explainer

"I use the skills every day." 10 women share where their arts degree led them.

Doing an arts degree at uni is about to become a luxury option. The cost is set to more than double to $45,000, as the Government tries to steer students away from humanities and “incentivise” them to make “job-relevant” choices, such as IT, science, nursing and teaching, that lead to more “job-ready” graduates.

I did a Bachelor of Arts in journalism many years ago, so long ago that journalism seemed like a “job-relevant” choice. 

No one tried to “incentivise” me to do anything else, which is lucky, because I don’t think I would have been happy in IT or science, or particularly good at them. 

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Doing the degree taught me journalism basics like defamation law, but also encouraged me to think critically and argue coherently. 

That’s helped in my journalism career, but would have helped in any career I’d ended up in. It’s kind of sad to think that my degree isn’t valued as highly as others.

Here, 10 women who did arts degrees tell Mamamia where it led them.

Elizabeth: “I did an arts degree at Melbourne Uni back in the early to mid-‘90s and did honours in English. I had no idea what I wanted to do but it definitely opened the door to a variety of jobs in the publishing industry over a number of years. Then 12 years ago I started working for a film company and have worked my way up to being a general manager there, so I’ve always stayed in the arts, even though my actual degree wasn’t a ‘job-ready’ one as such.”

Emily: “I majored in political science and international relations and minored in German and French. I did an exchange in Germany for a year and went on to study law as a post-grad. I now work for a federal government agency. Whilst it was my law degree that landed me the job, my arts degree gave me a really good basis for critical thinking, research and academic writing skills. I am also much more informed about the political system and current affairs as a result, which I see as a huge benefit.”

Sarah: “I completed a visual arts degree in 2012 and since then have established a contemporary jewellery gallery/workshop which, at the time of selling the business, supported over 45 (predominately female) makers through mentorship in managing small business, selling their work and providing workshop access.

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At the same time I have worked consistently in philanthropy and corporate partnerships within the cultural sector to raise millions of dollars to directly support education programs delivered to classrooms nationally, fellowships for Indigenous cultural workers and the delivery of major Indigenous exhibitions at internationally renowned galleries and museums, with a view to raising awareness of Australia’s Indigenous culture with millions of people across the globe.” 

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Karen: “I did a BA in English literature which led to graduate school where I completed an MA in speech pathology. I’m currently working regionally in Whyalla, SA where I own a private practice. Those initial degrees are stepping stones to something larger so should not be readily discounted.”

Sally: “I did an arts degree with a major in history and Koori studies. I then worked in human resources for 10 years and now I’m an author. My arts degree taught me to think, to analyse, to allow room for multiple truths. I use these skills every day and I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

Vanessa: “I did a job-focused arts degree, which was a communications and PR degree, and now I work in marketing. In the UK, where I now live, they really value the classic degrees much more and look down on the type of degree I have (even though I needed a very high UAI to get in).

Fiona: “I did an arts degree, and now I lead a department in a commercial construction company. My degree landed me my first job as a document controller at a construction company because they could see I could apply myself. What my arts degree truly gave me was my incredible circle of friends who do amazing things in the arts world and beyond.”

Helena: “I did a BA majoring in history at UNSW and then, after tacking on some HR electives, was able to do a second major in HR. Worked in HR then went back to uni and did my DipEd to be a history teacher. Ended up becoming a career's adviser for uni students. Would not have been able to get into my career without my BA degree. Personally, I think the changes will severely affect female students and those who are unsure about what they want to do with their career at age 18.”

Jordan: “I did a BA in history, English and French. I loved learning and considered doing more study because I just wanted to know more. I went on to become a teacher who is obsessed with learning. I despair over the idea of ‘job readiness’ and universities becoming ‘job factories’. The pursuit of knowledge is worthwhile in itself.”

Claire: “As the host of Mamamia's Quicky podcast I would like to thank my arts degree for leading me here!”

Did you do an arts degree in university? Where did it lead you? Let us know in the comments below. 

The feature image used are stock images from Getty. 

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