American Artists: Information About Starting a Career in American Art

Research the educational and skill requirements needed to become an American artist, as well as the job description and employment and salary outlook. Read on to decide if this career is right for you.

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Career Defined for American Artists

American artists are artists born in the United States who use different kinds and combinations of mediums. American art usually refers to varying kinds of visual arts, such as painting, photography, sculpting and film. Both abstract and traditional forms are present in American art. New genres, including installation art (transforming a whole space in an artistic way), body art and digital art are also becoming popular in the United States. Examples of American artists include photographer Ansel Adams, pop culture icon Andy Warhol and 'Joy of Painting' star Bob Ross.

Education No degree required, but they are available at community colleges and universities
Job Skills Networking, business sense, knowledge of art history, craft dedication
Median Salary (2015) $46,460 for fine artists
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% for fine artists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

No formal education is required to become an American artist and sell works, but many artists just beginning their careers choose to earn a degree related to their craft in order to have a competitive edge over other artists. Degree programs related to art may be found at 2-year community colleges or 4-year universities. A formal education in art is required for some subdivisions in the field, such as digital art and graphic design. For artists who will be producing and selling their own pieces, business classes may be particularly helpful in teaching artists how to market themselves and manage their private enterprises. American artists who combine an art degree with art history studies at the master's or doctoral degree level can also apply for a position as a museum curator or archivist, working to preserve great American works.

Required Skills

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that American artists must hold the following qualities:

  • Artistic talent and vision
  • Strong dedication to the craft
  • Knowledge of American art history
  • Networking skills
  • Good business sense
  • Ability to stay focused for long periods of time
  • Persistence in the face of a competitive work field

Employment and Salary Outlook

Because the majority of American artists are self employed, earnings vary widely, and many find it difficult to rely solely on income from art when first getting established. It is estimated that the job market should grow by 3% for fine artists, slower than other vocations between 2014 and 2024, especially for craft and fine artists, according to the BLS. The organization reported that fine artists (including painters, sculptors and illustrators) earned a median salary of $46,460 in 2015.

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