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Value of an Art/Design Degree

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an average worker will change careers eight times during their life, making it is exceedingly difficult that any particular degree would prepare a student for such an environment. A degree in art/design is an exception; it incorporates a variety of proficiencies needed to succeed in the workforce of the 21st-century. Most research recognizes that jobs in demand by 2020 do not exist yet and that most jobs are changing so fast that specific training and knowledge acquired during the first two years in college may be outdated by the time of graduation. Art/design degrees are unique, because they focus on developing lifelong attitudes, values and ever-applicable skills.

During the past decade, an increasing number of studies have emphasized different ways of looking at the 21st-century job market and the desirable educational background and skill sets.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum published, “The Future Employment Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” detailing the salient learning skills, which will be in demand by 2020. It is within this context that Art/Design degrees emerge as increasingly vital and important; our Art and Design curricula fulfill the 10 most important skills for the 21st century preparing students exceptionally well for the rapidly-changing labor market.

  1. Complex Problem Solving: The creation of a work of art is predicated upon complex problem solving using divergent thinking. Art/Design students develop fluency: the ability to generate a number of ideas so that there is an increase of possible solutions or related products; originality: the ability to create fresh, unique, unusual, totally new, or extremely different ideas or products; risk-taking: the willingness to be courageous, adventuresome, daring, trying new things or taking risks in order to stand apart.
  2. Critical Thinking: Art/Design students are confronted with complex issues that are transformed into visual form, idea and concept. All contemporary works of art are informed by historical and contemporary sources and perspectives, which require the capacity to think in a divergent manner. Students learn to hone curiosity; the trait of exhibiting probing behaviors, asking and posing questions, searching, being able to look deeper into ideas, and the wanting to know more about something.
  3. Creativity: Art/Design students learn to synthesize; to analyze, interpret, deduce, and break down a subject into smaller parts for closer examination. Students also unify complex and often contradictory ideas into a larger whole while balancing form and content. Students must bring in ideas from many fields of knowledge and transform those ideas into something new by paying close attention to the historical, cultural, and symbolic context.
  4. People Skills: Art/Design formation within a studio environment becomes a “cooperative” exercise. Students depend upon each other for the sharing of equipment, resources and space. When projects involve several people, the ability to motivate with and others for a shared vision becomes essential.
  5. Coordinating with Others: Art/Design students learn early the necessity of shared equipment, studio space, and other limited resources. This necessitates cooperation, with others for mutual benefit. In addition, many “art activities”, like exhibitions require the help and assistance of other artists.
  6. Emotional Intelligence: Art/Design curricula emphasize critique; an exercise that forces students to look upon their work with a degree of personal detachment and understand that critical comments are being offered as an opportunity for learning and improvement. This is not easy and takes a degree of emotional maturity to become comfortable with disagreement, and criticism.
  7. Judgment / Decision Making: Art/Design students must learn time management is an essential skill. Budget constraints, applications procedures and exhibition schedules necessitate punctuality, accuracy and attention to detail. Students learn to prioritize and streamline their efforts to match the expectations and requirements of a professional fast-paced environment.
  8. Service Orientation: Art/Design students learn quickly the value and relationship of their peers. They are dependent upon one another for the care of their equipment and materials. Learning that no task in the creation of art is menial. Ethics and best practices guide the necessity of efficient studio operation for the common good.
  9. Negotiation Skills: Art/Design curricula allows students the opportunity to interact one-on-one with professional working artists (their faculty). Such opportunities require student initiative for mentoring and capitalizing on learning opportunities both within and outside the studio classroom. Such initiative fosters entrepreneurship and self-confidence.
  10. Cognitive Flexibility: Cognitive flexibility is an essential skillset in our fast paced and fast changing cultural landscape. In every Art/Design course, by nature of the individuality the projects, assignments and the subsequent class critiques (assessments) students are confronted with a variety of opinions, perspectives and points of views. The capacities of divergent thought foster multiple ways to solve problems with innovative and creative solutions.