Will my arts degree get me a job?

Nicole Wootton-Cane
Nicole Wootton-Cane

Last Updated: 19 January 2021 • 7 min read

As we move increasingly into a technology-driven world, students are told that studying STEM subjects will make them more ‘employable’, and that arts degrees won’t. 

Most arts students will have heard - “Oh, what do you plan to do with that?” when discussing their degree. 

It’s a misconception that I’ve heard personally, all too many times, and one that almost stopped me doing the degree I chose (and loved). 

I graduated in July 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic, and found a job by August - not despite, but in many ways because of my arts degree. 

I spoke to several other arts and humanities graduates about their experiences of finding employment post-graduation, and their advice to anyone else who wants to take an arts degree, but is worried about finding work afterwards. 

Katherine Ingram, MA Media and Public Relations, Newcastle University, 2018

Did you get told that you would not get a job with your degree, or that arts/humanities degrees were not what employers were looking for?

Some friends joked during my course they had already planned to go into teaching should they not find work in this field. I was personally never told I wouldn’t, I had my mind set on getting into Public Relations and was going to do everything I could to get into that field. 

How long did it take you to find a job after you graduated, and what was the job?

I started as a Marketing Assistant at an IT Support company in September 2018 and handed in my dissertation in August 2018 - I received my job offer in August 2018. 

Do you feel that your degree has helped you progress in your career?

Absolutely - but you have to try to put what you learn in theory into practice during university times. For example our lecturers brought in real life examples and real cases for us to work in. 

Aside from this I chose to fill half my degree with journalism modules and that is because it is the opposite of public relations - journalists and prs have to work together, so it’s best to know a little about the roles you will be working close to. 

What would you say to a young person who wants to undertake an arts/humanities degree but is worried about future employment prospects?

Your degree is your certificate is to show you’ve done theoretical work in your field, but don’t rely solely on that - find areas to show you are experienced even before starting your first job. 

Something which employers complimented was my physical portfolio I brought along to interviews. It showed exactly what was on my CV - newspaper articles I had written for the University newspaper, graphics I had designed using Adobe software and Canva, USB sticks with video clips I created and radio shows I presented, plus any written references from volunteer work. 

Get your name out there, make yourself known in your course and ask as many questions as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask lecturers for references and lastly, use LinkedIn as your greatest tool. It took 3 months of consistent networking to build up my network but I’m so glad I did because now I have valuable connections which continue to aid me throughout my career.

Francesca Baker, BA Combined Arts - English Literature, Theology, History, University of Durham, 2008

Did you get told that you would not get a job with your degree, or that arts/humanities degrees were not what employers were looking for?

Many times I was asked 'well what are you going to do with that?' by friends and family, or it was suggested that it was a waste of time to be studying 'easy' 'soft' subjects. Even earlier on in career planning at school it was questioned why I didn't have a broader curriculum.

How long did it take you to find a job after you graduated, and what was the job?

I applied during my final year, so started in September 2008, as an insight consultant at dunnhumby, an insight company who own Tesco Clubcard.

Do you feel that your degree has helped you progress in your career?

Only in that it opened the first door. I don't think anyone really cares after that. I suppose it taught me to question things, read carefully, and the power of research, which has helped in my journalism. I'm a lateral thinker, and connect the dots.

What would you say to a young person who wants to undertake an arts/humanities degree but are worried about future employment prospects?

The skills you learn are valuable. They teach you how to think and engage with the world. Humanities are about humans, and they are what make the world the place it is. The more you can understand them, the more you have the power to change the world. And all businesses want people like that.

Jack Barnett, BA History, University of Worcester, 2014

Did you get told that you would not get a job with your degree, or that arts/humanities degrees were not what employers were looking for?

I was never told that Humanities students struggle to get a job after university, and I knew that University of Worcester's students had a particularly strong record of finding employment quickly after graduation.

However, I was aware of constant jokes in pop culture - particularly in TV shows - where graduates with arts degrees would always struggle to find a job. 

How long did it take you to find a job after you graduated, and what was the job?

Fortunately, I was able to begin my first job soon after completing my degree and a month before my graduation. It was a PR & Communications Graduate role with the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, and I had the nice feeling of being able to attend my University graduation with the satisfaction of knowing I was employed in a job I enjoyed. 

The job inspired me to pursue a career in PR & Marketing and six years later I'm enjoying heading up a marketing team for the camping equipment specialist, OLPRO.

Do you feel that your degree has helped you progress in your career?

While I haven't been able to put my specific history-based knowledge into much practice during my career, I've constantly used the wider skills that my History degree taught me. Whether it's the ability to analyse past trends with the purpose of informing future decisions, or simply the ability and confidence to think, research and work independently.

What would you say to a young person who wants to undertake an arts/humanities degree but are worried about future employment prospects?

Even in this difficult climate that we all find ourselves in currently, I would encourage any young person to undertake an arts/humanities degree if it's what they want to do.

My university days were some of the happiest days of my life, and that's partly down to the fact that I got to enjoy three years of studying and learning about the subjects I love. 

Even if the specific content that you learn about cannot be directly used in your future career, arts and humanities degrees will teach you skills which can be applied in any workplace and, more importantly, they'll likely give you memories that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

 

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Nicole Wootton-Cane
Written By
Nicole Wootton-Cane

Nicole lives in Manchester and is a Content Writer and Editor at Edvoy and journalist.


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