Commercial Arts Career Information and Requirements

Sep 29, 2019

Commercial art is used to showcase a product or service. Continue reading for an overview of the jobs in this field, as well as the employment statistics and salary info related to some career options for graduates.

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Commercial arts involves combining artistic skills to promote products for the purpose of increasing sales. Although an associate's or bachelor's degree is recommended and may increase job prospects, all artists pursuing a career in commercial art will need to develop a strong portfolio to demonstrate their skills and abilities to employers.

Essential Information

Commercial arts typically refers to artwork designed for the purpose of promoting or advertising something. Job titles in this field include illustrators, graphic designers and art directors. These professionals generally have a postsecondary degree in graphic or fine arts. Some positions, such as illustrator, require only a high school diploma, but postsecondary education is recommended for the best opportunities. Although some work, like photography, may be performed outdoors or off site, most duties are performed in an office or design studio.

Career Titles Graphic Designers Art Directors Illustrators
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree in graphic design Bachelor's degree in an art- or design-related discipline High school diploma and optional fine arts classes or education at the postsecondary certificate, associate's, bachelor's or master's levels
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $50,370 $92,780 $49,380
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 3% 1% 1%

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Commercial artists are often employed by advertising agencies, graphic design firms and other publishing or design organizations. Specific job titles include graphic designers, art directors and illustrators.

Graphic Designers

Commercial artists may be employed as graphic designers who are responsible for creating designs for business logos and illustrations or as production artists who review finalized layouts in order to ensure the quality and integrity of designs.

Commercial artists may also be self-employed, performing freelance work. These professionals typically have lists of clients for whom they perform regular work. For example, graphic artists may create business cards for local professionals or update websites for companies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that employment for graphic designers is expected to grow by 3% from 2018-2028, a roughly average rate ( The median annual salary for graphic designers was $50,370 in 2018, according to the BLS.

Art Directors

Additional careers in the field include art directors who assign work to other artists, discuss project requirements with clients and monitor the formulation of layouts. They oversee television, film and other projects as well as develop budgets. Jobs for art directors are expected to increase 1% during that same 10-year period, and the median salary for these workers was $92,780 in 2018, per the BLS.


An illustrator sometimes manually draws pictures for publications such books and magazines. A growing number of illustrators use computers that allow them to draw and color images directly on-screen. Fine artists, including illustrators, are expected to experience job growth of 1% from 2018-2028, according to the BLS; the agency also reported that illustrators earned a median salary of $49,380 in 2018.

Requirements for a Career in Commercial Arts

Although a formal degree is not required to seek a career in this field, the BLS reports that completing a technical training program may be preferred by employers. Aspiring commercial artists may consider certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs in commercial arts, graphics arts or a related field. Students generally begin their studies with courses on drawing techniques, layout designs and color management. Programs also introduce students to specialized software, like Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver. After core courses are complete students may begin specializing in a field like illustration or digital imaging. Advanced courses include multimedia and animation.

Some commercial arts programs may also require students to create a design portfolio. These courses provide students an opportunity to showcase both their creativity and learned knowledge in projects ranging from simple designs to more complex multimedia creations. Students may also use their portfolios during job interviews in order to secure employment.

Commercial artists can work in a variety of fields, in positions including graphic designer and illustrator. While formal training may not always be necessary, most hold undergraduate degrees in a relevant area. Commercial artists can expect slower than average job growth from 2018 to 2028.

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