Careers in Art

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Art Careers List & Salaries

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Careers in art require creativity and technical skills. These professionals use art to accomplish specific goals. For example, fine artists create paintings and sculptures to communicate ideas and messages. Interior designers use colors and shapes to help improve occupants’ moods. Photographers capture images that represent memories or historical events, and graphic designers develop eye-catching product labels.

An art degree can help individuals turn their passions into careers. This guide explores various art careers, certifications and licenses for creative professionals, and costs associated with earning an art degree.

Questions About a Career in Art

  • What are some art careers?

    Common art positions include museum curator, graphic designer, painter, sculptor, and photographer. Artists can work in nearly any industry, designing products, interiors, and signage.

  • How do I start a career in art?

    Individuals pursuing careers in art typically need a portfolio and credentials, such as a degree. Artists can also undertake apprenticeships to hone their skills.

  • How many years does it take to be an artist?

    The time necessary to secure an art position varies by role, since art careers have different education requirements. However, many art students work in the field while earning their degree.

  • What are some of the different fields in art?

    Depending on their medium and skill set, artists can work in many fields. Organizations in the advertising, business, and medical fields commonly hire photographers and graphic designers. Fine artists typically sell their work to a client base.

Career Paths in Art

Artists pursue careers that align with their creative passions. The occupations below represent a sampling of the options available to art degree-holders. Graduates with a degree in art can work in various industries, such as the food and beverage, print, and beauty industries.

  • Multimedia Art

    Multimedia artists incorporate several mediums in single designs. These artists may use paint, clay, paper, and pastels. Typically, multimedia artists also enhance designs using computer programs such as Adobe Illustrator. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), multimedia artists and animators earn a median salary of $75,270 per year. Additionally, the BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 4% between 2019 and 2029.

    These professionals often work in offices or from home. Many multimedia artists collaborate with other professionals to create animations, video games, and print materials. These artists may also alter designs based on feedback from directors and clients.

  • Fine Art

    Individuals create fine art to evoke emotions and communicate messages. Museums, homes, and businesses often display this type of artwork. According to the BLS, fine artists earn a median annual salary of $48,760.

    These artists use various mediums, and they create work that catches viewers’ attention. Many fine artists produce pieces that serve as social commentaries, and they may create designs that invite interpretation. Fine artists usually gain popularity by promoting their own work and building a client base. For this reason, these professionals generally need advertising and communication skills.

  • Art History

    Art historians can work for museums, universities, and historical sites. These individuals preserve artifacts, curate collections, and record details about cultures and traditions. The BLS reports that art historians, curators, and museum workers earn a median salary of $49,850 per year. These professionals usually work full time during normal business hours.

    Museum curators and art history professors typically need at least a master’s degree. However, museum technicians often need only a bachelor’s degree. Art historians must possess strong verbal and written communication skills to educate the public.

  • Interior Designer

    Interior designers use textiles, paint color, furniture, and artwork to curate inspiring and aesthetically pleasing homes and businesses. These professionals may operate their own small businesses or work for interior design firms. The BLS reports that interior designers earn a median salary of $56,040 per year.

    These professionals need strong interpersonal communication skills, and they adapt designs to meet client goals. Interior designers may work with homeowners or specialize in designing commercial spaces, such as restaurants and hotels. Interior designers must stay up to date with current safety standards when working on commercial projects.

  • Photography

    Photographers work in various industries. For example, some photographers work as photojournalists for print publications. Other photographers work in studios with professional lighting. The BLS reports a median annual salary of $36,280 for photographers.

    Photographers often use various tools to capture images. Many professional photographers work with full-frame digital cameras, while others focus on film photography. Commercial photographers sometimes use flash to enhance lighting, while photojournalists typically rely on natural light when capturing subjects. Photographers can specialize in a specific subject, such as weddings, interiors, or food.

  • Fashion and Textiles

    Fashion designers work primarily with fabrics and textiles. These professionals create designs for clothing and accessories, such as purses and shoes. According to the BLS, fashion designers earn a median salary of $73,790 per year. The BLS reports that 29% of fashion and textile professionals work for wholesalers and 22% operate their own businesses.

    Fashion designers must work well under pressure to meet production deadlines and collaborate with clients. Self-employed fashion and textile artists also need marketing and basic accounting skills.

Outlook and Salary Potential in Art

For individuals pursuing an art career, salary varies by experience, geographic location, and position. For example, an art director with 10 years of experience who works in a large city would likely earn a higher salary than an entry-level graphic designer in a rural town. The table below details earning potential for common art careers.

  • Art Director

    These professionals often oversee designs for print publications, product packaging, advertisement campaigns, and television productions. According to the BLS, 56% of art directors are self-employed. Art directors typically produce art through collaborations with professionals including photographers and graphic designers.

  • Fashion Designer

    Fashion designers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Some fashion designers own a small business and may produce hand-sewn clothing. Others work for large corporations and mass-produce their creations. These professionals typically use computer-aided design software to illustrate their designs.

  • Graphic Designer

    These art professionals use computer software to produce digital illustrations, magazine and brochure layouts, and logos. Graphic designers apply basic advertising principles to produce designs that motivate individuals to purchase a product or service. These artists pitch preliminary designs to art directors and clients and make adjustments based on feedback.

  • Multimedia Artists and Animators

    These artists typically transform hand-drawn illustrations into moving digital animations. These professionals use tools such as styluses to create digital drawings. Multimedia artists and animators often conduct research to inform their art.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Art Director $94,220 -2%
Fashion Designer $73,790 -4%
Graphic Designer $52,110 -4%
Multimedia Artists and Animators $75,270 4%

Source: BLS

Art Salary by State

The earning potential for artists varies by geographic location. The following states feature the highest median salaries for fine artists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  1. New York
  2. California
  3. Connecticut
  4. New Jersey
  5. Washington

Education Requirements to Enter an Art Program

Admission requirements vary by art program. For example, many art degree programs require applicants to hold a minimum GPA and SAT or ACT score. More competitive programs generally feature stricter admission requirements. Additionally, applicants often need to submit recommendation letters, processing fees, and essays.

Applicants to art degree programs may also need to provide a portfolio. Graduate programs often feature additional requirements, such as a formal interview or GRE scores. Admitted art students must earn a passing grade in each course. Exact curricula vary, but art degrees usually require coursework in art history and color theory.

Many art courses require learners to complete studio hours and attend art shows. Even online art programs may feature some in-person requirements. Rather than a thesis or capstone project, art programs generally culminate in a senior art exhibit open to the public.

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities

Certificate and Licenses

Although most art careers do not require state licensure or professional certifications, applicants can pursue voluntary credentials to stand out in the job market. Candidates for certification or licensure must typically complete courses and pass an exam. The credentials below can benefit professionals with a degree in art.

Adobe Certifications

Adobe programs, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, feature highly specific capabilities. Graphic designers and multimedia artists use these programs frequently, and earning an Adobe certification demonstrates mastery of these programs. Organizations such as the American Graphics Institute provide educational boot camps to help applicants prepare to obtain the certification.

Makeup Artist Licensure

Makeup artists may need state cosmetology licensure for certain positions. Each state sets its own licensure requirements for these professionals. However, most states require candidates to complete a formal certificate program and pass a board exam. The exam includes a written portion and a demonstration portion.

Art Education Certification

Individuals without an education degree who want to teach art can apply for an art education certificate. Requirements vary by state but typically include coursework and exams. Postsecondary instructors may need at least a master’s degree in addition to the certificate.

How Much Does an Art Degree Cost?

Because tuition rates vary by school, learners should contact their prospective college’s financial aid department for detailed information about costs.

Factors that influence a program’s cost include the type of institution and the learner’s residency status. For example, public schools generally feature lower tuition rates than private institutions. In-state students at public schools usually pay reduced tuition rates, and some institutions offer discounts for online learners. Additionally, institutional and state scholarships can reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

Credit requirements can also impact a program’s cost, since many schools charge per-credit tuition rates. Prospective students should also budget for room and board, student activity fees, studio fees, art supplies, and textbooks. Learners attending courses online also need a reliable computer and internet access.

Art Career and Job Resources

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