Does a BFA degree have value outside its field?
January 6, 2005 12:01 AM   Subscribe

Does a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (especially one in theatre/acting) have value outside that field?
posted by stray to Education (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As one with a BA in Drama, working in a non-acting field: any college degree has some value in the professional world.
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:14 AM on January 6, 2005

Did you experience in drama have direct relevance to your current work? Was it something that proved to be an boon when they were looking to hiring you?
And yeah. I do know that a degree has value no matter what. I guess I'm just sorta craving reassurance that I'll have an out into other jobs. Or something.
posted by stray at 12:16 AM on January 6, 2005

Did you experience in drama have direct relevance to your current work?

None whatsoever. I'm in the lowest level of management in the Accounting/Finance department at an ad agency now. At least within the company I work for, the only thing we really require for the entry level positions is a college degree. Beyond that, work experience is the important thing.
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:25 AM on January 6, 2005

If you're asking if a BFA is worth the extra effort (over a vanilla BA) if you're not going into the field, I'd say it could make a difference to some people if you take the time to explain it to them. It's a signficantly higher level of achievement, and that says something about you.
posted by zanni at 4:11 AM on January 6, 2005

zanni OTM. If you're really worried about getting a job, take some economics courses (or something of the sort). You would be amazed, though, at how rare certain B(F)A-oriented skills, especially writing, are in the working world.
posted by josh at 5:27 AM on January 6, 2005

I gather this is the "Can I really major in theater, which I like, or should I major in something more practical?"

My usual advice to undergrads in that position is to major in something that you like enough to be willing to put in the effort to really excel at.

As near as I've been able to tell, outside of engineering, science, and computing, there are business degrees and Everything Else. Unless you're going for a BA/BS in an undergrad business school -- which from what I gather is not actually especially attractive to many large employers -- all fields in liberal arts are equally irrelevant. Undergrad business students will almost certainly get higher initial salaries, but their trajectory tends to be flatter IIRC; in the long run, a liberal-arts degree is the better bet for most people.

If you're working in an office for IBM or an insurance company or a marketing firm, you're not going to be putting on theater productions, and you're not going to be dissecting literature, and you're not going to be analyzing anyone's psyche, and you're not going to be examing the institutional arrangements underlying any polity, and you're for damn sure not going to be drawing indifference curves. For most corporate employment, it just doesn't particularly matter what field your BA is in, especially in the long run.

What they seem to care about is that you've learned to digest large amounts of information quickly and accurately, that you can communicate relatively clearly, that you can work to deadlines, that you can work with long-term goals, and so on. All stuff that excelling at any liberal art or science will show.

Go ahead and major in theater. If you're at a first interview and someone mentions it, tell them that it shows that you can contribute to large-group projects, that you can work to hard-wired deadlines, that you can lead a group of others, that you have excellent presentation and communication skills, and so on. If your school has a career center (even a career centre des carrieres), talk to them about how you'd go about marketing yourself as a fresh BA/BFA with a drama degree.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:33 AM on January 6, 2005

I have a Bachelor of Music Performance, along with an AA. I had no troubles getting employed in my current field of web development, other then the fact I had to write in "BM" under the checkboxes for BA and BS. I currently operate as either a developer, project manager, or consultant, depending on the project.

I don't regret my degree, either, and my long term plans are to go into music full time. For the short term, since web development was lucrative, I took the extra time to build a portfolio and gain a few certifications that would make me look attractive to a prospective employer.

And to be honest, there are a lot of things in my BM training that have, IMO, made me better prepared for the business world than non-music folks. Mostly revolving around my feelings & training on accountability, being prepared, and grace under pressure.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:02 AM on January 6, 2005

Undergrad business students will almost certainly get higher initial salaries, but their trajectory tends to be flatter IIRC; in the long run, a liberal-arts degree is the better bet for most people.

I'm genuinely curious to know how you came to that conclusion.
posted by BlueTrain at 9:48 AM on January 6, 2005

If you're asking if a BFA is worth the extra effort (over a vanilla BA)

what the? i didn't realize that a BFA was any different than a BA (i hold a bfa from berkeley in art practice, and work as an IT tech/sys admin/cfm d00d).

maybe different schools have different grad requirements?

i've never really been asked about my degree. In fact, i didn't actually *have* my degree when I got employed at my first job (i put off fufilling a breadth requirement for four years, which was stupid, because now it looks like i took eight years to graduate, but whatevers). of course, i've always worked for small companies, so ymmv -- basically, i've never applied for a job where i'd have to cut my hair or shave or something for the interview*, so i can't really tell you how much luck you'll have in the corporate world.

* of course, that's the way i like it. I AIN'T SHAVIN' FOR THE MAN.
posted by fishfucker at 11:50 AM on January 6, 2005

'm genuinely curious to know how you came to that conclusion.

Study I read / saw reported a couple-few years ago that I'm far too lazy to look up.

It compared undergrad business degrees, not MBA's, to liberal-arts degrees. IIRC, they found that business degrees started with higher pay but that the liberal-arts types caught up or passed them within a few (don't recall exactly) years.

I have no idea what they controlled for and what they didn't (ie, if they didn't control for it, more-or-less all the lawyers and physicians in the US have liberal arts degrees, which will skew things away from business degrees)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:11 PM on January 6, 2005

fishfucker- I've always been told that a B.F.A. is a little spiffier to those in the arts field. I suppose, as zanni says, once you're outside that field, you might have to explain why the extra letter is nice to have.

Thanks y'all. It's not so much that I'm looking for a guarantee that I can get the joeblow corporate job. I just like hearing about people with artsy degrees who are doing whatever they want. It's nice and calming.

posted by stray at 12:20 PM on January 6, 2005

For what it's worth, any full four year degree has equal standing when it comes to immigration issues, as far as I'm aware. Not the answer you were looking for, but having that degree opens up a lot of doors either way. It's "a degree" and that means some people will open doors for you.
posted by wackybrit at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2005

So much of you success in the real world is standing out from others in the pack. If you demonstrate creativity and distinction as an art student, you are probably going to have a leg up on the drone who didn't really care about his or her degree. One of the soft skills that means so much in the professional world is having experiences to talk about that make you memorable.

I graduated from a liberal arts college almost 20 years ago. The people who stood out from the crowd and followed their passions have mostly done well. People still snigger when they see my degrees (Russian and Czech poetry of the avant-garde, English lit), but I eventually found a job I like, and I wouldn't trade my rough start in the working world for anything.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:05 PM on January 6, 2005

the jobs you can get with a bfa are the kinds you could get with no degree at all. its just paper. you let your experience work for you.
posted by c at 2:07 PM on January 6, 2005

My theatre program at the University of Central Florida had both BA and BFA programs, as a point of reference. The BA was a general theatre degree and you studied both the performance side and the technical side. There were two BFA programs that had nearly double the hourly requirements of the BA and usually took five years to finish instead of four. In those BFA's you could choose either Performance or Technical concentrations.

I didn't finish the degree, but the things that I did learn in the Technical BFA program have won me jobs. But as a techie, I learned AutoCAD (that's the biggie, always a job there), carpentry and some electrics. I've been snickered at about the "Theatre Major" thing, but when I demonstrate all the things I learned there, the giggling stops. And in the field, I believe BFA's are very highly regarded. Of course, that depends on the prestige of the program.
posted by Elsbet at 11:20 PM on January 6, 2005

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