Jobs and Salary Info for an Illustration Major

Learning to illustrate generally involves artistic and technical skills and training. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for illustration graduates.

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There are several options available for individuals who major in illustration, including working as an illustrator, medical and science illustrator or fashion illustrator. These careers are well-suited for those with artistic and technical skills and who like to communicate ideas visually.

Essential Information

Illustration majors build the artistic and technical skills, demonstrated in their portfolios and can work as artists in diverse fields. The ability to communicate ideas through images can be applied to magazine article illustrations, book cover art, animations, textile designs and picture books. Many illustrators begin their careers by earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration and developing an area of specialization.

Career Illustrators Medical and Science Illustrators Fashion Illustrator
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for fine artists* N/A 3% for fashion designers*
Median Salary $46,460 (2015)* for fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators $62,000 (2013)** $63,670 (2015)* for fashion designers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015); **Association of Medical Illustrators (2013)

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration

A Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration provides students with a foundation in studio arts with an emphasis on the development of strong drawing skills. Through additional coursework in illustration, students blend their fine arts training with the principles of graphic design to make effective visual statements. In addition to drawing, students hone their ability to think conceptually to deliver striking messages.

Good illustration programs prepare graduates for traditional and emerging illustration markets by requiring that students build a well-rounded portfolio that demonstrates their mastery of digital arts media as well as illustrations that employ more traditional mediums.

Typical courses in a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in illustration program include studies of drawing, painting, printmaking, graphic design, photography, digital arts, art history and illustration concepts.

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Jobs in Illustration

Illustrator Job Description and Salary Info

Illustrators traditionally creating images for print media, including magazines, newspapers and children's books. Illustrators may apply their design skills to commercial products as well, creating greeting cards, stationery, calendars and textiles, among other products. Freelance illustrators may find themselves with a variety of clients working in diverse industries. They may create storyboards, video game objects, scenery, advertising or multimedia graphics.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups the salary information for illustrators with that of fine artists. In May 2015, the median salary for these professionals was $46,460.

Medical and Science Illustrator Job Description and Salary Info

Medical and science illustrators create images that are found in medical textbooks, science research journals, wildlife magazines, botanical galleries, pharmaceutical publications, teaching audiovisuals and other mediums in which detailed illustrations and models are required. These areas of illustration specialization require a background in science or medicine as well as artistic skill training. Specialized programs are available for both aspiring medical and science illustrators. Typically, medical and science illustrators earn dual bachelor's degrees in art or illustration and science followed by graduate training.

According to 2013 salary data from the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI), medical illustrators earned a median salary of $62,000, with the high end of the salary range being $175,000. Self-employed medical illustrators earned more, according to the same data, with the median salary being $82,000. Scientific artists, according to Salary.com, earned a median salary of $43,626, as of August 2016.

Fashion illustrator Job Description and Salary Info

Fashion is another industry in which skilled illustrators ply their trade. Fashion illustrators use their strong graphic design and drawing skills, as well as fashion sense, to render the visions of fashion designers in both traditional and digital media. Fashion illustrators create online and print advertising for clothing, shoes and accessories. They are employed by fashion magazines, ad agencies, department stores, catalogues, independent designers and fashion houses.

Fashion illustrators earned a median salary of $63,670 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

Individuals who have majored in illustration can work in the fashion or medical industries, or as illustrators who create images for books, greeting cards or other printed material. Individuals preparing to enter these career fields will need to develop a portfolio to showcase their work to potential employers.

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