Arts Career Field
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The field of arts is very diverse. It often attracts people who have creative interests and want to earn a living pursuing related vocations. Professionals in this field have a deep appreciation for art, photography, music, design, performance, culture and/or language. They may value originality, innovation, and diversity of ideas and perspectives. There are a variety of settings: art studios, theatres, galleries, museums, recording studios, production sets, and office settings. Employment of art and design occupations is projected to grow four percent from 2020 to 2030, and some of the growth areas include graphic design, game design, and multimedia and web design. It is important to keep in mind that the arts are highly competitive for both salaried and freelance work due to the supply and demand for the arts, so it can be common for people in this field to have multiple jobs or to have a full-time job in a different field and pursue their creative passions in their free time, at least initially until they’ve more fully established themselves.
Click to expand each yellow box below for opportunities in this career field!
Some of the career opportunities that exist include curator and restoration work at art galleries and museums, business roles (including advertising, marketing, publishing, and design), performance in dance, theatre, and music, translation, film production and editing, photography, art therapy, arts administration, or engagement with diversity or people of various backgrounds both locally and globally in a variety of contexts (political, humanitarian, etc). Some people pursuing art careers will pursue “portfolio careers,” which combine a mix of arts-related roles to achieve full-time work or a mix of work in the arts with other work outside the arts. Pursuing entrepreneurship opportunities is another option. Art careers in this area require a combination of artistic talent as well as business and marketing skills. Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship is a resource at the University for aspiring entrepreneurs and includes entrepreneur and innovation classes, some with experiential components. You can also watch career profiles of professionals (including UMN alums) who are working in the fields of art, entertainment, and entrepreneurship!
Use the information below to explore these different areas further and to discover which may be the right path for you to follow.
Job Titles & Descriptions
Use O*NET, a free online database that provides career information including job duties, salary, and job growth information for hundreds of careers t to start exploring careers in this field. For more detailed information on art career paths, explore The Art Career Project which has a database with information about 100+ art-related careers. For museum career paths, check out museum job descriptions. For occupations related to culture, first decide on the focus, for example, business, education, humanitarian, political, to then be able to explore opportunities within those fields.
Below is a small sampling of organizations and their positions that have recruited CLA students in the past. For a more comprehensive list of job openings, search Handshake, a free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students.
Freelance Critic/Writer for newspapers and magazines
India Program Director, Lifeworks International
Graphic Designer, Capsule
Lobbyist, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts
Production Assistant, Random House Publishing
Ceramic Technician, Minnesota Clay Company
Exhibits and Education Coordinator, National Children’s Museum
Co-founder, ReelWorks Video Production
Art Teacher, DaVinci Academy of Arts and Science
Curator of Performance Programs, The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Arts & Crafts Teacher, Internationella Engelska Skolan Orebro
Ballroom Dance Instructor, TC Dance Club International
Seek out opportunities, such as those listed below, to develop the 10 Core Career Competencies. The competencies of Innovation & Creativity, Digital Literacy, Oral and Written Communication, and Engaging Diversity are especially valued in the Arts career field.
Internships and Part-Time Jobs
Below is a small sampling of organizations and their positions where CLA students have done internships and part-time jobs in the past. For a more comprehensive, search Handshake, a free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students or search for on-campus jobs.
Digital Product and Web Marketing Specialist Intern, Architectural Antiques
Archaeology Lab Intern, Minnesota Historical Society
Development Intern, American Craft Council
Administrative intern, Zenon Dance Company
Curatorial Assistant, Minneapolis Institute of Art
Festival and Communications Coordinator, Japan American Society of Minnesota
Interpretive Programs Intern, Mill City Museum
Liquid Music Social Media Intern, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Multimedia Assistant, Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul
Gallery Intern, Katherine E Nash Gallery
Research Intern, Conan
Human Resources Intern, Joffrey Ballet
Intern, Theater Mu
Props Intern, Barrington Stage Company
Instructor Intern, Urban Arts Academy
Production Assistant, sureCAN productions
Programming Intern, Audi Dublin International Film Festival
Production Intern, The Second City
Museum Studies Intern, Exhibits Development Group
Assistant Stage Manager Intern, Children’s Theatre Company
Communications Intern, Hennepin Theatre Trust
Dramaturgy Intern, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Apprentice and Build Entrepreneurial Experience
For many occupations in the arts in which you may be working independently as an artist, it may be more helpful to seek an apprenticeship or mentorship instead of an internship to learn how to navigate being an artist through a specific medium or to build your own business. Use the Networking tips above to identify potential people from whom you can learn. Some arts organizations (such as the Work of Art program) offer opportunities to build entrepreneurial skills as an artist through workshops on topics such as Marketing for Artists, Funding for Artists, Business Plans for Artists, Career Planning for Artists, Portfolio Kit, Social Media, Grant Writing, etc.
Build a Strong Portfolio
In the arts, your portfolio - whether physical or digital - is evidence of your talent and experience. The content of your portfolio depends on your field — it could range from a demo reel to examples of graphic designs, to creative writing samples, to a collection of paintings to a series of photos. Seek opportunities to build your portfolio, which can also be used on a professional website, and professional skills through classes, internships, volunteering, student groups, and independent work or practice.
The Center for Community Engaged Learning has advising staff that will help you get connected to one of the 300+ community organizations that match your interests.
Join a Student Group
Consider getting involved with a student group. When searching for student groups, select “Fine Arts/Music/Film” or “Performance Groups” as a category to find groups that match your interests.
Job & Internship Search Sites
Handshake - search this free database of internship, volunteer, and job postings for UMN students, you can filter by your career interests to find opportunities that connect with your career goals
Minnesota State Arts Board - Internship opportunities within their organization as well as grants, educational opportunities, and opportunities for artists.
AIGA - MN - This site showcases events, training, networking opportunities, and experiential opportunities with a focus on design.
MN Artist - Explore Minnesota's art scene by browsing communities and content.
Art-Collecting.com - Directory of Art Museums, Centers, & Non-Profits by state.
Building relationships, also known as networking, is another important strategy, click the "Building Relationships" gray box below for advice for how to approach this!
Talk With and Observe Professionals
Networking can help you explore a career field; start by doing informational interviews which is when you set up a time to have a discussion with people who are in organizations or professions that are of interest to you to ask questions about their career path. Then, find opportunities to observe (or Job Shadow) these professionals at work, so you can get a better sense of what that career would be like. Find alumni and professionals to speak with by searching the free to use Maroon & Gold Network which allows students to do highly tailored searches to find alumni and professionals in the community who share their specific career interests. For example, you can browse the network to find individuals who are willing to share insights by industry, college, major, degree type, employer, location and more. You can also find contacts by using the LinkedIn Alumni Tool.
Get involved with one or more professional organizations to gain career insights, search for jobs and internships, attend conferences, and/or connect with people in this career field.
“Intern, volunteer and interview as many people as you can to hone into the specific track that you would like to pursue. The Arts and Cultural field is extremely competitive and requires an advanced degree — weigh your options and gain practice experience before graduate coursework. “ –Weisman Art Museum, representative
“Sometimes you can be the first person that holds yourself back. You never know where opportunities in the arts are going to lead you, so keep an open mind when opportunities come up. I see a lot of people young in their artistic career turn down opportunities because it doesn't fit what they think their career should be. Allow your own career to surprise you! “ –The Guthrie, representative
“In nonprofits, volunteering is a great way to get in the door. Volunteer and HR departments work very closely together, so if you are an awesome volunteer it’s a great foot in the door.” “ –The Guthrie, representative
“Be wary of being asked to give your art and work away for free. It seems like you might get a leg up down the road by taking on an unpaid role or providing access to your art, but that's not always the case. Consider whether you feel that the experiences and benefits will compensate you.” -Northern Clay Center, representative
“Be active in your discipline. From an arts nonprofit perspective, it's important for you to display your skills in relation to the job you are pursuing rather than your creative practice.” -Northern Clay Center, representative
“Network as much as possible, take advantage of small opportunities because they can lead to bigger things. Nonprofits/cultural organizations/museums are a small field with people who know people everywhere.” -Minnesota Historical Society, representative
“Get practical experience beyond what you've learned in classes. Volunteer somewhere similar to where you'd like to work. A lot of museums don't have very many paid full-time staff people, so don't be afraid to start small. Use your network! -Minnesota Historical Society, representative
Below is a list of some CLA courses that may help you explore and/or prepare for this career field. This list is not all inclusive. Please discuss your academic and career interests with your Academic Advisor for guidance.
Professional Practices in the Arts, ARTS 3404W
Curatorial Practice Field Experience, ARTS 3481
Career Prep for the Theatre Artist, TH 4321
Career Preparation, MUED 5806
Career Readiness for Dancers, DNCE 3901
You may also consider taking coursework in art, history, music, theatre, global studies, anthropology, and/or languages. There is not one major or minor that will prepare you for this field as there are many pathways.
For a deeper study on a specific discipline within this field, you may want to consider graduate school programs to enhance your expertise, or in some fields open up more job advanced job opportunities. Faculty in your department are fantastic resources to solicit information from. Additionally, you can search for graduate school programs with the Grad School Directory or Peterson's Guide.