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Professional Illustrator Education Requirements and Career Info

Sep 08, 2019

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

To become a professional illustrator does not require formal education as much as it requires a combination of skill and experience. For those who do wish to gain experience with different mediums and theory concepts, programs are available at the associate's and bachelor's levels.

Essential Information

Professional illustrators design and create original illustrations for a variety of media, such as textbooks, children's books, comics, cartoons and editorial illustrations. Some illustrators prepare for their careers by earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in illustration. In addition to hand illustration, individuals in this career should be proficient in using the software needed for digital illustration. Graduates can work as freelance illustrators, Web designers or new media illustrators.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree in illustration is preferred
Projected Job Growth (All Fine Artists) 1% from 2014-24*
Median Salary (All Fine Artists) $49,380 (2018)*

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Educational Requirements

Professional illustrators come from a variety of educational backgrounds, and some may have no formal education at all. For those who want to acquire basic skills in illustration, an associate's or bachelor's degree program can introduce core concepts in drawing and design through hands-on and theory courses, exposing them to a range of materials and methods. Students take classes in figure drawing, computer animation and art history while developing a portfolio of work.

Additional Skills

There are a myriad of ways to enter the field of illustration, but the key is generally a blend of skill and experience. Familiarity with and exposure to technologies such as motion capture, blue screens and film editing software are highly recommended for aspiring illustrators. Additionally, a strong portfolio can demonstrate a professional illustrator's abilities to potential employers.

Career Information

Increased demand for digital media has pushed many illustrators to work in Web design, animation and new media illustration. Job opportunities for fine artists, including illustrators, were expected to increase by 1 percent from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Wages for salaried illustrators vary by specialty. In 2018, fine artists, including illustrators of all types, earned a median salary of $49,380, according to the BLS. Those who worked in the motion picture and video industries were among the highest paid, at an annual average of $80,320.

Professional illustrators can work doing illustrations for books and magazines, or for the digital media industry. A strong portfolio is important for the professional illustrator, and experience in animation and digital media applications is becoming increasingly more important.

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