When I was six, and wanted to be a ballerina and a part-time veterinarian, ballerinas and veterinarians told me not to be either. Never talk to actors about acting; they’ll tell you there’s no work. Or lawyers about the law; they’ll tell you they wish they were park rangers. People in any field rarely encourage you to join them. No one ever tells you to go into art.
People with job-jobs often think art school is a fraud, especially if they are the parents of an undergraduate majoring in art. According to a reading of the 2012 US Census by the artists collective bfamfaphd, only 10.1% percent of art school graduates become "working artists". 16.8% become educators – presumably to turn out the future 10.1% percent success rate. 14% are not in the labor force at all, having married extremely well. 23.1% quit art for something not-art; 17.1% are in sales. (When did sales become not-not-art?) Alexis Clements published these statistics on Hyperallergic.com under the header, “Indicting Higher Education in the Arts and Beyond”. To buy into the indictment, you have to concede that the sole purpose of a degree in art is the making of art.
If by “the profession” we mean painters painting, sculptors sculpting, or printmakers printing, then ten percent sounds right. Not everyone is cut out for the priesthood. Art has always attracted more people than are capable of withstanding its rigors. There is an allure to the image of the artist, but this image obscures the demands of the discipline. The writer Truman Capote said, “I can't think unless I'm lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I've got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.” No mention of writing in this portrait of the writer-at-work. Capote was indeed an alcoholic who liked to lie down, but that was not the whole of it. His statement was stylized and is but one of many contributions by artists to the myth that creative process defies definition. People loved Capote for it. Back then, they celebrated the mystique. These days, not so much.
But what purpose does training in art really serve? How else might we categorize its professions? The question is not, "What does an art degree get you?" The question is, "What does an art degree indicate?" Job statistics mask its broad application. In addition to craft, art school teaches a process, one recognized as the basis for innovation. The discipline of art teaches students to experiment, to prototype, to quickly incorporate lessons derived from failure, to operate transparently in presenting work or providing feedback, to collaborate, and to share findings with the public. You get all that in Painting 101.
In its census analysis, bfamfaphd identifies 23.1% of art school graduates as employed in "Other Professionals". Guess who falls into that category. CEOs.
 The Paris Review, Issue 16, 1957