Visual Artist Career: Job Description & Career Requirements

Mar 05, 2019

The term 'visual artist' is a broad term that refers to individuals employed as animation, fine or multimedia artists and graphic designers, among other professionals. Continue reading to learn more about education and skills requirements, as well as career outlook and salary potential for visual artists.

Career Definition for a Visual Artist

The work of a visual artist can incorporate a variety of different disciplines, including drawing, painting, sculpture and textile design. Visual artists can also specialize in graphic design, photography and film, among others areas. Many visual artists work independently to create works that convey messages of emotion, ideas or information. Although some artists are self-taught, most have studied the fundamentals of form, color and composition, in addition to techniques specific to their chosen medium.

Education Bachelor of Arts available in visual arts
Job Skills Software design, communication skills, collaboration, marketing and business skills
Median Salary (2017)* $46,520 for fine artists, $92,500 for art directors, $70,530 for multimedia artists and animators, and $48,700 for graphic designers
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 7% for fine artists, 5% for art directors, 8% for multimedia artists and animators, and 4% for graphic designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts program typically includes a general education and studio art core, as well as art history classes and a concentration in a specific discipline. Individual programs may culminate in a professional portfolio that provides evidence of a student's marketable skills. Additional training may be found through non-credit and private art classes, apprenticeships, internships and mentoring opportunities.

Skills Required

In addition to an understanding of fundamental art principles, individual disciplines require their own set of skills. For example, multimedia artists, graphic designers and animators should be proficient in the use of design software. Key qualities for art directors include excellent communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively with other professionals. Business, marketing and interpersonal skills are also helpful to those professionals hoping to succeed in the highly competitive field of fine art.

Career Outlook and Salary

Between 2016 and 2026, employment opportunities for art directors and fine artists nationwide are expected to increase by just 5% and 7% respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In comparison to other occupations, this represents an average rate of growth. As of May 2017, fine artists in general earned median annual wages of $46,520, while art directors enjoyed median yearly salaries of $92,500.

Nationwide, employment of multimedia artists and graphic designers is projected to increase by 8% and 4%, respectively, from 2016 to 2026, As reported by the BLS, multimedia artists received median annual wages of $70,530 as of May 2017; graphic designers earned $48,700 during the same period (

Alternate Career Options

You can also look into these careers in the field of visual artistry:

Desktop Publishers

Desktop publishers coordinate, design and format the pages for print and electronic publications. An associate degree or a non-degree award in a graphics-related field or equivalent experience, as well as a knowledge of relevant computer software, is required to enter the field. The BLS reports that desktop publishers earned median annual wages of $42,350 as of May 2017. As desktop publishing tasks are currently being assumed by graphic and Web designers and other professionals, employment opportunities are expected to decrease by 14% between 2016 and 2026.

Web Developers

Web developers design and oversee the functionality of websites; they may also be responsible for creating the content. Educational requirements include an associate degree and knowledge of computer software. In comparison to the aforementioned occupations, opportunities for Web developers are expected to increase by a much faster than average rate of 15% from 2016 to 2026. As of May 2017, professionals in this field received median annual salaries of $67,990, as reported by the BLS.

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