like that. Also take what you learned as an English major and find a way to make it applicable to the job you're applying for. "As an English major, I was able to explore ________ through writing and hone my ________ skills. As (Position) at your company, I will be able to ______________......... " and so on.

Danni’s Answer

Updated Baltimore, Maryland

The answer is: it depends. If you're looking to do fine art (i.e. painter, sculptor, photographer) and your goal is to sell art and get exhibitions, then your degree really doesn't matter. I'm an artist myself and have had several exhibitions, sell my art and no one has once cared about my degree. Furthermore, I have artist friends who are very successful (exhibitions at the White House etc.) and they are the ones who gave me this very advice years ago.

However, if you're looking to get into something such as graphic design/illustration or become an art director for a company, then degree is very important. Most of these jobs require a bachelors in a related arts field. A simple search on Indeed for jobs will show you postings to give you an idea of what is needed to book a position. Hopefully this helps! :)

Caitlin’s Answer

Updated Homewood, Illinois

In my experience, your major only matters if you're going into certain professional environments. for example, if you're going into life insurance or anything financial, generally employers look at if you're majoring in economics, finance, entrepreneurship, communications, or anything similar. From what I've seen, what really matters is your transferable skills from other jobs, experiences, or school. Written communication is a big skill that employers look for, while technology literacy is one our generation (and younger) often forgets can be super essential to building yourself up. As an artist, I find that attention to detail, creativity, and emotional intelligence are transferable skills that prove to be quite useful when applying for jobs. For example, when you think about yourself in a group project, are you a person who goes with the flow and interjects when you feel needed? Or are you a person who takes the reins and steers the project in a way you think would be successful? After about 1 year out of college, people stop really caring what you studied, unless it's essential to that career.

If you have a hard time giving yourself credit for anything, like me, asking friends or family what you're good at can give you a direction. When you ask enough people, patterns start to emerge.

Caitlin recommends the following next steps:

  • Identify your transferable skills.

Julie’s Answer

Updated Towson, Maryland
Rokaria, Excellent question, I want to refer you to http://www.drawnanddrafted.com/dear-ad/ They are Art Directors from large (most publishing) companies but I've seen them advise on many many topics and always good solid advice. Good Luck.

Tom R’s Answer

Updated Austin, Texas

A potential employer certainly looks at your major and how it relates to the position in question, because the manager needs to fit your knowledge with the company's requirements. However and as it relates to an entry-level position, I believe the manager is more interested in the kind of individual you are, your aptitude and adaptability. A new hire with the right "dynamics" can fit in and do well as he/she progresses through the training phase.

Nathan’s Answer

Updated Brookline, Massachusetts

In the arts, a fine art degree is not necessary, depending on what you are seeking, as several respondents have already noted. Most employers will be looking for something in the Liberal Arts, to show you have some arts background. English could work well, however you will want to focus on your art background in your resume, stress any art history, studio classes or projects in your education or skills section. If you are looking to be a free lance independent artist it will be the strength of your portfolio. Many jobs in the art industry will be looking for tech experience, photoshop and such editing programs. They may also be looking specifically at experience with sculpting and/or knowledge of how to use a wide range of materials. These would be areas where stressing hands on experience and any classes taken would be of great benefit. So in short, a degree is not necessary, but one helps. As an independent fine artist with a background in art history and teaching, I do not have a degree, so I have focused on my experience, classes I have taken or taught and how I have helped others achieve their goals. This helped me in landing a job as a consultant in education for the museum of fine arts Boston, where I taught studio classes, Egyptian art history and conducted workshops and summer intern programs for many years. Persevere, the Arts take commitment and passion, if you want it, you can make it happen, with or without a degree.

Nathan recommends the following next steps:

  • Make a list of what qualifies you for the job, focus on that. What have you done that is relevant?
  • Build a strong portfolio of your work, make sure the photos are clear, properly lit and show your work to its best.
  • Build connections with people, in the art world it's more who you know rather than what you know.

Blossom’s Answer

Updated

There is nothing wrong with being broad, call it versatility, but your going to have to package yourself differently for each employer. It really comes down to what you emphasis to an employer in attendance with their preference. If you have work experience in A and B, but want to do C, you are going to have to harness that during your free time. It has to be able to compete with someone who has professionally done C.

I am learning this as we speak because I just graduated and I’m summarising all the feedback from my interviews.

Still, tough egg to crack, I’ll tell you.


Blossom recommends the following next steps:

  • Explore, yourself, your field, the jobs associated. Take your time. Haste makes waste. There is this pressure to succeed right away, but you have your whole life (like over 100yrs with our medical advancements) to do this.
  • Do what it takes to get you foot in the door. I am currently work freelance and put my work up on social media. Some people I know start as assistants or receptionists in their preferred companies.
  • You professors are the closest professionals are your disposal! Ask them if they would hire you, ask them why or why not?
  • Perseverance will get you a job. If you stop applying, you’ll never get your chance. It might be a while, but don’t beat yourself up. Instead take the time to transition from a student into professional because graduation blues are a thing.

Amy’s Answer

Updated

It depends on the philosophy of the employer. I learned from my scientist uncle who hired people with a degree in any subject because it represented the ability to make the effort to complete something difficult. In the creative world, people have skills in creative problem solving which is an asset in all areas. Showcase your creative problem solving skills with examples and also highlight the skills learned while completing your college degree, such as following instructions and meeting deadlines.

Katie’s Answer

Updated Atlanta, Georgia

Hi Rokaria. I was a full time kitchen designer for seven years. In that industry employers want specific job skills, such as certain software programs.

Katie recommends the following next steps:

  • Make a list of job titles that you have in mind, and then read actual job postings for those jobs. Watch to see whether employers specify which college majors they want, and which software programs.

Rebecca’s Answer

Updated San Antonio, Texas

Companies normally do not focus on your major, it’s more about your experience.

Miguel’s Answer

Updated Baytown, Texas

It's not an absolute, just a start.

Babu’s Answer

Updated

yes

Duke’s Answer

Updated Skokie, Illinois

no

Marissa’s Answer

Updated

Hi Rokaria,


This is definitely a good question, and although I agree with aspects of the other professionals that have answered, I'm going to take a bit of a different approach because I think it's important to see all sides. I also think there is a bit of a catch 22, when you're first starting out in your career, and I'd like to address that here.


I've been working as an Illustrator, Designer, Graphic Artist, and Art Director - for about ten years, combined - and I've found that because I had a breadth of interest (as it seems you do, as well), it was a bit harder for me to narrow down WHAT I wanted to study and major in, because I was interested in many things. However, I took some time to think about what it was I wanted to do in life, and I knew it surrounded the Design field, so MY focus was on a major called Illustration Design. The reason I chose this program, was because it allowed me to focus on a broader spectrum of artist focuses; I took color theory, illustration, figure drawing, graphic design, perspective, english, AND cross disciplinary classes like advertising, etc., that allowed me to stay in my element, but get some experience in other areas of art too!


Now, the reason I'm explaining all of this (let's make this long story, longer :p), is that it was important WHEN I graduated, that I had school experience that fit what I wanted to do. I totally agree that you need a strong portfolio, in fact the portfolio is the key, but when you're first starting out, you don't usually have very much work experience to show prospective jobs. Here's where the catch 22 comes in… sometimes it feels like you need to have the work in order to get the work! (which can feel frustrating - but, fear not), you need to have a portfolio that supports what your style and quality of work IS, BUT, the education really does help inform whomever is hiring you, that you have learned the skills that are required to execute the job well. It may not be a deal breaker, but coming from my industry, you may get asked why, and you may need to work a little harder at the beginning to show that you have those developed skills. I might see a beautiful portfolio, but ask myself, "Can this candidate manage her time? Can I toss her into a working art department and be fairly certain she can execute her work because she was taught the basics of development, and not just how to make the final product look good?" Having the education to back up your portfolio helps align YOUR image, and it presents a clear view to whomever sees your work.


Next steps:

With that said, I think it's important to explore and experiment while in school. If you love English, maybe find a way to do a double major or take a work load that really allows you to learn both; you may find that you'll grow to like one more than the other! If you do that, I'd suggest taking classes in design that allow you a bit of breadth. As an example: Graphic Design requires a huge understanding for space, balance, color, type, layout, etc. Nail the basics in the classes you take. Try experimenting with other areas like UX/UI - this would give you an advantage in the job market.


If you're just starting out in school, experiment! If you're nearing the end, try committing to something you're excited about and really learn it from the inside out. There WILL be time to learn more in your career, but it is a bit more difficult to make a 360 turn from say, nursing to graphic design. But hey! I've seen it happen. We will always keep learning in life, no matter what!


Hope that helps :)


Creds: 10 years of experience in apparel/design

School: Art Center College of Design

Brandy’s Answer

Updated Detroit, Michigan

It honestly depends on the job and the company. I want to say no. I majored in media arts and animation but worked as a photo retoucher for over 8 years. The most important part is your portfolio and who you know.

Deja’s Answer

Updated

Depending on the employer.

Hala’s Answer

Updated

Depends on experience and what work you've done on the side to make a name for yourself as well.

Hala recommends the following next steps:

  • Put yourself out there
  • work on your skills
  • learn programs

Alan’s Answer

Updated San Rafael, California

No, The first thing a company looks for will be the link to your online portfolio, which must be clearly legible from the top of your resume as an embedded link. Then the first 3 images seen on your portfolio must be your strongest and enough to capture more attentions, clicks and a full read of your resume there after. With the amount of applicants per jobs, most hiring managers have between 10 to 20 seconds to understand your capacities and review someone . As Visual artist the art presented must be strong to expend that time and give you a short at the next step.

Michael’s Answer

Updated

Hi, Rokaria. I broke down artistic and creative employment into two categories, non-technical and technical. Artistic and creative employment encompasses a large variety of employment that is too diverse to give a single answer that fits every possibility, but generalizing and simplifying the problem can be helpful, especially when we're getting started. The main thing is just to recognize that there are different expectations depending on what you want to do, but there's also different ways to meet those expectations.


First, non-technical art/design. This typically excludes a necessity for STEM related advanced education. Some of the best examples would be illustrator, concept artist, sculptor, and creative writer. Typically, your college major is considered very little and the portfolio is king. However, the line between non-technical and technical can get blurry, even in these employments. For example, a concept artist designing on a particular line of products may need to know manufacturing and materials limitations.


Which brings me to the next category: technical art/design. Many of the common employment opportunities for technical art/design, like industrial designers, furniture design, and lighting/set design usually will weigh your college major heavily to ensure that you have the technical foundations necessary to do the job. Even employment seemingly as fun as toy design will often require an applicant to be knowledgeable of material properties and manufacturing processes that are a part of a degree in industrial design (see Hasbro).


For employment in technical art/design, you can learn the necessary requirements on your own, but you need to demonstrate your knowledge by applying it to real-world projects. A hiring manager looking to add an industrial designer can look at the application of a graduate with high marks in the applicable major and be confident that they are competent with the technical requirements of the job; convincing that same hiring manager without the same degree by only using real-world projects to demonstrate competency can be more of a challenge, but still possible.


You can get a lot of really good advice from a lot of great and generous people, but it's up to you to filter through it and figure out how and what applies to your journey. For the sake of context, here's where I'm coming from: I have been hired in 2 art studios and a my undergraduate degree is in History. Demonstrating the strength of my relevant work was the most important (probably the only) factor for each. I've been designing and sculpting manufactured products for 12 years and I've learned enough of the manufacturing and production side that I can do a lot of engineering myself, but I'm not an engineer. I've reached a point where I can take a product about %80 of the way through production, but there is an amount of technical knowledge the engineers have that is simply hard to get without formal education on the subject. So, in my case, even though I've been able to accomplish a lot without a relevant degree, further education (i.e. industrial design or related degree) would bridge that extra %20 that I'd like to have.


Michael recommends the following next steps:

  • Decide if you want to enter a non-technical or technical art/creative field.
  • Check college degrees related to your field, do they require STEM components and/or are they a BA or a BS?
  • If the employment you want requires STEM components and/or a BS, your major does matter. Plan/enroll accordingly.
  • If the employment you want does not require the above components, then you will need to work very hard to hone your craft and create a portfolio that demonstrates your skill, knowledge, and experience related to that employment.
  • Either way, get crackin'.

Minvi’s Answer

Updated Dallas, Texas

As a former hiring manager for an operational unit of J.P.Morgan Chase, I would have to say that work experience and the right attitude out-weight the degree or major that the potential employee holds. During the interview process, I usually ask questions that will provoke answers to how one will employ their skills and knowledge from previous work experiences to a new job. I want to know what can we benefit from hiring someone like you. What are you bringing to the company? How do you get along with co-workers especially when there are differing opinions in completing a task or project?

Kristen’s Answer

Updated

Hello!

Your question is a very insightful one and something I would expect an honest person looking to become a professional artist to ask. To answer, no, people looking to hire artists are not looking at college majors; rather, employers will be paying attention BIG TIME to your portfolio! It doesn’t matter what you’ve studied or even if you have studied any form of collegiate diploma program- what matters above and beyond all else is what you can SHOW employers, your skills.


It is never to early to begin collectively applying diligent sound mind, including the ever-so painful criticism, known as “critiquing” in the Art World, to your portfolio. Take on a variety of disciplines to have a decent selection installed into your portfolio- it will basically be your calling card, which reminds me, as the front protective sheet inside your portfolio book, ALSAYS remember to have your name and contact information displayed well so that employers know to whom they return the portfolio to, if they happen to ask to borrow it for a few days.


You can also create your portfolio online. Seeing as you’re an artist, it is also never too early to buy your own name online, this way your name is secure for you to apply your artwork to once you design or have designed your online portfolio; check out a few from searching Google to get an idea of how other artists have chosen to design their own.


I hope my help serves you well and I am so excited to learn of young people still choosing to exert themselves artistically during a time when The Arts have been stripped from public education funding. I am really proud of you and for you!


take care and good luck!

Joseph’s Answer

Short answer - NO.

If you want to be in the creative arts what matters is the quality of content in your portfolio, and who you network, and become allies with (you don't have to be sleepover friends that share deepest darkest secrets, but close enough to where you can feel comfortable asking each other for job leads and advice). Consider being an apprentice and interning if your starting out fresh. Don't ask someone to be your mentor. Mentorship begins on the friendship level, and is a two way street.

Employers like to know about your experience and how you went about creating your content. The subject will often come up of how you learned your skills, but they're mostly curious about knowing you as a person and why you got started. If you're self taught, it could be seen as a strength, given that you have the will, work ethic, and determination to learn on your own, by actively seeking out various sources of educational content (YouTube, other online sources, community library, etc).

That's not to say there's anything inherently wrong with going to University, but there is a financial relief and freedom of not having to pay for large loans, or hunting for grants and scholarships. It also depends on your learning patterns and pacing. You might find Universities are to rigid and hinder your personality; learning habits. The courses might be too fast or slow, depending on your learning curve. However this might not be the case, you may prefer the structure of a University outline, rather than fragmented learning sources on the internet.

Joseph recommends the following next steps:

  • Look at the pros and cons of individual online course from Lynda, SkillShare, Udemy, versus a University you might be interested in.
  • Depending on what you want to learn specifically, try to find other online learning platforms or Universities that you might not know of.
  • Watch and read Simon Sinek speeches.