What use is an arts degree?
“A few of my friends have gone looking for employment already, but it’s not for me. Even if I managed to find a place on a graduate-entry programme with one of the big companies hiring arts graduates, I think it would be rushing into a job, and that was never my intention when I decided to study arts.’’
BA in fine arts, Dublin Institute of Technology
“When I started my degree there was no mistaking it: the economy was on the way down. Like a lot of people, I was relieved to be starting in college at that point and not job-seeking. I suppose we all hoped that things might improve by the time we finished.
“Over the course of my degree I developed a strong desire to teach. Many of my fellow students started thinking the same way, but I think it was because they liked the idea of a stable income rather than any great ambition to teach.
“Once we came to the end of the programme, it started to become clear that there is no guarantee of income from teaching now either. Several of my friends have done HDips and have had real difficulty getting any work in schools.
“Despite this I have applied to all the HDip programmes, and I am hoping to be accepted on to one of them. Over the course of my degree I put a lot of time and effort into networking and gaining teaching experience wherever I could, so hopefully, if I keep that up, I will make myself an attractive candidate when I eventually go looking for work. I can’t really see another option at the moment.
“However, if I do not manage to get enough teaching work here to make a living wage, then I have not ruled out the possibility of going abroad.
“For now I’m focusing on the medium-term objective of getting qualified. I’ll put off worrying about the job scene until I get my HDip. ’’Career options: End of the line for traditional routes?
Teaching, journalism and the Civil Service are full of arts graduates. Other popular routes for people with arts degrees include marketing, banking and finance, sales, human resources, customer services, languages, arts and culture (music, theatre, film), heritage, archaeology, childcare and social work.
Restrictions on public-service recruitment limit job prospects, while securing a permanent postprimary teaching post is difficult. The heritage industry is suffering in the face of cutbacks, and journalism is increasingly seen as an industry in flux as newspapers struggle to find viable business models in an increasingly online world.
But there are still plenty of opportunities for creatively minded arts graduates. With big companies such as Facebook, eBay and Google headquartered in Ireland, the demand for graduates with language skills is huge.
Most of these positions are in technical customer-service roles or telesales. Germanic and Nordic languages are especially in demand.
Outside this, BA graduates with digital-media skills have a good chance of securing jobs in marketing. NUI Maynooth and Waterford Institute of Technology are among the colleges offering relevant courses.
Arts graduates with postgraduate business qualifications are also highly valued by employers.
The percentage of CAO applicants who put humanities or social-science courses as their first preferences in 2012
The number of students whoaccepted places on humanities or social-science courses in 2012
The number of students who accepted a place on a science or applied science degree course