Contrary to what some parents fear, a degree in fine arts does not guarantee a life as a starving artist.

In fact, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) can provide graduates with a rich, well-rounded background that is applicable to a variety of fields. To give you a sense of the career paths that may be open to you after earning a BFA, these recent fine arts grads describe their experiences entering the workforce. 

I don’t wish I majored in anything else because the arts is and always will be my passion.”

— Monica, Queens College Alumnus

1. Art Teacher, $40,000 annual salary

Because Monica’s parents weren’t initially supportive of a fine arts degree, she arrived at Queens College in Queens, New York, reluctant to follow her passion. She explains: “I did try to do other things in college before I finally realized that I wanted and needed to study the arts. It was where my heart was and I was doing myself an injustice if I didn’t pursue a career in the arts.” As soon as she graduated, Monica cast a wide job search net. “I think I applied to any job that had to do with the arts,” she recalls. After a summer of searching and interviewing, Monica landed a position as an art teacher that utilized both her art major and education minor — the minor had been a practical concession to her parents. The job involved teaching art to students ages 3 to 21 with special needs in New York City. “[Teaching] is one of my best accomplishments,” says Monica, “and working with students with special needs has been the greatest gift I could have gotten from earning a fine arts degree.” Looking back on her college experience and first job, Monica is confident she made the right choice. “I don’t wish I majored in anything else because the arts is and always will be my passion.”

2. Assistant Technical Director, $18,720 annual salary

When Sarah graduated from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, with a BFA in musical theater, she didn’t have to look far to secure a job. She stayed on campus as the assistant technical director of the college’s art center — the very place she’d rehearsed, performed and learned throughout her four years as a student. As a result of her experiences as an undergraduate, she felt thoroughly prepared for the job directing crews, communicating with touring companies and being in charge of the theater’s lighting equipment. While Sarah was lucky in that she didn’t have to launch a full job search, she said that Nazareth really helps BFAs become career-ready. “My college took me to an annual theater conference, helped me build a portfolio and prepared me for interviews,” she explains.

3. Production Assistant, $32,000 annual salary

It took Gabrielle about eight months after graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a BFA in writing for film and television to find a job. “My parents were supporting me, friends and family were feeding me, I was sleeping on mats in empty living rooms and using a box for a desk,” she recalls. Her college roommate worked at a production company and alerted Gabrielle when a production assistant’s position opened up. She was able to snag the spot and stayed at the company for three years, starting out as a gopher fetching coffee, shuttling around executives and writing expense reports. Gabrielle credits her BFA for thoroughly preparing her for all aspects of the job. “[A BFA] preps you to be in this fast-paced environment,” she says, “and gives you a leg up on understanding where you want to fit in within the industry.”

4. Restaurant Server, $26,000 annual salary

Kelsee graduated from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, with a BFA in musical theater and did what many actors do: got a job waiting tables. “I was looking for gigs or part-time work so that I could pursue theater,” she says. “Luckily, the restaurant was flexible so that I could do theater on the side while still making some money.” Kelsee says that her theater training came in handy when she applied for the restaurant job. “Self-promotion isn’t always taught to people, but it’s a big deal in theater school,” she explains. What’s more, she says that she uses skills she learned as a musical theater major every day. “The arts — no matter what kind — thickens your skin, which can be valuable in plenty of real-life situations.” Such as? Dealing with disgruntled customers, she says.  

5. Art Book Cataloguer, $24,000 annual stipend

Christina’s first job after graduating from Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, with an art degree was cataloguing art books for a small gallery. She found the job through Bennington’s job site, where it was listed as an internship with a stipend. Her responsibilities included organizing books as well as archiving them into an online database. “My degree definitely helped because I was familiar with many of the artists the books were about from looking at art, the library, classes or museums,” she says. Christina also credits Bennington’s winter semester program — during which students work an internship or job in their field each of their undergraduate years — with allowing her to build up real-world experience that proved invaluable once she started working full-time.

These are just a few of the ways you can put a BFA to work, should you choose to pursue a fine arts degree. The creative thinking and passion required to earn a BFA can take you far, no matter the direction you follow after graduation.