Everyone has probably heard the theory that each side of the brain controls different ways of thinking, and everyone uses one side more than the other. You have the left brainers, which make for more logical and analytical people, whereas those who use the right side of their brain more tend to be more creative. But that’s not to say a science-y person can’t whip out a paintbrush and create a masterpiece from time-to-time. But it does mean there are two types of people in the world: those who will spend £9,000 to look at diagrams, and those who will spend £9,000 to create them.
This is where the degree stigma comes in. You have the ‘real’ degrees, such as maths, science, business etc. These are degrees that are bound to get you ‘real jobs’— not those imaginary jobs. Jobs that mean something. If you choose to study science, you can become a doctor. If you decide maths is more your thing, you can become an accountant. These are acceptable, society-worthy jobs. You will not be a stain on society. Congratulations!
But when you’re looking at art degrees, illustration, drama and creative writing to name a few, that’s when the degree stigma starts to pop up.
When someone asked the author of the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon’s advice on completing an English degree as an aspiring author, she tweeted ‘English degree = ‘want fries with that?’ Pick something that will make you enough money that you can write what you want.’— a tweet she promptly deleted after a social media backlash.
“The general consensus is that art degrees are a waste of time, or an easy option. But if you account for the stigma, then it’s actually very brave.”
If you’ve ever been at a family gathering, talking to aunts you forgot existed and uncles who you couldn’t care less about, and find yourself wishing you would just drown in a wine bottle, you’re probably a sufferer of the degree stigma. Especially if you’re stood next to your cousin who just graduated with a First in Triple Science. And if you dread the inevitable, ‘What are you studying?’ then that’s another sign you’re suffering the degree stigma. But don’t be alarmed. If that question makes you shrink a little, it doesn’t mean you’re not proud of your achievements; it just means you know what’s coming. A polite smile and a, ‘Oh?’ Maybe even a, ‘what’s that like?’ if you’re lucky.
The general consensus is that art degrees are a waste of time, or an easy option. But if you account for the stigma, then it’s actually very brave. There is no guarantee of job success with any degree, but less so with art degrees. According to mathematician Samuel Arbesman there is just a 1 in 10,000 chance of becoming a famous actor. The chances of publishing a novel are just as bleak; less than 1% of manuscripts submitted to publishers are actually published. Us creative people are constantly told the odds are against us, but we do it anyway. Why? Because we’re brave, and we have the courage to go for our dreams. And that’s something to be commended, not laughed at.
Despite popular belief, creative degrees aren’t a walk in the park. They’re hard. Just like with any other degree, life is a whirl of deadlines. You have to put the hard work and dedication in if you want to excel. And even then, you can’t be sure you’re doing everything right — a lot of the time there’s no right or wrong answer.
Creative degrees, be that creative writing, illustration, drama, or something else, aren’t easy or simple. They need just as much work and dedication as any other degree. It’s time they were as respected as other degrees.