Need advice: Thinking about changing my major/career… (art education)

posted 2 months ago in Career
Post # 16
1833 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017 - Courthouse

kaycookie :  I think it would be a much much safer bet to continue with education. Use it as a backup if you will. Try your hand getting out there and creating art and selling it, working for a studio, working for a museum, etc. And if that doesn’t work, you always have a super stable job teaching. Keep in mind that teachers get summer off so you could always create and find your own identity as an artist then and focus on teaching the rest of the year.

Post # 18
59 posts
Worker bee

kaycookie :  ” I also love making art, and would rather commit my time to a part-time job (whether it be one unrelated to art, like a bartender, or related to art, like in a gallery or museum) while making art, versus working full-time as a teacher.”

I was just going to ask you this, and I think it pretty much sums up everything. While the teaching part of the degree is a good back-up it is also prohibitive to a career as an artist and sort of frowned upon by contemporary artists if that is your ultimate goal. My partner gets home from work in like 30 minutes. Let me ask him what his suggestion would be since he is more familiar with the process than I am. 


Also assuming you are 21-30 of course it is not too late. Whatever you decide to do- teaching, working in art, etc you’ll be fine. 

Post # 20
5508 posts
Bee Keeper

kaycookie :  I also love making art, and would rather commit my time to a part-time job (whether it be one unrelated to art, like a bartender, or related to art, like in a gallery or museum) while making art, versus working full-time as a teacher.

Can you support yourself with just part-time income? It’s not realistic to count on any income from selling your art in the beginning or a steady stream of income from art sales even once recognized/established. Plus it costs money to make art. 

Post # 21
905 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: March 2015

I think you’re creating a false dichotomy between being an excellent teacher and practicing art. Your students would *benefit* from having a teacher who’s actually a practicing artist as well! You’d be a better role model and you’d be better equipped to give them good advice about their future.

Post # 22
2131 posts
Buzzing bee

I was going to suggest what PP did – that an MA/MFA might be a better route than doing an extra YEAR of unpaid internship. At that rate, getting a 2-year MA/MFA would only be one extra year of tuition, and would give you way better fall back opportunities AND time to develop your portfolio and figure out your next moves for pursuing an art career. If you did decide to teach, you’d be qualified — most private schools will want a masters, as will colleges. At the same time, having a specialized MFA wouldn’t brand you as an educator since you seem to be worried about being held back by that. 

Post # 23
59 posts
Worker bee

Just sent you a long PM. Let me know if you dont get it in a bit!

Post # 26
904 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2019 - City, State

OKAY. I am working on my master’s in elementary education, so slightly different than where you’re headed but I can give some insight into the teaching world.

You might lose time for your own art during your first year teaching. 99% of teachers I know lose themselves a little bit their first year. Some lose themselves for longer, but teachers are allowed their own interests and do not have to sacrifice their identity to improve their teaching. It’s really hard not to go all in, but that’s why so many teachers burn out so quickly. You need to develop boundaries.

A lot of teachers feel like they’re never doing enough for their students. The system is stacked against them, and 99% of teachers are very empathetic and caring individuals by nature. But they are people too. They deserve to fulfil their interests as well. It takes time, but there is a balance where you can fulfil your own loves, and be an amazingly involved teacher. You can find the balance. 

All the art teachers I know were working on their own projects on the side. Sure, they can’t totally drop everything and work on that during the school day, but they have free time still. And in some districts, taking an art course in one of your own personal interests would count as PD, which fulfils your interests and a job requirement. 

Also, student teaching is a great experience and can lead to some great connections – even to more alternative art teaching opportunities. So don’t write that off quite yet. 

And, who’s to say that you can’t teach for a couple years while building a more focused portfolio, then move on to get your MFA? To get into an MFA program is more about your portfolio than your major. My best friend is working on her MFA in Costume Design right now, and she was a psych major. But she had an impressive portfolio, and that’s what they cared about. I mean hell, I majored in history and dramatic arts, with a minor in German language, and here I am, working on my masters that has absolutely nothing to do with any of those things. Your major now does not define what you go on to do – besides the technicalities of licensure. 

Teaching may lead to some great connections, and may teach you more about your own style and focus as an artist. I promise you will have time to do your own work while you teach. Teachers have their own interests and their own lives. We are still people with hobbies and families and side projects. You do not have to sacrifice your happiness for your job. 

Check out an art teacher on instagram named Cassie Stephens – she’s an amazing teacher with a wacky style — but she makes her own art themed clothes and costumes because they involve some of her favorite mediums and art styles. But that’s something she loves to do as an artist on her own time, for herself. 

Post # 27
5656 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: February 1997

A teaching degree really IS a good thing to be able to fall back on if need be. Yes, student teaching is inconvenient, but in the big scheme of things, it is one year and it will never be easier to do than it is now (not that it is easy now, just that it will get harder later on to go back if you change your mind). 

My boys had an art teacher. He was an excellent teacher, though it was clear that working with younger kids wasn’t his thing (we live in a small district where the art teacher must teach K-12). While he was an excellent teacher, he was also pursuing his art outside the classroom and started making some really profitable sales. He has now moved on to teaching exclusively high school on a part-time basis in order to pursue his art further.

My boys kept in touch with him after he left our district, and they find him really inspiring. He was and is a teacher, but has never lost sight of his own art along the way. Since he was recently married and has a son, I imagine that teaching provides some stability when/if things aren’t selling as quickly. Either way, teaching hours and more time in the summer months to make his own art served him well without him haing to abandon either one.

Post # 28
770 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2019

kaycookie :Taking a creative path isn’t easy because at least from what I have seen, there often isn’t the clear roadmap for success that there can be in other industries. (Though things are changing so much in the economy and with technology that I think fewer industries are clearly that cut and dry anymore.). The challenge is that as a student a lot of what you’re worried about is hypothetical at this point and you won’t really know how workable these things are until you’re actually out doing them.

It’s hard for me to know what to say to you because I think often as women are ability to reach our dreams is undercut by our confidence. But I also know that I’m largely a pragmatist. The art world is challenging where a disproportionate amount of artists make a lot of money while the vast majority of artists make too little to survive.

I think the reality is you won’t know how you’ll be able to balance making your own art with a job/career that supplements your income until you’re actually out in the world, working and doing it.  So at some point you’re just going to have to start doing it and adjust from there. 

Even if you’re an incredibly talented artist, it seems like realistically you’ll need to do something to earn the predominant source of your income in the beginning.  Part of me wonders how much your desire to deviate from your current plan comes from the logistics and sacrifice of doing a year of student teaching.  I get that it feels like a lot when you compare it to your 2 1/2 years of studies but compared to the length of a full career that’s not that much time to give yourself a plan to fall back on.  And though it may feel like it points you in a more traditional direction it would likely give you skills you could transfer into art education in other settings that might give you more flexibility.  

If it were me, I’d start doing more research so you can make informed decisions.  Personally I think you’ll need to branch beyond your advisers and be more scrappy on your own.  I’d be more inclined to find mentors who are out doing what you aspire to do so you can learn about the path to get there.  What about alumni who have graduated from your college?  Or local artists you might encounter through open studios, gallery shows, etc?  Can you get your work in front of more people outside of your college to get a sense of interest for it or areas of improvement?  Part of me wonders if your school is less known/less strong in studio art if you’d need to do some additional work outside your school (MFA, workshops, etc.) to strengthen your body of work as an artist.

I think what isn’t helpful is to dwell on what you wish you would have done (no matter how tempting) and instead your effort is much better spent figuring out your path forward.


Post # 29
267 posts
Helper bee

kaycookie :  the more I learn about the field and what to expect, the more I fear that I won’t have any time to develop my career as an artist.”

I don’t know if this will be helpful to you or not, but I’m on the other side of this. I am a writer and always have been, since a very young age. One of my lifelong goals is to write novels, and I have developed an interest in photography as well. I am also an outdoorsy person, although science isn’t my forte. I went to school for data analysis and work as a data analyst for a large company, because I also like puzzles and numbers and analytics.

At 1.5 years into my career, I find it hard to find the time to be creative. Even when I have free evenings, I find it difficult to get into the headspace of creativity. I might just be in the wrong place and the wrong headspace overall (I don’t really like my job because it’s not challenging enough), so I can’t tell how difficult this would be to fix.

That said, I knew all of this, and I pursued a more lucrative and stable career (which I also liked) because I purposefully assumed I would have to support myself and planned for that, and financial stability is important to me – in part because I think it would be hard to be creative if I were worried about paying for basic needs. I would not suggest to anyone that they fall back on their spouse’s career (what if something happens?) but I understand why people do.

Really, you have a tradeoff between focusing more on your art and being financially stable. An education degree would probably make you more marketable, so I think I’d probably go with that.

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