Become a Political Cartoonist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a political cartoonist. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in editorial art.

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Should I Become a Political Cartoonist?

A political cartoonist is able to capture politics with humor in the form of a cartoon. Many cartoonists are self-employed and create cartoons for more than one publication. Their work gets published in newspapers, magazines and other publications. Some artists may get publication through websites. They may cover local, state or national politics. Securing jobs and freelance assignments can be competitive. A certain amount of stress can exist with meeting publication deadlines.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No degree is required, but an undergraduate degree can help refine an artist's skills
Degree Field Animation, journalism, political science, or liberal arts
Experience Most employers want cartoonists that have been published
Key Skills Attention to detail; creative; good oral, written and interpersonal communication skills; customer service and sales skills; Adobe Photoshop or similar software for cartoonists using a digital format
Salary $51,120 (Mean annual wage for all Fine Artists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Studies, (May 2014) The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC)

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

An undergraduate degree in a variety of subjects can help prepare a student for a career as a political cartoonist. Because political cartoonists convey a specific message within a single cartoon, they must have a good understanding of politics, government and history. A liberal arts degree can help a cartoonist study a broad-range of subjects, hone artistic skills and solidify a political world view, which will prepare them for creating political cartoons.

Success Tip:

  • See if you can submit work to your school's newspaper, or other school publication. Most political cartoonists are not considered established in their field until they have built a portfolio that includes published work.

Step 2: Create a Portfolio

A political cartoonist's resume is their portfolio. A portfolio shows a collection of the cartoonist's best work. A portfolio starts in college or earlier and continues throughout the lifetime of the artist. Clients will use the profile work to decide if they want to hire the artist.

Step 3: Gain Experience

A political cartoonist needs experience through publication. To find publications interested in purchasing their work, they should check with all local and regional newspapers and other local publications. Some websites may also purchase political cartoons. A cartoonist may also draw other types of editorial cartoons to build their portfolio.

Step 4: Network by Joining a Professional Association

Associations such as AAEC or the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) offer full membership for published cartoonists. Membership offers conferences; networking and listings; awards and work opportunities. Membership is available on more than one level, if artists don't meet regular membership requirements, they can also apply for a student or associate membership until they have met all the needed requirements for full membership.

Success Tip:

  • Attend the annual AAEC conference. The annual conference features guest speakers, demonstrations and networking. Political cartoonists can learn new techniques and build new skills at the conference.
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