Saturday, July 6, 2013

Making Sense of Employment Numbers for Music Graduates

In the UK, Andy Doe on Proper Discord criticized both the Times Higher Education Supplement and The Independent for reporting that the Royal Academy of Music has a 100% employment rate among its graduates. According to Doe, the survey upon which both sources base their articles omits over half the RAM's graduating class and defines employment very loosely as basically doing more than simply sitting around all day on the couch.

The Times Higher Education Supplement's American correspondent, Jon Marcus, cites some numbers in the US, and frames them optimistically. Citing a study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Marcus says that the unemployment rate for music students is only one per cent higher than the unemployment rate for university grads in general (8.6 per cent versus 7.9 per cent), and lower than other arts majors (almost 10 per cent of them can't find jobs after graduation).

(Disclosure: Marcus discusses the Eastman School of Music at length in his article, and as director of communications I provided him with information on the school and set up an interview with the school's dean.)

Doe was right to look at the Royal Academy of Music stats with a jaundiced eye; clearly there is some wishful thinking going on there, and the uncritical reception by UK news outlets reflects a possible bias towards fine-arts education. On the other hand, we in the US assume that music graduates are unemployable, which might explain why Marcus responds to the Georgetown study as if they are a cause for optimism.