Wednesday, December 12

Experience vs. Education - What Do You Need to Make it as an Artist?

This is a guest post from Walter James that writes about the arts, education, and career development. Recently, he has written a series of pieces on how to find the best online colleges for liberal arts degrees.

Art is a field into which many decide to venture, and it's quite broad. From painters and sculptors to writers and actors, art is really ever expanding. Some will say that a degree in an artistic field is useless, and they are quite incorrect. However, experience is a necessary factor of the equation as well. Since both experience and education are generally necessary components to succeeding in this field, what needs to be taken into consideration to determine the best path for yourself?

Current Success
Sometimes, education might fall to the wayside if you are already quite successful in the field. Perhaps you wrote an excellent novel right after high school, and now this work of art is bringing you in a sizable amount of money. In this scenario, obtaining a college degree might not be too useful if you continue to work as a novelist. However, if you wish to start teaching at a public high school, receiving an education degree is likely necessary.

Specific Plans
The difference between experience and education comes more into play when you start to discuss your specific plans for the future. For example, maybe you are more of a behind-the-scenes type of person and wish to work as a stagehand. In this case, a trade school, coupled with plenty of experience working with the stage crew on local and high school productions, will likely be the better route than a traditional college degree. Discussing your specific goals with an academic adviser will help to paint a better picture of the route you should take.

Making Contacts
In any field, knowing powerful and reputable individuals is one of the pathways to success. However, this truth becomes even more relevant in the arts, which is an extremely difficult business to break into. When it comes to making contacts, both experience and education are very important. Clearly, if you are working on local or even state productions, then you are meeting with individuals in the field. In receiving a formal education, you can make contacts with professors, peers, advisers and professionals at your internships.

Backup Plans
To truly make it as an artist, you're likely going to need some money to support you while embarking on artistic adventures. Remember, some gigs might be unpaid at first. Obtaining experience does not always guarantee a paycheck at the end of the production or writing a novel. Therefore, attending college is a smart idea, especially if you decide to double major. Having another field of study in which you can engage can help to pay the bills while you are busy dabbling in the wonderful world of the arts.

When you are deciding whether to jump right into job experiences or head off to college, the most important factors to consider are your ultimate goals. Once you have clearly defined that goal, find out what the requirements are for such a position. This way, you'll truly know what type of experience and/or education you must have to secure this job. Also, consider your other goals - do you want to have kids soon? Do you want to have money so that you can travel? Consider these options when deciding whether to obtain a credential or simply go for the gold first.