Why Ireland needs arts graduates tooPosted: March 23, 2011
Three things which are less popular in a recession:
- expensive holidays
- eating out
- studying for an arts degree.
It seems that today’s school pupils, no doubt heavily influenced by their parents, are shunning arts degrees in favour of ‘safer’ alternatives. The thinking behind this decision is, on the face of it, relentlessly logical. We’re in a recession, jobs are scarce, third-level education is expensive so let’s choose a degree course that is more likely to result in a job.
But the logic is flawed – for three very good reasons: one, there is no way to know how ‘vocational’ a course really is, three or four years into the future. If, for example, you’d enrolled on an IT degree in good times and graduated into the post dotcom era, then you wouldn’t be all that chuffed; two, around half the graduate jobs advertised in Ireland each year are open to students from any degree course – yes that includes arts; three, the only way that you will find three or four years of degree study enriching is if you actually love the subject. Being influenced to choose a degree based on its perceived value in the market might just lead to a miserable undergraduate life.
What all this rather negative thinking means is that generations of arts undergraduates suffer from a nebulous feeling that they are doing a ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree and that no employer is going to be interested in them. In contrast, a science or engineering student is going to waltz into work. Well that depends. If the scientist or engineer doesn’t have anything to offer except their degree, then they will struggle every bit as much as anybody else. Arts students who can demonstrate imagination, confidence and ambition and who are naturally good communicators are attractive to most recruiters. Often what holds them back is a false sense of their own lack of worth in the graduate job market.
We can’t pretend that it’s going to be an easy year but the eternal truth about recruitment is this: employers are interested in the person first and the degree second. And arts degrees, it can be argued, develop a whole range of personal skills that will be in demand whatever the economic conditions in the country.