Cartoon School: Career Education Program Overviews

While there is no standard educational path to become a cartoonist, students who want to work in this field can pursue bachelor's degree programs in illustration, comic art or visual art.

Essential Information

Admission to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program in illustration or comic art usually requires submission of a portfolio. BFA programs often include lecture-based courses and hands-on studio courses. Many of these programs culminate in a final project, and internships may be available.

Bachelor's degree programs in visual arts are often similar to BFA programs in terms of admission requirements, but the curriculum may cover a wider range of artistic media. All programs typically require a high school diploma or equivalent. Graduates can also seek related master's programs.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree Programs

A few schools offer Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with areas of concentration closely related to cartoon art, such as comic art, illustration or entertainment art. These programs cover the history and concepts behind comics and cartooning as well as drawing, character development and storyboarding. Traditional fine arts concepts, such as color and composition, are also studied.

Bachelor of Fine Arts programs typically require four years of full-time study. The curriculum includes both general education and fine arts coursework. Topics covered include:

  • Art history
  • Media concepts
  • Commercial art
  • Comic publishing
  • Drawing
  • Storyboarding
  • Animation

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Visual Arts

Bachelor's degree programs in the visual arts emphasize art history, theory, and design. Students learn to express ideas visually in areas ranging from fine arts to film. Students learn drawing, storyboarding and conceptual skills necessary for cartooning and are prepared for various careers in the arts or for pursuing graduate study.

A visual arts bachelor's degree curriculum covers a broad range of topics dealing with theory and technique. Most programs include studio work and the opportunity to complete a studio project, through which students can practice cartoon art techniques. Course offerings include:

  • Drawing
  • Principles of design
  • Digital art
  • Figure drawing
  • Dimensional drawing
  • Illustration

Popular Career Options

While the marketplace for traditional cartoonists may be limited and competitive, there are many options available for those with artistic abilities, especially in the expanding field of multi-media design. Outside of traditional cartooning, graphic design, advertising and marketing firms employ graduates of fine arts and visual arts programs. Career options include:

  • Syndicated cartoonist
  • Political cartoonist
  • Editorial cartoonist
  • Illustrator
  • Animator

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The job market for traditional cartoonists is small; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only about 250 syndicated cartoonists in the United States in 2008. However, demand for animators and illustrators with computer graphics experience is increasing, according to the BLS, as multimedia cartoons become more widespread. In May 2015, the BLS stated the annual mean wages for fine artists, including illustrators, was $54,170.

Continuing Education

Many students with Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees go on to pursue Master of Fine Arts degrees. Students might also consider taking additional workshops or independent courses on cartooning or joining a professional organization, such as the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists or the National Cartoonists Society.

Aspiring cartoonists can seek bachelor's degree programs covering such areas as illustration, comic art or visual art that allow them to hone their craft in an educational setting. Graduates can seek employment in related fields or continue their studies within a Master of Fine Arts program.

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