For the PARENTS: Why you shouldn’t be terrified of a BFA or BM

Its normal for parents to be scared about their children’s dreams.  The starving artist is without a doubt much more common than the thriving artist.  However, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t be so scared.  Here are a few of those reasons with links to further reading.

1)  Right now it seems like there is no safe choice for college (read more here).  Our economy is in a state of flux and unfortunately we really have no idea of what the future will hold.  The wide spread support for open courses seems to indicate that our leaders see the future as a landscape of continuous learning where we will all constantly be expanding our skill sets.  However, badges and online certificates will more than likely never be enough.  Our society has grown to the point that a college degree not only conveys education but also social status.  Students from various socio-economic backgrounds all come together on college campuses each fall and in many ways become homogenized and leave as “college grads.”  It is very doubtful that will ever change.  However, if we are all expected to become life long learners, its also doubtful it will matter what your bachelor degree is in because we will all be constantly evolving.

2)  Creative people offer a skill set that technically minded people do not.  Author Daniel H. Pink offers many great arguments for the value of creative arts training.  Basically, computers can now do most jobs that require logic and those that cannot be done by a computer can be outsourced to India or China for a fraction of the cost.  However, computers cannot design objects on their own without human guidance and that is not likely to change anytime soon.  Look around the room you are sitting in.  Every piece of furniture in your room was designed by someone.  The advertisements for that furniture were designed by someone else.  The building in which the furniture was sold was designed by someone.  The cash register, shipping container, and shipping truck all had designers.  The list goes on and on.  Creative people think differently that technically driven people and those skills are of very high value in this society.

3)  Creative artists learn how to sell themselves (meaning their talent).  There are many sales books written on how to build relationships and most of their concepts boil down to the basic skill sets that every actor learns during their training.  That’s why many end up in sales after their careers have ended.  Sales jobs pay well so you will have no need to worry.

4)  Your child more than likely will have 50 working years ahead of them after they graduate college.  There has been a lot of talk lately about raising the retirement age and it seems that we will at some point have no choice but to do so.  50 years is a long time.  Most of us will change careers five to seven times during our lifetime.  So why not start off in a dream career instead of a boring career they can’t stand?  They have the rest of their lives to work a job like that.

5)  Some students are not college material, but they need a college degree to make a livable wage.  To most employers outside of specialized fields (for example retail, sales, management) it doesn’t really matter what your degree is in as long as you have one.  So you might as well get a degree in something you will see through to the end and actually complete.

6)  There is always graduate school.  For many years it was thought that if you wanted to get ahead you needed a bachelor degree.  Now if you want to get ahead you need a masters degree.  And soon that may not be enough.  As a member of academia, I foresee a future full of people in the public sector with doctorate degrees, post graduate certifications, and the masters degree listed as a minimum requirement for many jobs.  Many graduate degrees do not require a specific undergraduate (including law, business, and medicine).  Therefore, why not get a degree in something you really enjoy?

I know this isn’t easy.  I know its scary.  But there are worse things your child could do.  If this seems like the only possible option they will consider, don’t be terrified, things will work out.  Just make sure they don’t take out more student loans than the average college student.




  1. I like this, but I hope for a sequel: Students, why you shouldn’t be scared of the BA. I see too many theatre majors who feel a BA is not as good/talented/special as a BFA, which is not true!

  2. This is great stuff, Matt. My degrees are BM and MM in performance, BS and MA in education. After public school teaching, I went into IT full-time for 11 years, and part-time since 2009. No one gave a fig what my major was, but I did bring creativity and people skills to the table, which was considered helpful to the team in the tech world. I do disagree about grad degrees becoming a norm. In IT and many other technical, constantly-evolving jobs, degrees are seen as a waste of time beyond a certain point.

    1. I see where you’re coming from on the tech side and I’m hoping that Bill Gates initiatives on life long learning through open courses will help legitimize other types of learning. My statement about graduate degrees comes from stories posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. It seems like many humanities and social science majors have headed back to school during the recent recession when jobs were not available. They have also posted a series of articles discussing how many undergraduate graduates are working service jobs and raising the bar for employment in those positions due to the sheer number of unemployed credential holders. Because of that trend, several authors have hypothesized that we could be looking at a future of degree inflation where the masters is the new bachelors. I’ve also know several people in the business, accounting, physical therapy, and nursing fields who have made statements similar to mine. In this case, I really hope I’m wrong and more fields like IT will respect ability over everything else. I think we overvalue degrees in comparison to experience in many instances. Thanks for the reply. ~Matt

  3. Thanks, Matt. I should add that continuing education WAS a part of these tech jobs, but it was in bite-sized chunks, focused, and didn’t require stepping out of the workforce to attain. A lot of jobs in fields like nursing, high tech and business allow for getting the master’s while you’re working, which helps you not become “out of touch” in the eyes of employers, compared to someone who was jobless while they worked on a degree. Tech changes so fast that those who pause a career to go to school full-time are sometimes looked at as having taken a step backwards, since large academic institutions are usually a couple of years behind the private providers of training.

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