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Guest Post: Chris Evans on Majoring in Art History

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One of the most frequent questions a college student is asked is, “What is your major? Now for me, this conversation would go one of two ways.

Conversation 1:

Person: “So, what are you majoring in?”
Me: “Art History.”

*pause where person would have to determine whether or not I was serious*

Person: “Oh. So, what are you going to do with that
Me: “Go to dental school.”

*person laughs, thinking I’m joking, then they realize I’m not.*

Person: “How does that work?”

Quite well actually.

Conversation 2:

Person: “So, what do you want to do?” (as in, with my future.)
Me: “I am planning on becoming a dentist.”
Person: “So, what’s your major? Biology? Chemistry?”
Me: “No, actually. I am majoring in Art History.”
Person: “Oh. That’s fun.

Yes, it is. But that isn’t the reason I chose Art History as my major. It seemed that I often had a hard time explaining my seemingly conflicting choices of career and undergraduate major, but to me, they were never conflicting in the slightest.

The most important aspect of a major is learning to think. I could have majored in a science and spent most of my undergraduate time memorizing facts for a test and then forgotten those facts shortly thereafter. But, in the study of art history, I learned how to analyze. I learned how to organize and present my thoughts. I learned how to make coherent arguments based on evidence. These skills, the skills of learning and assimilating knowledge, rather than just rote memorization, have been more beneficial to me since my time at BYU than anything else could have been in my undergraduate education.

As most college graduates can attest, the actual facts and figures that you spend hours memorizing for exams are quickly lost to time. But, if you approach your education with the goal of learning to reason, think, and observe you will truly gain an education worth obtaining. This will be an education that will benefit you no matter what field you go in to.

From my experience, majoring in Art History was the perfect discipline to cultivate those skills, and more students should consider this field of study in preparation for all manner of graduate programs and career fields, from law to dentistry to medicine to business and more.

Conversation topic: What skills did the discipline of art history teach you that have benefited you in your future education or work experiences?

2 comments

1 Lauren Sargent { 08.11.13 at 5:22 pm }

I am so glad that I have come across this post. Six years ago, I graduated with BA in Art History. I would like to pursue a career in an arts field, or at least get a decent job outside of art history. Unfortunately, neither of these plans work out for me. So I decided to get a certificate in medical billing and start looking for a job in the medical field ( believe it or not, I’m still looking for a job even though I’m employed due to ourageously low salary, no benefits, and no advancement opportunities). But did I waste my time studying to get a major in Art History. Of course, not. As you pointed it out, Chris, art history major teached me the basic skills of communications, researching, analytical thinking, and researching. All these skills are just as useful in trying to decrease the number of unpaid claims from health insurance companies as they are at determining how Cezanne’s work influenced modernist, avant- garde artists, such as Picasso and Matisse. Now if only everyone to whom I talk to think that way instead of asking me “Why do you want to work here if you have a degree in art history?” Geesh, how annoying!

2 Trisha { 05.05.14 at 12:12 am }

There is a science to art history. Yet, I don’t see how that could ever connect with dentistry. I teach art history and it is my first love. I love writing fiction, but it isn’t as far away from art history as your love of teeth. I could never obsess over teeth, mine or other people’s, and then think, I am so happy I pursued that art history degree.

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