In today's economy, heavy with austerity and uncertainty, students are under pressure to choose degrees that will improve their employability. More than ever, employers are taking less risks and hiring graduates with skills and talents most relevant to their business with governments also keen to promote research that drives innovation and stimulates growth. Traditionally, STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – have been seen as the solution to some of these pressures. Especially in the UK, STEM subjects are viewed as a vital foundation to a high-tech economic future, of sustainable energy, advanced biomedicine, and miraculous materials. Industries in these sectors are widely seen as a means by which developed economies can maintain a competitive advantage relative to newly industrialised countries, and high-level skills in these fields are in demand.
Is emphasising technical and scientific fields really a complete solution – what about the arts? As author Raymond Thornton Chandler once wrote “There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart". The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other… "The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.” Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, insisted that design is inextricably connected with the technical issue of how things work. Creativity and imagination, as well as core skills like craftsmanship, graphic design, aesthetic theory, and ergonomic understanding, are every bit as crucial as science and technology to producing usable, beautiful objects that people will want to make, buy, and use. Leading figures in the world of art and design, such as John Maeda, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, have been spearheading the transformation of STEM into STEAM – adding the arts to the sciences.
It is a common choice, for those seeking to maximise their employability through master’s study, to opt for degrees in the STEM fields – with Pharmacy, Chemical Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science all being popular choices. But these degrees have very particular skills requirements – including advanced levels of numeracy, and a head for logic puzzles – that not everyone possesses. They are also highly specialised fields of study, that do not capture everyone’s interest.
If you're more interested in using your imagination, understanding human needs and cultural attitudes, and applying both to practical problems, it may well be that a career in the Arts and Design field may be better suited to you. If you have a creative hobby – such as music, drawing, or gaming – you may have already begun the process of acquiring skills that qualify you for a stimulating and highly lucrative career in the world of design. Given the increasing emphasis upon STEAM rather than purely STEM fields, it is likely that the support available for career development in the arts will only increase in the coming years.
If you’re interested in learning which degree you should choose, visit mastersavenue.com, a free, unbiased tool that compares more than 40,000 courses world-wide.