Artist Earnings Employment Education Diversity

People & Jobs Indicators: Education

For many artists, pursuing a degree in higher education provides a foundation upon which to build their careers and exposes them to an extensive network of fellow artists. According to a 2011 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, artists are on average more educated than the general workforce: in the United States, 59 percent of all artists have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to the 32 percent of all workers who have a degree. Additionally, one out of every 10 college-educated workers has majored in an arts-related field. However, the distribution of arts degrees varies greatly based upon the given field. Whereas 89 percent of all architects hold a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, only about 30 percent of dancers and choreographers pursue a college education (NEA, 2011).

One major dimension of cultural vitality in a given region is the support provided by its educational institutions. Thus, in order for the Houston region to truly foster a more attractive environment in which artists can grow and thrive, it is vital to determine the availability of opportunities for furthering their education. In addition, examining the number of arts degrees awarded to students can indicate the success rate of students pursuing arts-related educations in Houston. More below…

Over the course of seven years, the number of arts-related degrees awarded in Houston steadily increased, with baccalaureate emerging as by far the most popular program: as of 2012, there were more baccalaureate degrees being awarded than all of the other degrees combined. Whereas the popularity of associate degrees has remained constant, master’s degrees have more than doubled since 2005, indicating an increased availability of opportunity and support for individuals pursuing arts-related degrees. According to the data, the number of doctorates in the arts remains scarce, though from 2010 to 2012 there has been a slow yet steady increase in Ph.D.’s awarded. This is most likely due to the fact that among Houston regional institutions, the only Ph.D. programs currently offered include Music, Music Performance (general), Conducting, and Dance (general), plus Creative Writing, and Art History. In addition, the majority of institutions are particularly selective in terms of number of artists they accept into their doctorate programs and have the obligation to place students in positions once they complete their degrees.

According to a 2013 statement released by the College Art Association, master’s programs remain the terminal degrees for those majoring in the arts. However, demand for Ph.D. programs has increased of late, partly due to the fact that those seeking jobs in higher administrative positions require a doctorate (Downs & Levy, 2011). Increasingly, artists now need a doctorate to teach at the college level (Grant, 2013). This trend could in turn result in a considerable rise in the number of doctoral degrees awarded in the Houston region as well as across the United States.

Sources cited

National Endowment for the Arts, “Artists and Art Workers in the United States: Findings from the American Community Survey (2005-2009 and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (2010),” Art Works, 2011, Retrieved from:

Linda Downs and Ellen K. Levy, “Field Report: Notes on the Panel ‘The Reluctant Doctorate: PhD Programs for Artists?” College Art Association, 2011, Retrieved from:

Daniel Grant, “For Artists, M.F.A. or Ph.D.?”, Inside Higher Ed, 2013, Retrieved from: