Cartoonist: Job Description and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cartoonist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and career outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

A cartoonist combines writing and drawing to convey humor and tell stories about current events, recent trends, made-up worlds and even everyday life situations. In general, cartoonists do not need formal education, though some postsecondary training may improve their chances of employment.

Required Education None; postsecondary training in fine arts can be helpful
Other Requirements Artistic ability and portfolio
Projected Job Growth* 4% between 2012 and 2022 (Fine artists, including illustrators)
Median Salary (2013)* $42,610 (Fine artists, including illustrators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Cartoonist

Cartoonists have a natural talent for drawing that may be further developed in a post-secondary art program. They may create single pane drawings, which comment on an issue or event, or publish a serial cartoon, which follows a character over a period of time. Their work may appear in newspapers or magazines, as well as graphic novels, Internet publications and computer games.

Cartoonists are constantly thinking about the world around them and need to be knowledgeable about local and global events, and stay current on popular culture and trends since these topics provide the inspiration for their work. A routine encounter from their daily life can spark an idea. They're also skillful writers who must convey the irony or humor about their subject in as few words as possible.


Some cartoonists like to draw freehand, using a pencil to sketch their creation. The next step is to go over the drawing in ink, erasing the pencil marks. Others may prefer to use computer drawing software. The final drawing is then scanned or uploaded and attached to an email to the client.

Cartoonist Career Information

Cartoonists are usually self-employed and must devote a significant amount of time to building their following and promoting their work. They may maintain a website where they respond to fan comments and offer cartoon-related merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs or greeting cards, as well as books featuring their most popular characters or comic strips. They also seek out potential new clients either in the media or with advertisers looking for a cartoon character. Conferring with clients to incorporate their ideas into the artwork is essential to maintaining good client relationships and can lead to referrals for additional work.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for fine artists, which includes illustrators and cartoonists, was projected to grow by 4%, from 2012 through 2022 (www.bls.gov). Although the BLS notes that employers will be able to choose from a pool of many more qualified candidates than available positions, it also states that job opportunities in online media, electronic magazines and video game industry sectors will offset declines in traditional publishing. The BLS reports that as of May 2013, fine artists earned a median salary of $42,610 per year.


For training, aspiring cartoonists may look to independent art schools and colleges that offer associates and bachelor's degrees in fine arts. Coursework may range from free hand drawing to computer animation.

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