Surprise Sector for Job Growth: The Arts

A new National Endowment for the Arts analysis projects a healthy rate of growth in arts jobs through the year 2018.

Is your heart set on a career in the arts while your head points you in a more practical direction? If so, a newly published research report by the National Endowment for the Arts should help get those warring organs in synch.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the NEA projects a growth rate of 11 percent for arts-related occupations over the next seven years. Perhaps surprisingly, that’s a bit higher than the projected increase of 10 percent for the overall labor force.

Granted, the figure is lower than many other fields in the “professional and related occupations” category, such as the 72 percent projected increase in jobs for biomedical engineers. Nevertheless, the need for qualified professionals in many arts-related occupations is expected to grow as fast, or faster, than the job market as a whole through the year 2018.

Museum professionals will be particularly in demand. Projected growth rates are highest for museum technicians and conservators, as 26 percent; curators, at 23 percent; landscape architects, at 20 percent; interior designers, at 19 percent; and architects, at 16 percent.

Immediately behind are writers and authors, with an expected growth rate of 15 percent; multimedia artists and animators, at 14 percent; graphic designers and actors, at 13 percent; and art directors, photographers, and film and video editors, at 12 percent.

In contrast, jobs for painters, sculptors and illustrators are expected to grow at only a 9 percent rate, and fashion designer jobs will grow at a miniscule 1 percent rate.

The report doesn’t specify why the growth rate among curators and museum technicians and conservators — a relatively small category made up of highly educated professionals — is expected to be so high; it simply cites “continued public interest in arts, science and history.” Perhaps it has something to do with the fact some longtime collectors are establishing their own major museums, including Eli Broad in Los Angeles and Alice Walton in Arkansas.

The projected growth rate for other arts-related occupations is driven by demographics. The report points out that architects — both of the building and landscape varieties — “are essential in building health care facilities, nursing homes and retirement communities.”

“Employment of interior designers is expected to grow faster than average, primarily due to the health care industry,” the report states. “With a rapidly aging U.S. population, there is growing demand for health care facilities, and interior designers will be needed to ensure pleasant surroundings for patients.”

The report looks at “long-term structural changes” in the economy, rather than the temporary effects of recessions or periods of economic expansion. In a less-than-comforting aside, the authors note: “The projections assume that the U.S. economy and labor force will have fully recovered from the effects of the 2007-09 recession by 2018.”

Let us hope.

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