Commercial and Visual Arts

Visual artists use images to convey corporate or personal messages, and their areas of specialization may include design, multimedia, painting or photography. Read on to learn more about education and employment prospects for commercial and visual artists and make an informed decision about college and your career.

Is Commercial and Visual Arts for Me?

Career Overview

The term visual arts is a broad umbrella that typically includes a variety of fine arts disciplines, such as drawing, illustration, painting, and sculpture. Animation, digital media, graphic design and photography are also considered visual arts. In general, fine and multimedia artists use visual images to communicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas, or the ideas of their clients. Business-savvy artists may also be involved in marketing and management activities.

Career Options

As a visual artist, you may pursue a career as an advertising art director or commercial photographer, or design parts and products for a manufacturer. You might also find work in museums or galleries, or work independently in your own studio. A career in commercial art may also lead to a job as an arts organization manager, art media researcher, fundraiser or instructor. Employees often seek out commercial artists and designers with strong business, marketing and planning skills.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fine artists, such as painters, sculptors and illustrators, had a median annual wage of $44,850 in May 2012. That same year, multimedia artists and animators earned $61,370. As of May 2012, graphic designers had median annual salaries of $44,150. As reported by the BLS, employment opportunities for fine artists, graphic designers and multimedia artists are expected to grow by a slower-than-average rate nationwide between 2012 and 2022 (

How Can I Work in Commercial and Visual Arts?


In an undergraduate or graduate visual arts program, which may include majors in graphic and theatre design, painting and photography, most training takes place in the studio. Coursework in art education and marketing may also be found in a visual arts program.

Undergraduate Programs

Associate degree programs in commercial art can usually be completed in two years and include courses in art history, drawing, graphic design and illustration. Similar coursework can be found in Bachelor of Arts programs, where at least half of your coursework will be in the liberal arts, including a foreign language. Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts programs are professional courses of study that typically allow for a studio concentration in ceramics, sculpture, painting or other closely related area.

Graduate Programs

A Master of Fine Arts can provide you with the tools you need to become a professional artist. As a terminal degree, completion of a Master of Fine Arts program may also qualify you for a postsecondary teaching position. Areas of specialization may include alternative media, ceramics, metal work or sculpture. You'll also study art criticism and theory, conduct research and write reports.

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