Picture Artists: Career Information and Requirements

Completion of a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program can help aspiring professionals acquire the creative and technical skills they need to begin a career as a picture or fine artist. For more information about education requirements and useful skills, as well as job outlook and salary potential for fine artists, read on!

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Career Definition of a Picture Artist

A picture or fine artist may work in a variety of media, and their activities may include creating sketches for books, greeting cards and magazines, painting landscapes and portraits or cartooning. They may also produce medical and scientific illustrations for professional publications or work as sketch artists in law enforcement. While the majority of fine artists are self-employed, they may also work for advertising agencies, film production companies, public relations firms or publishers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Washington had the highest levels of employment for fine artists.

Education Bachelor's degree in fine arts or equivalent may be required
Job Skills Creative, detail oriented, dexterous, interpersonal skills
Mean Salary (2015)* $54,170 (for fine artists)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Picture artists frequently have a bachelor's degree in fine arts or art, which takes four to five years to complete. Some continue their education for an additional two to three years to receive a master's degree in fine arts. Courses may include traditional training in drawing, art history, painting and printmaking. Students may also take courses in graphic and Web design, digital illustration, film production and photography.

Skills Required

In addition to creativity, fine artists should be technically competent in one or more disciplines. They should also be knowledgeable about and able to work with a variety of materials and tools. Business, customer service and interpersonal skills are helpful, especially in terms of interacting with gallery owners and potential buyers.

Career and Economic Outlook

Graduates of fine arts programs may find positions as art directors, freelance artists or graphic designers. They may also be employed as filmmakers, gallery assistants, photographers or teachers. According to the BLS, career opportunities for fine artists are expected to grow at the below-average rate of 2% from 2014 to 2024, and there will be significant competition for most positions. In May 2015, the BLS reported that fine artists, such as illustrators, painters and sculptors, earned mean annual salaries of $54,170 (

Alternate Career Options

A degree program in fine arts can prepare you for a variety of occupations, including archiving historical documents and photography.

Archivists, Curators and Museum Workers

Archivists and curators oversee historical documents and art collections. They are assisted in their work by museum technicians and workers, who help prepare and restore items for exhibition. While a bachelor's degree can help technicians get started in the field, most archivists and curators need a master's degree in a relevant field of study. As reported by the BLS, a 7%, increase in jobs nationwide is expected for archivists, curators and museum workers between 2014 and 2024.

As of May 2015, archivists received mean annual salaries of $53,880, while curators earned $56,990, according to the BLS. As of the same month, museum technicians and conservators received mean annual wages of $44,880 (


Although formal training is not required to become a photographer, completion of a bachelor's degree program can help students acquire skills and enhance their standing in the job market. Areas of specialization include commercial, fine arts, news and portrait photography. As reported by the BLS, a 3%, or slower-than-average, increase in jobs is expected for photographers nationwide from 2014 to 2024. The BLS also reports that, during May 2015, photographers earned mean annual wages of $40,280 (

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