What use is an arts degree?
Are arts students getting jobs?
A large portion of humanities and social-science graduates do indeed move on to postgraduate study. Statistics on postgraduate employment provide a truer representation of their prospects.
Among postgraduates of humanities and social science at Trinity College Dublin, 12 per cent are out of work. This compares with 11 per cent of health-science postgraduates and 25 per cent of engineering, maths and science graduates.
At NUI Galway, 9.4 per cent of 2011’s postgraduates from the college of arts, social sciences and Celtic studies are seeking employment. Just 3.9 per cent of business postgraduates are looking for work, while the figure for law postgraduates is 6.4 per cent. Among engineering postgraduates, 16.7 per cent are looking for work. Only 1.6 per cent of health-science postgraduates are without a job. The figure for science postgraduates is 11.6 per cent.
The University College Cork careers website ( ucc.ie/careers) contains possibly the most detailed and comprehensive list of career options for graduates from every humanities and social-science discipline. It is well worth a look.
Do employers value arts and social-science courses?
Jane Lorigan, the Irish-born CEO of Saongroup Europe, which owns the Irish recruitment website jobs.ie, says employers still value the wide education that a humanities degree provides.
“Arts degrees develop critical analysis and the abilities to look at a problem from different angles and present a cogent argument.”
Lorigan has noted the increased demand among employers for science, engineering and technology graduates. So why are students still opting for humanities and social-science courses in such large numbers?
“There’s a feeling, backed up by employer surveys, that the necessary changes are being made by Irish universities, and that the quality of Irish graduates has improved. But these changes haven’t completely filtered down to primary and postprimary level, so perhaps this is why more students are gravitating towards humanities and social science.”
So . . . any chance of a job?
Jobs.iehas CVs from 5,000 arts graduates, of a total of more than 52,000 live CVs. The largest group of people with BAs who submitted CVs to the site are now working in IT, closely followed by accounting. Neither of these is generally regarded as a traditional employment path for arts graduates, although some colleges offer a BA in accounting.
View from the ground: What do arts graduates think?
BA, psychology and sociology, UL
“I think an arts degree is unfairly stereotyped as a qualification that won’t lead to a job. I always felt that an arts degree would provide me with a broad base from which to specialise.
“I was only 17 when I filled out the CAO. I could have chosen a job-friendly option like accounting, but now I would be searching for a job that I wouldn’t even want.
“As it happens, I went on a placement to Ghana through UL as part of my degree, and while I was there I started to think about a job in occupational therapy.
“Now I am applying to take a master’s course in the subject in the UK, so I will be studying for another two years or so. Most of my peers who did arts are doing something similar, or taking a year out to earn some money and consider which area to specialise in.
“I know that it won’t be easy to get a job here even when I have the occupational-therapy qualification, because the health services are not hiring at the moment. So, like pretty much every arts graduate I know, I am open to the idea of working abroad for a while.
“Every graduate now has to be willing to travel, and most of us realise that we may have to ride out the storm somewhere else before finally coming back and starting a career in Ireland.