Associate of Arts in Illustration: Program Overview

Oct 21, 2019

Illustration is offered as an Associate of Arts (A.A.) program, although it's more commonly included as a concentration within an Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) program. Learn about the programs and job options.

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Essential Information

To apply to the Associate of Arts in Illustration program, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Students also may be required to pass an admissions exam involving drawing or need to present a portfolio of their work. Most A.A. programs require two years of study. Some programs give students the option of choosing a specialization, like fashion illustration or comic book illustration. Associate degree programs in illustration focus on studio work in drawing, painting and coloration. A.A. programs typically require supplementary liberal arts courses in English and art history, whereas an AFA or an AAS program will usually offer a wider selection of advanced studio courses.

Associate of Arts in Illustration

Courses in the principles of illustration, media, perspective and composition make up a large portion of the curriculum. An illustration degree program usually includes courses in anatomical life drawing, fashion drawing and figure drawing. Illustration courses cover topics that develop and refine students' abilities as draftsmen, painters and colorists. Coursework could include:

  • Anatomical studies and figure drawing
  • Color, lighting and painting
  • Digital media
  • Photoshop and photography
  • Typography
  • 2-D and 3-D design

Poplar Career Options

With an associate degree in illustration, graduates are qualified for immediate entry-level careers in graphic design, art publishing and advertising. Graduates can work as a cartoonist, animator or medical illustrator. Other possible careers include:

  • Graphic designer
  • Illustrator
  • Artist
  • Animator

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), illustrators are classified as a subset of artists and related workers ( From 2018 to 2028, craft and fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, were expected to see a 1% growth rate in employment, which is slower than the average for other occupations. Illustrators working in digital media should be in higher demand than print illustrators and cartoonists, whose professions are expected to decline. For the same span of time the BLS predicts a 3% rise in employment for graphic designers, and a 4% increase in jobs for multimedia artists and animators.

In addition, the BLS reports that the median annual wage for all fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators, was $49,380, graphic designers earned $50,370, and multimedia artists and animators were paid $72,520, as of May 2018.

Continuing Education Information

A student with an associate degree in illustration can go on to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Illustration. A degree holder interested in teaching fine arts may later obtain a teaching certificate or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in addition to a bachelor's degree. The BLS reports that medical illustrators also usually obtain a specialized master's degree in that field.

Associate degree programs in illustration give students the necessary art knowledge and technique to work as graphic designers, artists and illustrators or pursue bachelor's degrees. Graduates can expect slow, but positive growth in most jobs in the field.

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