Becoming an Art Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an art teacher. Research the job description, education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as an art teacher.

Should I Become an Art Teacher?

Art teachers are qualified educators and, in some instances, artists who instruct students in theoretical and practical knowledge of art theory, art history, aesthetics, visual art, ceramics, design and other art-related subjects. Art teachers may work with students from kindergarten through secondary school, based on their certification. Teaching art may be challenging, since some students might not consider it to be a serious subject and may not put forth their best efforts. On the other hand, turning students around and helping them find their 'inner artists' could be very rewarding for these teachers. Most teachers don't have to work during the summer months, though some teach summer school.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some states require a master's degree
Degree Field Art, art education
Experience Student teaching internship required
Certification Teacher certification required; optional art teacher certification available
Key Skills Patience, instructional skills, communication skills, artistic ability
Salary $56,310 per year (median salary for all secondary teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, University of Iowa.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

As stated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), art teachers intending to instruct at the high school level usually undertake degree programs in the arts and augment them with classes in education, while art teachers who expect to teach elementary education generally complete bachelor's degree programs associated with teaching. Education programs highlight areas such as child and adolescent development, teaching diverse learners and lesson planning. Art courses can include drawing, painting, sculpting, metalsmithing, printmaking, ceramics or photography, contingent upon the particular major a student chooses. Teacher education programs may be fulfilled simultaneously with the bachelor's degree program or independently after attaining a bachelor's degree. While attending college, a potential art teacher must satisfy an internship or supervised field experience at a local school.

Step 2: Get a Teaching Certificate

All states expect public school art teachers to possess state licensure, according to the BLS. Even though exact specifications differ by state, all states demand that individuals seeking a standard teaching license have a combination of education and experience acquired as an element of an approved teacher training program. In addition, the majority of states require that future educators complete competency exams that prove basic and subject matter knowledge. Apart from a bachelor's degree and student teaching field experience, the policies for certification vary by state.

Step 3: Complete a Master's Degree

Some public schools require teaching candidates to have a master's degree. A number of master's programs are intended for individuals who have attained a bachelor's degree in art but are not certified or for educators certified in different fields who would like an art certification. Occasionally, art teachers with bachelor's degrees enter a master's degree program to further their careers even if their state does not expect education beyond a bachelor's degree.

Step 4: Obtain National Certification

Although not a necessity, art teachers may pursue art teaching certificates through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in Early and Middle Childhood or Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood. To apply for certification, an art teacher must have a bachelor's degree, valid teaching license and a minimum of three years of work experience. Certification may take up to three years and entails demonstrating knowledge by means of a four-part portfolio and completion of six computer-based assessments. Depending on the state and district, the advantages of earning a certificate may include increased pay, reimbursement for qualifying educational expenses and the capability to teach in another state without having to acquire a new license.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Art teachers can pursue further training and national certification to increase their salary. They can also teach classes with museums and organizations, or teach private lessons. Those with a master's degree can continue their studies to earn a PhD and seek employment as a college art professor. Many postsecondary teachers pursue tenure through their college or university. Tenured college professors or those on a tenure track are paid more than part-time faculty and are periodically reviewed for promotion and salary increases.

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