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Why study a creative degree?


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We may have mentioned in previous articles that some schools and careers advisors may try to steer students away from studying creative and artistic degrees at university. They may want to direct them towards disciplines that appear to have ‘more transferable skills’, or that lead to ‘more stable’ career options and prospects.

As a specialist arts university, AUB and its thriving alumni community are living proof that students have just as much chance achieving success in their chosen field – and beyond it – with a creative degree. So, we got in touch with BA (Hons) and MA Illustration alumna Corrianna Clarke and put together a few reasons why you should study a creative degree.

Degrees mirror the industry

When studying creative degrees such as those at AUB, you won’t be faced with three years of just lecture theatre-based monotony. Instead, you’ll get to work on a series of projects that mirror the atmosphere and standard of the industry your course relates to. Whether that’s designing costumes for a theatre performance or working as part of a crew on a film set.

This practical training, paired with theoretical elements, gives you legitimate experience on projects to show off on CVs, portfolios, job applications and freelance websites. But there are other skills this style of learning can teach you, as Corrianna explains:

“I think that in terms of preparation for a creative industry career, the best thing about BA (Hons) Illustration was not only gaining an understanding about good, contemporary illustration, but also building the resilience and industriousness required.

“In any arts-based career path followed after graduation, it's so important to be able to handle brief after brief with enthusiasm, and the BA (and MA even more so) gave me confidence in my ideas and got me up to speed with how to keep them coming and keep making work.”

Gain industry contacts while you study

In competitive markets like the creative industries, there’s some truth to the phrase, ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’. But a creative degree offers opportunities to meet and forge relationships with industry professionals. As Corrianna confirms, “In terms of industry contacts, I think a creative degree can certainly get you started.

“AUB has fantastic guest lecturers and visiting tutors from a variety of sectors. I feel the best thing that you can do is take that first push toward reaching out to relevant contacts while you're still studying, particularly in your final year. A friendly chat with potential future collaborators or employers about your dissertation or final project could lead to wonderful things once you've graduated – I've seen it happen!”

In addition, attending careers events, and doing placements and internships during your degree will introduce you to useful contacts for your career following university.

Because you want to!

University should be one of the best times of your life, and your choice of degree course should form a major part of that. It’s the point of going to university in the first place, right? So, if you want to study a creative degree because you have creative aspirations, you should seriously consider it.

Like all big life decisions, your choice of degree should be properly thought through, and not rushed into. But then again, there’s little point studying a more generic degree that doesn’t interest you or undermines your own skill set, even if you’ve been told it’ll pave the way to your chosen field in the further future. Doing the wrong degree could be a waste of time, money, resources and could also impact your own mental wellbeing.

Corrianna relates her own experiences to explain why you should give a creative degree (or any degree) due consideration.

“When I finished college, I didn't progress my education at first. I'd thought about studying English, but a degree is a significant investment and I wasn’t sure. I worked full time for several years but felt that I was going in the wrong direction, and when I looked at creative degrees online, I remember feeling so excited about the idea of being surrounded by creative people and getting to draw all day!

“Attending open days sealed the deal for me. I'm so glad I chose to study a degree for the love of the discipline because that took me where I needed to go. Truly enjoying your degree subject is really important. It's one of the best decisions I ever made.”

The skills you pick up ARE transferrable

Of course, we hope that you go on from your creative degrees to a creative career. But if you decide further down the line, perhaps after graduation, that you want to start a career in another field, don’t fret – your degree may still come in useful.

Not least does having a degree potentially put you at a higher level of study than other job candidates, studying a creative discipline comes with its own set of transferrable skills, which in turn can lead down all sorts of job avenues.

On the other hand, as we at AUB encourage, students may wish to go freelance or take an entrepreneurial path after university. It’s a path that Corrianna expects the majority of creative graduates to take at some point in their career trajectory. And a lot of transferrable skills come into play here too.

“Freelance creatives usually wear all the hats,” she says. “We're not only making our work; we're also maintaining websites, social media, newsletters, writing project applications, navigating invoicing and taxes… the list goes on! BA (Hons) Illustration absolutely gave me an opportunity to start a freelance 'toolkit', and I've been able to work marketing, admin and project management roles since graduation, using the same skills that I'd sharpened for freelancing.”

Discover all aspects of a creative process

You might go into a degree with only a general interest in your subject. On the other hand, you might have a talent or desire to work in one specific area. Creative degrees such as those run by AUB introduce students to the entire creative process. Allowing them not only to reinforce their training in their specialism, but also to discover new ones.

“Before studying BA (Hons) Illustration, I'd never created a full, animated piece, or even thought that I could,” Corrianna explains. “This was a revelation for me – I felt that I'd finally found 'my thing' – and I've been lucky enough to work on some wonderful short film projects since. Regardless of work, it was a joy to realise my own love for moving image and to dive deeper into it.

“Creative degrees should surround you with a community of similarly arts-passionate people, and that can be really enriching. I miss that the most about my degree, and it's a big part of what pulled me back for the MA too.”

Final thoughts

As we’ve established, the decision to pursue a creative degree should be carefully thought out, like all major decisions. However, there are demonstrated benefits to a creative degree; Corrianna summed up her top three:

“Trying anything and everything, being immersed in a creative community, and working out how I fit into the world as an arts practitioner.”

As for employability, research from the creative industries' policy suggests that graduates in creative subjects are no less likely to be in work 3.5 years after their degree than those in non-creative areas.

See what Corrianna has been up to since graduation.

Something to think about

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