A question I hear constantly from emerging leaders is “Should I go to Graduate School or Not?” This has been a topic of conversation on the Emerging Leader Listserv, and the same question was asked during the Career360 roundtable sessions at the Americans for the Arts 2009 Convention in Seattle. Even after all these conversations, the only answer I can provide to this question is that the choice to go to graduate school is a very individual decision. There is no “magic formula” for a successful career. If you choose to go back to school, you’ll likely learn some very valuable lessons, build up a network of peers, and perhaps have other doors open to you that may not be there otherwise. However, if you decide graduate school is not the right path for you at this time, you will still be learning on the job, building up a different network of peers, and be in the job market instead of out of it.
There are an endless amount of professional development opportunities out there, with arts management graduate degree programs being one of them. I did choose to go back to graduate school after working for a few years. At American University’s Arts Management program, I learned the basics of fundraising, financial management, presenting and programming, and running an arts organization. All of these skills are necessary for an arts manager to have.
However, now that I’ve been out of school for a bit, I’ve begun to question what the next generation of leadership would look like if in addition to being taught fundraising and financial management, we were also taught how to advocate and build relationships with city/state government. What would our future look like if young leaders learned how to reach beyond the walls of their organizations, into their community, and understood the connection between the arts and community development? What if we are taught today how to be true leaders in our community tomorrow? By learning and practicing advocacy and community development skills, emerging leaders will not only be successful managers of arts organizations, we’ll have the resources necessary to communicate our organizations’ value to those who need to hear it.
Did you graduate from an arts management degree program? If so, what else would you have liked to see offered? For professionals working in the field, what professional development do you need now to be successful at your job?