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Learn How to Sketch for a Living: Become a Sketch Artist

Sketch artists and illustrators require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and other requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

An individual who likes drawing or illustrating may consider a career as a sketch artist. You could create designs for written material, help catch criminals by making composite drawings, and engage in number of other activities. Use your talent in accordance with an arts degree program to maximize your skills as an artist; an internship and portfolio are also suggested.

Essential Information

Individuals with a talent for art may want to consider a career as a sketch artist or illustrator. Sketch artists and illustrators may work in a variety of career fields, such as fashion, law enforcement or entertainment. Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employers may not require sketch artists to hold postsecondary degrees, since these careers are based on talent. Nevertheless, degree programs provide artists with exposure to different styles and techniques. In addition, with technological advances, sketch artists may require technical training to use digital sketch design tools. Besides training, sketch artists need to build portfolios of their work to show potential employers or clients.

Required Education GED or high school diploma at minimum; postsecondary training highly recommended
Other Requirements Build a professional portfolio
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for craft and fine artists (slower than average)
Median Salary (2015)* $46,460 (fine artists, including painters, sculptors and illustrators)

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

Step 1: Consider High School Art Classes

Prospective sketch artists may want to participate in high school art classes, in which they can refine their skills. Aspiring sketch artists may also benefit from art history, business, accounting and English courses. Some states have fine arts schools, and although admission is often competitive, it may be worthwhile to pursue this option.

Step 2: Enroll in an Undergraduate Degree Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although a degree is typically not required for sketch artists, undergraduate programs in an art-related field can help students gain wider knowledge in their field of choice (www.bls.gov). Art degree programs teach students how to visualize and display thoughts and moods with different media, such as charcoal, pencils, pastels and computer software. An undergraduate degree program in illustration typically includes coursework in subjects such as materials, visual thinking, computer illustration, and art history. Students who enroll in a fine arts degree program may choose a specialty, such as sketch art or illustration.

Step 3: Participate in an Internship Program

Internships can help sketch artists gain exposure and experience hands-on work in an art studio. Sketch artists may find internship opportunities with their school or with an independent studio. Some internships are paid positions, but most provide interns with work experience or college credits instead of pay. Internship positions may give sketch artists the chance to network with others and display their skills to industry professionals.

Step 4: Assemble a Portfolio

A sketch artist's portfolio acts as a resume, providing potential employers with an impression of the artist's skills and samples of the artist's work. Sketch artists may want to include work produced in school or during an internship, or they may want to create new sketches that are relevant to the job. A personal website displaying a sketch artist's work may also increase his or her visibility, and improve their chances of obtaining employment or finding a market for their work.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Fine artists, including illustrators and sketch artists, earned an annual median wage of $46,460 in 2015, according to the BLS. Online illustrators should see a rise in job opportunities as internet media grows increasingly popular. Sketch artists also may use a computer for their work, so this statistic can include them too. Employment for these artists was expected to increase by only 2% from 2014-2024, per the BLS.

A sketch artist may start out by taking high school art classes, and then potentially going to art school or a fine arts degree program to get advanced experience and sharpen their artistic skills. Both art school and art jobs are quite competitive, as often there are more qualified applicants than jobs. Internships and portfolios are vital stepping stones to more opportunities, in addition to doing sketch work on a computer.


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