Careers In The Arts: The Pros and Cons

Careers in the arts can be some of the most rewarding paths out there. As with almost anything in this world, there are also trade-offs. So, whether you’re still in high school or looking for a career change, it’s worth considering these pros and cons – and related tips – before making the jump.

Let’s start with the good news first.

The Advantages to Careers In The Arts

Pros and cons to careers in the arts are like an abstract variety of colors.

Like the colors in an abstract artwork, there are pros and cons to careers in the arts. Just plan and prepare. Image courtesy of

As mentioned earlier, careers in the arts can be some of the most rewarding professional paths available to you. Here are just some of the advantages:

You Get To Do Something You Actually Care About

This is one of the biggest advantages. Sure, there will be time spent at a desk (and maybe even a cubicle) if you work for an arts nonprofit. However, you are surrounded by the things and subjects you love. You’re not just making or selling a widget that you have no connection with. You can’t put a monetary value on that.

You Get To Share What You Love With Other Like-Minded People

Whether an artist, an arts administrator, or you’re on the academic side of the arts, you surround yourself with people who have very similar passions. Creative people are a different breed. Conversation around the water cooler will be far more interesting.

And, if you like people and enjoy sharing your passion, there is a very real need for people who can evangelize for the arts. From development and fund raising to public relations and event planners, arts nonprofits often need competent candidates with infectious enthusiasm. What better feeling is there than unlocking a whole new way of seeing the world for someone? Few careers offer this kind of reward.

A Life In The Arts Might Be Better For Your Health

There is plenty of research out there suggesting that creativity contributes to health and longevity. More importantly, the creative life offers unique opportunities to continually cultivate and innovate. There aren’t a lot of employers or careers that promise this, but careers in the arts offer so many more opportunities for personal growth.

And Then There are Disadvantages With Careers In The Arts

There of course have to be trade-offs with all those advantages. But, there are ways to navigate the less appealing aspects of careers in the arts. Some helpful ideas are included below:


One of the biggest complaints with careers in the arts is that the compensation doesn’t match the effort. If you’re an artist, maybe your creative product doesn’t yield the market price you’d like to see. Or, in an arts nonprofit, maybe the late nights get tiresome. Obviously, there is no profit in a nonprofit, and resources are usually stretched thinly.

Keep in mind that compensation isn’t just salary – there are other things to keep in mind like health insurance. Also, what are the other perks? Maybe you have access to studio space or tools, for example.

Or, if you’re in an academic environment, you may have a more flexible schedule. This can be good for families.

The Cost of Education

Another big complaint is that the cost of education – and often the accompanying debt – isn’t justified by what’s available in terms of careers in the arts.

Be sure to take a look at the expected compensation for your desired career path – will it be enough to justify your upfront education costs and pay off any resulting student debt? Is there a related major or field of study that would offer you opportunities outside of the arts if you were forced to make a jump? Internships provide low risk vantage points to help you answer these questions early on. can help you find what may be available to you now and in the future.

Professional Stagnation

A career in any field can stagnate, but often those in the arts feel that they get pigeonholed in a particular job or organization and don’t see the opportunity to “move up” as in other fields. This may not be unique to careers in the arts – creative people would logically be more susceptible to the symptoms of stagnation. Still, nonprofits are often strapped for cash and understaffed, so this can contribute to a feeling of getting stuck.

More than ever, regardless of your career, job seeking is a necessary, ongoing process. But, especially in the arts, don’t wait for stagnation to set in. Stay on top of it. Use resources like to continually evaluate what’s out there and what your next move might look like.

After all, creative people by our very nature like to keep things interesting. We shouldn’t apologize for that. It’s an advantage.

Are you looking to start a creative career or do you counsel others that would like to succeed in the arts? Sign up for more great resources for creative careers.

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(865) 630-0626

(865) 630-0626