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Commercial Artist Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a commercial artist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and salary expectations to find out if this is the career for you.

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Graphic designers, multimedia artists and animators are all examples of commercial artists. Commercial artists should start their careers with a bachelor's degree in graphic arts or a related field. Their work can include using computer and design programs, and creating illustrations, charts or graphs.

Essential Information

Commercial artists are employed to express a client or employer's ideas. A commercial artist may be a fashion or graphic designer, title artist, illustrator, cartoonist or animator. Tasks can include creating designs, illustrations, computer graphics, still or moving video art, charts, graphs and layouts that make products or ideas more appealing to the public. Professional training is necessary to work in this field, and a bachelor's degree is generally required for an entry-level job.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in graphic arts or a related field
Projected Job Growth (for graphic designers) 1% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (for graphic designers) $46,900 (2015)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Commercial Artist Education Requirements

Various educational institutions offer training for potential commercial artists, including private design schools, colleges and universities. Most entry-level positions in this field require a bachelor's degree, but students can also find certificate, associate and postgraduate degree programs.

Most schools prefer program commercial art candidates who have earned a high school diploma or GED, although some private designs schools don't require this. Many programs seek students with previous coursework in art, such as classes or workshops in art theory, drawing, printmaking or painting. Some students may have to present a portfolio demonstrating their artistic abilities before entering a program.

The goal of commercial artist education programs is to furnish students with a solid background in graphic arts. Students learn to use various artistic tools to transform an employer's vision into reality. Coursework varies according to program, but usually consists of study in art history, drawing basics, color theory, commercial illustration, computer graphics and photography.

Most programs are a combination of classroom study and studio work, allowing students to gain hands-on experience using the latest mediums and techniques. Graduates should be prepared for entry-level positions as commercial artists, armed with a portfolio containing prime examples of their work.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median salary for graphic designers was $46,900 in 2015. Multimedia artists and animators earned $63,970. The majority of employed artists held a bachelor's degree or higher. Those working in advertising and public relations, or who offered specialized services, typically earned more than commercial artists in other fields.

The BLS predicted slower than average growth in employment opportunities for graphic designers between 2014 and 2024. Graphic designers in print media were expected to have far fewer job opportunities, while those in electronic media were expected to do much better. Job growth in the field of multimedia and animation was also expected to be slow.

Commercial artists can find a variety of program offerings in most types of postsecondary institutions. Their training includes classroom and hands-on experience to produce a portfolio that will help them gain employment after school. A bachelor's degree is recommended, but art and design programs can also be found at the certificate and associate's degree levels.

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