Should I major in art or in business?

Ashley writes:

I need some college Major advice I want to be a freelance illustrator, and I’m going into college this Fall. I was talking to a friend of mine about another mutual friend who graduated college with an Art Degree, and had a 4.0, but had no work because she didn’t know how to market. You had told me earlier that marketing and business classes were really important. Do you think it’d be more helpful for me to major in either of those and minor in Art or just take some art classes or major in Art? Any advice you have on the subject would be appreciated Thanks!

John replies:

I think you should major in art (illustration and design) if that’s going to be your career, but definitely take whatever business/marketing courses your college offers.

Hardly any recent grad knows how to market; not getting work right away is normal, especially in this economy.  I recommend you get a staff job as a designer when you graduate and build your illustration business after hours.

Getting a design job won’t be easy, either.  The idea is to have a regular paycheck while you launch your illustration career.

I feel compelled to add: if there’s something besides illustration—another career that makes you happy—by all means pursue that instead.  Trying to make money from illustration is a heartbreaking business, especially with college loans to pay back.

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