by Dan Berrett, Inside Higher Education

Conventional wisdom has long held that pursuing a career in the arts is a likely ticket to a life of perennial unhappiness, hunger and unemployment. But the opposite appears to be true — graduates of arts programs are likely to find jobs and satisfaction, even if they won’t necessarily get wealthy in the process — according to a new national survey of more than 13,000 alumni of 154 different arts programs.

“Arts graduates are finding ways to put together careers and be employed — and many of them are satisfied with their work,” said Steven J. Tepper, associate director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy, assistant professor in the department of sociology at Vanderbilt University and senior scholar of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP).The results of the survey, which are being released today, may offer some measure of succor to parents who are anxious about their children’s artistic aspirations. And, while the survey may help arts programs defend against accusations that they produce an oversupply of soon-to-be-discouraged artists, they also suggest areas — particularly in the area of career preparation — in which these programs can improve.

The results reflect the responses of 13,581 alumni of 154 arts colleges and conservatories; arts schools and departments within broader colleges and universities; and arts high schools. They constitute the largest dataset gathered about the lives and careers of arts graduates, according to George Kuh, professor emeritus at Indiana and SNAAP project director (SNAAP is based at the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research at the School of Education). Those surveyed include graduates from fine arts, theater, dance, music, creative writing, media arts, film, design and architecture programs between 2005 and 2009, as well as those who graduated in 2000, 1995 and 1990.