Artist: Educational Overview for a Career in the Arts

Sep 30, 2019

Postsecondary training is not necessarily required for a career as a painter or illustrator. However, a degree in graphic design, computer graphics, art or animation may be necessary to work as a graphic designer or multimedia artist and animator. Multimedia artists and animators are expected to enjoy an average rate of job growth from 2018 to 2028, while fine artists and graphic designers will only experience job growth of 4% and 1%, respectively, during the same time period.

Essential Information

The field of art is diverse, with educational programs available for specific disciplines such as fine arts, graphic design and animation. Postsecondary programs in art are widely available and either recommended or required for aspiring artists, depending on their chosen specialty.

Career Titles Fine Artist Graphic Designer Multimedia Artist and Animator
Required Education None, though many pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees in visual arts Bachelor's degree in graphic design Bachelor's degree in computer graphics, art or animation
Concentrations Numerous; painting, illustration or sculpting, for example N/A N/A
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 1% 3% 4%
Median Salary (2018)* $49,380 $50,370 $72,520

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Overview For Artists

Whether taking classes in art or majoring in art and design at a four-year university, students seeking an education in the arts may focus on improving their artistic techniques while gaining skills in communication and computers. Although certificates and associate's degrees can be obtained at 2-year colleges, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) points out that many entry-level positions in fields such as graphic design and multimedia arts require a bachelor's degree. Students may look to schools that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Artists who wish to further refine their craft and qualify for higher-level positions may choose to obtain a master's degree.


In addition to taking art studio courses, students may take classes in art history, drawing techniques and design principles. They may learn techniques on skills ranging from sketching to graphic design. Through these programs, students may also develop a professional portfolio that showcases their work and serves as a visual resume.

Career Options

An artist's career is about expressing concepts and messages through one or more mediums. Three common job options in the field are described below.

Fine Artist

Fine artists work in a studio setting to create pieces such as paintings, sculptures or tapestries. They may work with a vast range of media, from metal to glass to fabric. They aim to get their work placed in galleries or museums or sold to private patrons. Job openings for fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, were expected to increase by 1% from 2018-2028, according to the BLS. The median salary in this field was $49,380 as of 2018, the BLS reported.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers are commercial artists who often combine hand-drawn techniques with digital tools to create images for advertising. Their focus is on creating appealing, attractive products that clearly convey a client's message. Graphic designers should see 3% job growth from 2018-2028, per the BLS, and they earned a median of $50,370 in 2018.

Multimedia Artist and Animator

A multimedia artist and animator may work in the film, Internet or video gaming industries. Like graphic designers, they often combine hand and digital techniques to make images and characters come to life on the screen. The BLS reported that job openings for multimedia artists and animators should grow by 4% from 2018-2028. These artists earned a median annual salary of $72,520 as of 2018, per the BLS.

Continuing Education for Artists

For an artist, training never truly ends. After completing their formal education, professional artists may continue to develop new techniques and master existing ones. For example, entry-level artists may learn skills from software tools to production techniques from senior artists. Outside of the workplace, artists may train in studios, take continuing education courses or enroll in professional workshops to gain further hands-on practice.

A bachelor's degree in a relevant field can help aspiring artists develop their skills, build a portfolio of work showcasing their abilities, and increase job prospects. In particular, demand from video game industries and the film industry has improved job prospects for multimedia artists and animators.

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