Making the most of a degree in the arts


Dion Allison is a mother of four and works two jobs. She went to Webster University for graphic design and graduated with a degree in art and secondary education. She said she has no regrets.

Now,  Allison works as an elementary school art teacher and an instructor at Painting with a Twist in O’Fallon, Missouri. In addition to this, she is a graduate student online and hopes to get her Masters in education.

Allison said she works two jobs so her children can do the things they want to do, like dance at a studio. Allison does not feel like her education let her down in this way, however.

Instead she feels Webster is a good place to go to college when interested in the arts—even if she has to work two jobs to pay the bills.

“As far as having an art background at Webster, it’s more prestigious because Webster is known for their art department,” Allison said. “Some of the other colleges around don’t offer the art programs.”

There are repercussions for this, however. According to the Boston Globe, graduates studying in the arts, psychology or education have a higher risk of having a negative return following graduation.

Dion Allison teaches a class at Painting with a Twist. HAYLEY ABSHEAR / The Journal
Dion Allison teaches a class at Painting with a Twist. HAYLEY ABSHEAR / The Journal

The national average of $30,000 in student debt puts a price on this negative return, The Institute For College Access and Success said.

Webster Career Planning and Development Director Tamara Gegg-LaPlume said the differences in graduates’ success with a degree in the arts depend on self-motivation.

“Some people can be really successful if they’re networking along the way and getting experience,” Gegg-LaPlume said. “It’s a very individualized kind of thing.”

Gegg-LaPlume said there have been students who have gotten history degrees from Webster and ended up in the film industry and personal drive is the main factor that helps successful students get to where they are.

A 2013 study done by the University of Rochester shows that students motivated by a desire for autonomy and competence tend to earn higher grades and are more likely to be persistent. If students have self-determination, their future is brighter.

Gegg-LaPlume says that students who graduate from Webster University with a degree in the arts can be successful in their career field if they are self-driven. Allison agrees.

“A lot of careers [like the arts] you have to take the initiative. Be proactive.” Allison says.

According to, the future demand for a college degree in the arts will only increase. Economist Tony Carnevale predicts that the U.S. will need at least 22 million more people to have college degrees by the year 2018.

“I will encourage my kids in the future to get a Master’s degree like I am,” Allison said. “They’re proud of me.”

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