grad school

Should Fine Arts Majors Pursue MFAs?

We’ve heard it before.  You’re sitting perhaps at the library, in the dining hall, or somewhere else around campus and you hear the conversation between the biology/pre-med student and the art major.  They’re having a “colorful” argument about who’s bound to get the higher-paying job.  Sometimes it’s not a specific conversation you hear, but just a general consensus at school that pre-business, pre-law, and pre-med students will naturally earn more money in the long run.

When it comes down to it, this could be true a lot of the time.  Working in a much-needed field usually renders an opportunity to land a job sooner and with higher benefits.  So for us arts majors (I’m currently studying Creative Writing and Dance at my school), we are left with a dilemma:  are our futures unsecured?

Not necessarily.  When you get creative (literally), you’ll find that there are a lot of opportunities you can have as a fine arts student.  Just because you may not be attending a conservatory or an arts school doesn’t mean you won’t have job security (and likewise, just by attending one of those schools doesn’t always guarantee you will have job security).

In the end, it comes down to your own abilities and skills.  However, some people think that’s not enough, and hence we introduce the Master of Fine Arts option (MFA).

There are various reasons that arts majors prefer to go to graduate school for an MFA.  The benefits include:

The opportunity to harness your skills in an educational setting for a little while longer

The possibility of more job security if the employer is looking for someone with a higher degree than just an associate’s or bachelor’s

The possibility of more job security if the employer is looking for someone with a higher degree than just an associate’s or bachelor’s

The potential for higher pay

The ability to teach at a university (graduate degrees are required to do so)

It’s great for your resume in general

Many MFA programs (like in Creative Writing, for example) will cover much, if not all, of the cost to attend

However, given the possible benefits, there are also drawbacks to consider when looking at programs:

The cost to apply (application fee + ordering official transcripts, if required)

The cost to attend (if not enough financial aid is offered)

If a future employer is choosing based primarily on talent and skill, an MFA does not always cut it (great for the resume, but only your work samples will push you to the top)

Even with an MFA, if an employer would like to see someone with experience, your education level does not always suffice

As a rising senior at my university, I am also in this dilemma.  It requires quite a chunk of change to apply to these programs.  I also need to consider the fact that an MFA might help my resume, but based on where I apply to work, I could also need prior experience in my field.

The Solution? 

Feel free to apply to a few MFA programs your senior year, perhaps the ones you want to go to most.  If you get into some, that’s great—but if not, you now have plenty of opportunities to gain experience in the working world.  Your GRE scores are good for five years as well, so you don’t have to retake that graduate school exam during that period of time.  Sometimes, if you’re fortunate, after you decide to go for an MFA later on your employer may pay some, or all, of your tuition.

Many MFA programs, after all, are like employers in a sense.  They like to see someone with experience in their field as well—and both have the ability to benefit you in the course of your career.




Should You Go to Grad School?

The following is a guest post from Margaret Mannix the Executive Editor of U.S. News & World Report’s best-selling higher education reference books, including Best Graduate Schools 2013 and Best Colleges 2012.

Given today’s economic turmoil, corporate belt-tightening, and abysmal unemployment rate, a second degree could mean a higher salary, a big career boost if you’re already out there in the working world, or an exciting new direction if you’re still floundering around with that part-time job at the mall. It’s a pricey proposition—you’re talking tuition and fees of $9,000 at public universities and more than $20,000 at private schools—but the payoff could be tremendous: People with master’s degrees earn more over their lifetimes than those with baccalaureate degrees.

For many of you 20-somethings, the decision might be a no-brainer. Coming out of grad school in your 20’s or early 30’s means you’ll have decades of high-earning power. And just think what that fatter paycheck will help with—rent, clothes, a car, and those student loan payments that seem to have no end. But—and this is a huge caveat—pulling in the big bucks in this day and age depends on your chosen field. The median salary for someone with a master’s in engineering is $107,600, according to a recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. That’s more than twice what someone with a master’s in English will earn.

Here are some things to think about if grad school is on your horizon:

*Do your homework—and not just in choosing a program. Grill the career service people at all the schools you’re researching: Ask how many grads got jobs, what kind, and how long it took to get them. Ask about the long-term career path. Ask about the starting salaries for the jobs—and when you can expect a bump up in pay. Ask where all the good jobs are.

*For aspiring B-school grads, while the boom times aren’t back yet, there are definitely some bright spots. The tech sector is hiring more M.B.A.s, and international firms are seeking talented grads to help them take advantage of emerging markets like China.

*Prospects for newly minted engineers are excellent, with robust demand across the board—especially in electrical, biomedical, aerospace, computer, mechanical, and petroleum engineering, to name a few.

*Med school applicants will find that primary care practitioners are enjoying a seller’s market. Openings for nurse practitioners and physician assistants abound, too, and get this: One expert told U.S. News that more than 90 percent of people with a master’s in nursing nab a job within six months of graduating.

*Would-be J.D.’s might want to consider healthcare and intellectual property law, which are showing signs of rejuvenation thanks to recent legislation on healthcare, patents, and financial services.