Sketch Artist: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become a sketch artist. Learn about training courses, job outlook in this field and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Learn about the variety of settings you can work in as a sketch artist, such as in law enforcement doing criminal sketches. The following table presents an overview for this career:

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent; Postsecondary training preferred
Education Field of Study Art, illustration or a related field
Key Responsibilities Create accurate representations of subjects
Certification Forensic artist certification available
Job Growth (2012-22) 4%* (fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators)
Median Salary (2013) $42,610* (fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Career Summary Be as a Sketch Artist?

As a sketch artist, you'll create likenesses of people, usually drawing by hand and using a variety of art supplies. Your skills and services may be used by law enforcement agencies pursuing suspects or missing persons, people seeking recreational portraits or media outlets depicting courtroom scenes. Law enforcement and media employers will want you to construct accurate, realistic representations of your subjects. However, private patrons may want you to elaborate and exaggerate certain features for their personal amusement.

How is My Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of positions for all fine artists, including sketch artists, is expected to increase only 4% over the 2012-2022 decade ( You can expect stiff competition for available jobs, and you'll likely be self-employed. Persistent networking with news companies, law enforcement offices or private patrons may help you grow your freelance opportunities. If you're considering becoming a criminal sketch artist, then learning facial reconstruction, composite drawing or age progression techniques may provide you with a wider range of job opportunities.

What Training Requirements Will I Need to Meet?

You won't have one set route for becoming a sketch artist, but formal education and training may help you gain the experience necessary to meet potential employers' standards. Many universities have accredited art programs that offer classes on realistic depictions and life drawings, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art degree program. You can also develop your skills by attending workshops taught by experienced sketch artists. These workshops may cover topics like front and profile views, shading techniques, facial structures, facial reconstruction and sketching speed.

If you feel drawn to a courtroom sketch artist career, you can make frequent courtroom visits and practice your craft. You might benefit from learning how to sketch quickly and accurately from memory, since you'll sometimes get only brief glimpses of courtroom participants during proceedings. You may seek voluntary certification as a forensic artist through the International Association for Identification.

As a criminal sketch artist, you'll work without the benefit of a live subject. You will interview witnesses and have them choose from a variety of facial features as you create a composite sketch. Gaining experience in communication and interviewing techniques can help you gather useful information, especially when dealing with difficult or distraught witnesses.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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