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Investing in Arts Education

On the Hidden Advantages of Art and Design in Higher Education

More and more, employers are looking for the kind of skills students learn when pursuing an arts and design degree in college.

One of the greatest investments we make, both as individuals and as a society, is in the pursuit of higher education. It’s a significant investment of both time and financial resources, all to prepare each individual to be an engaged citizen and to pursue a rewarding career. Today, art and design in higher education is a wise choice.

Art and design is a rapidly growing sector that has a significant impact on the economy and has played a critical role in innovation and start-up culture. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics reports (May 2018), there are currently more than five million people employed directly in art and design occupations across multiple industries.

Many of the products and services we use every day were initially the idea of an artist or designer. Everything from the Swiffer to the original Mazda Miata was created and designed by someone who pursued art and design in college. Airbnb, a company that changed how we approach finding travel accommodations, was created by two design graduates. And, of course, every building begins as an architect’s drawing, every piece of furniture begins as a design sketch, and every piece of clothing the idea of a fashion designer. Art and design surround us and are integral to our economy.

In the workplace, creativity and innovation are the buzzwords of nearly all industries today. The ability to think creatively, problem solve, and innovate are essential skills in today’s workplace. According to a recent study by the Conference Board, creativity and innovation are among the top five skills employers look for in a candidate.

Similarly, in a study done by IBM, 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries were polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world. Those polled listed creativity as the most important leadership quality for success in business.

Students of art and design learn through making, engaging in a rigorous and focused study with like-minded mentors and peers, research, and creative play and risk-taking, all of which help teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These prepare graduates for the creative careers of today and the future.

“Our students, regardless of their choice of major, engage in project-based learning,” Stephen Beal, president of California College of the Arts. “They learn through making. They learn integrative team-based thinking and how to build their ideas through iterative, progressive modeling. They gain empathy and an appreciation of how different disciplines bring distinct approaches to solving complex real-world problems. They learn to focus their creative ideas and to make art that matters — not just within the boundaries of our campus, but also out in the world.”

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, a national survey of 92,000 alumni of arts and design programs across North America, paints a positive picture of the prospects for an art and design degree. Survey results have shown high job satisfaction and involvement in the arts well past graduation. In a special analysis, alumni of AICAD member institutions were shown to be more likely to pursue, achieve, and maintain a career in the arts after graduation, and their first job is more likely to be closely related to their education than other arts graduates. Graduates of art and design colleges go on to lead productive, fulfilling lives, contributing to their local communities and society at large.

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