Artist: Career Education for Professional Artists

Art is a field of study that could lead to careers in illustration, photography, sculpture, fine artistry and much more. Continue reading for an overview of the majors, as well as career options and salary statistics for graduates.

Professional artists may not need to complete a degree to begin pursuing a career, but it is common for them to develop their skills while pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree. Completing a degree program in fine arts or design can increase job prospects and give aspiring artists time to build a professional portfolio.

Essential Information

Professional artists have a variety of career options that depend on their field of interest. While talent is the main requirement, many individuals choose to earn bachelor's or master's degrees offered by art schools and traditional colleges. Some careers may require additional education.

Career Titles Craft Artists Fine Artists Multimedia Artists and Animators
Education Requirements A bachelor's or master's degree in fine arts A bachelor's or master's degree in fine arts A bachelor's degree in computer graphics or art
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 1% 3% 6%
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $30,720 $46,460 $63,970

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

After completing fine arts or computer graphics degree programs, students can plan for careers in a broad array of areas. Professional artists may work as craft artists, fine artists, cartoonists, sketch artists, printmakers, multimedia artists, multimedia animators or illustrators.

Craft Artists

Craft artists create functional objects by hand. They may design original glassware, pottery, furniture and clothing by using textiles, metal, wood, ceramics, glass, paper and other materials. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for craft artists in May of 2015 was $30,720. The employment of craft artists was expected to increase by one percent during the 2014-2024 decade.

Fine Artists

A fine artist creates pieces that are intended to be more aesthetically pleasing than functional. The work of a fine artist involves the creation of sketches and the utilization of color and composition to develop art works that may be showcased in museums or art galleries. Fine artists earned a median salary of $46,460 in 2015. The projected rate of growth for these artists was three percent for the decade spanning 2014-2024.

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators are experts in creating visual special effects for animated television shows, films and video games. They may draw images by hand or use computer software to generate scenes. Multimedia artists and animators had a median salary of $63,970 as of May 2015. Employment for these specialists was expected to increase six percent from 2014 through 2024.

Educational Requirements for Professional Artists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many artists develop their skills through a bachelor's or master's degree program in art or design. These programs incorporate coursework in art techniques, history of art and other subjects in the humanities with hands-on learning, often leading to the completion of a portfolio.

Degree Programs

Students may consider traditional colleges and independent art schools. Independent art schools offer Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs in specific professional areas, such as illustration or photography, which many traditional colleges may not offer. Independent schools can offer students benefits such as on-campus museums, continuing education and visiting professionals.

Individuals interested in administrative jobs or teaching at colleges may need to complete a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program. These programs allow students flexibility with extensive studio and professional practice sessions. Some MFA programs offer students the opportunity to prepare a graduate exhibition or portfolio rather than a thesis.

Professional artists have many career options. Some work as multimedia artists and use computers to generate images, while others may choose to make craft goods such as jewelry, furniture or pottery. Artists may also consider completing a graduate degree to prepare for college-level teaching positions.

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