What are you doing after school? In 2019, I intend to study a Bachelor of Arts at university. Do I plan on ever getting a job? Well, yes. Funnily enough, I am determined to have a successful future. So… In that case, why did I choose the arts? I opted to choose my degree, and thus my ideal career, based on my interests. Formulas and experiments aren’t really my forte, unfortunately. I’ve always complained about my lack of interest towards any of the typically high-paid, opportunistic fields like all those ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) ones that are forced down every student’s throat during school. I would love it if I were passionate about those; I’d enjoy an almost guaranteed job with high pay. Who wouldn’t? The issue is, I can’t force myself to enjoy those fields. I can’t pretend I love Physics or Chemistry when, in reality, I like English and Health. Unfortunately, not everyone grasps this concept. Have your degree or career ideas ever been discouraged?

I have a sibling studying engineering, and parents who studied medicine and finance. Three of the most responsible, prospective careers to choose from. You’d think that I, coming from this family, would be a little more careful in my decision. As you can imagine, it didn’t go down well when I said: “I’m gonna do arts!”. It’s not only family that has expressed their extreme concern for me, it’s pretty much everyone I know. Of course, it arises because they care – they want me to have a successful, stable future, and I appreciate them for that. But I hate it, the patronising nature of their disapproval. It seems that I’m not allowed to have career-based dreams, because my dreams don’t align with what is socially acceptable. If they had it their way, we’d all be engineers and IT specialists. How lame of a society would that be?

Let’s be real. Nobody can deny that there is a much higher possibility of ‘failure’ for individuals doing a BA than those in e.g. ‘STEM’ careers. It’s not entirely stable, and it does not elicit the big bucks or a plethora of job options – usually. I’ve heard the horror stories of BA graduates ending up managing random cafes or Number 1 Shoes, but I’ve taken that risk into consideration. Risk is scary, but it can reap great reward – everyone has apparently forgotten this. It’s not as though 0% of arts graduates end up with an unrelated job, or none at all. There are heaps out there who are successful editors or artists or authors. They’re not all unemployed, cafe managers, or teachers. You never hear the success stories, because that might draw you to the arts, God forbid! There are countless assumptions made about the arts. People often generalise the degree, assuming that every graduate comes out of uni with an identical set of predominantly useless skills. This categorisation makes no sense, due to the flexibility of the degree. There are so many options: you could make it a double degree, or a conjoint; courses and papers can be chosen and tailored to an individual and their wants. Every BA can turn out differently, yet they are all treated the same.

Someone recently asked me what my plans were for next year. “I’m doing a BA”, I grudgingly answered, thus generating the typical expression: confusion, distaste, concern. This preceded a pretty excruciating lecture, featuring such highlights as: “You’re wasting your potential”, “Have you thought of doing politics or law instead?”, “How will you get a job?”, and a personal favourite: “Picture yourself in five years…”. The usual. Having decided to involve a BA in my future studies in the early stages of Year 13, I have endured countless renditions of this spiel from many different people. It’s almost a game now. I tell people I plan to do a BA, then watch for the flicker of disgust which appears on their face – the slight wrinkle of the nose, the raised eyebrow, the disapproving words already forming on their lips. Nine times out of ten, this is the reaction I get. I haven’t even begun the degree and already people are criticising me for it.

For the fellow students like me who wish to embark on a BA, I say follow your passion – stick with it, if the arts are where your talent and interest lies. I doubt it’ll be easy, but you can probably rummage your way to the top with a bit of determination. That’s what us creative, insightful people do best – we improvise; we dig pathways for ourselves. We don’t need everything handed to us on a shining platter. We are stronger than the stigma. In saying this, you must be strategic in your choices. There is a pretty high chance of ending up in a non-related career. Compile all the experience you can, to amplify your chances of finding a job. I also suggest speaking to a BA graduate, to find out the best moves to make within and outside of the degree. I didn’t choose a BA because I wanted an ‘easy’ route, or for the sake of stubbornly opposing everyone’s advice. I chose it because I see the potential in myself, and many others, to succeed in the arts field. There’s value to a BA, and it can elicit success. I’m going to prove it – just you wait.

Sarah is a Year 13 student who loves writing and the subject of English. She intends on one day becoming an Editor or a Technical Writer.

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