Art History Degree

A topic of conversation came up in the office (when I worked in the office). The topic was about ‘useless degrees’. The conversation was between three of the office’s self styled narcissists, two of which worked in the Engineering department and one worked in the Service department.

The Engineering guys said any degree other than science or engineering was totally worthless, saying an “English” degree was good enough to work at McDonalds flipping burgers but an engineering degree would get you into Boeing making airplanes.

When I was in college in the mid 1980s, I probably would have said much of the same. I choose my course of study to acquire a skill set that would equip me to compete in the world of broadcasting. Had Ball State University offered technology courses in Web Development and Design I would have quickly signed up.

But now, forty years after that college experience, I have a different perspective. Unlike the office narcissists who can’t see past their noses or can change attitudes and beliefs, I have a new appreciation for those ‘useless’ degrees and those who pursue that course of study.

In that conversation, “art history” came up as the most useless degree. They said that art, especially modern abstract art was worthless and degenerate (didn’t Hitler say that). Anyone who studied the history of ‘art’ was the same same, useless and worthless.

Yet, I wonder if the people studying art history are studying their passion. Certainly they are. After all, why choose art, history or art history if you didn’t have some sort of passion about art, history or art history.

Doesn’t that passion make the pursuit of that degree worthwhile? Doesn’t the effort they put forth to complete all the requirements solidify the worth? Even if the financial outcome isn’t as great as a job in Engineering? Even if it takes years to pay off the student loan?

When I’m bored and feeling useless in my salaried technological position, in between writing lines of code or masking elements in photoshop, I wonder what life would be like had I graduated with an Art History degree.

So, I looked up the Arizona State University art history program and wondered if I, as a white male in his late 50’s would be accepted to such a program.

The page says :

“After earning an online art history degree, you’ll be prepared to pursue careers in museums, galleries, historical and preservation societies or art agency settings. Alternatively, you can use your research, transferable skills and critical thinking abilities in a variety of other occupations or for graduate studies. Possible career options include:”

  • ARCHIVIST : Growth: 14.3 % : Salary: $51,760
  • ART PROFESSOR : Growth: 12.0 % : Salary: $66,930
  • HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER :Growth: 7.5 % : Salary: $59,170
  • MUSEUM CURATOR : Growth: 14.0 % : Salary: $53,770
  • MUSEUM EXHIBIT DESIGNER : Growth: 12.4 % : Salary: $40,670
  • TALENT AGENT : Growth: 4.7 % : Salary: $64,940

I wonder what I would have become had I studied art history and endured the ridicule and contempt from those engineering type of folk who believe all other people beneath them worthless if they did not pursue a degree they consider worthwhile.

Over the entrance to the David Owsley Museum of Art on the Ball State campus. Nikon D600 photo taken by Dave O on February 28, 2016.
Over the entrance to the David Owsley Museum of Art on the Ball State campus.
Nikon D600 photo taken by Dave O on February 28, 2016.

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