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How Can I Become a Visual Artist?

Find out about the different jobs you could pursue in visual arts. Review education requirements, job outlook, salary, and various job options to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is a Visual Artist?

A visual artist can pursue a career in either fine arts or graphic design. With a career in fine arts, you could create drawings and sculptures for a company or organization, or you could be self-employed. Fine artists use a wide range of techniques, including color, perspective and space to create pieces to showcase or sell. They typically keep a professional portfolio to show samples of their work to potential clients. Graphic designers create computer graphics and other visual concepts. They work closely with their clients and art directors to create images that portray a specific message to consumers. They may use different fonts, colors and layouts to create designs. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Visual Artist - Craft and Fine Arts Visual Artist - Graphic Design
Degree Required High school diploma or postsecondary training Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Fine arts Graphic design or related field
Key Responsibilities Use creativity to develop sketches, templates or models Create images and graphics to represent a business or a message using computer software
Job Growth (2018-28) 1%* 3%*
Median Salary (2018) $48,960* $50,370*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Course of Study Can I Choose?

Certificate programs in visual arts can prepare you to enter the field after having earned your degree in another discipline. Associate degrees can perform a similar function, offering a 2-year opportunity to immerse yourself in a specific medium or be the vehicle by which you begin your studies in visual arts with the intention of taking that background to the next level. Bachelor's degree courses will build a general education foundation and target the creative talent of your craft in a 4-year curriculum. The fourth year can focus on internships and independent practice in your own studio. At the master's level, you will have intensive workshops geared toward advancing your artistic talents and creative work.

Are There Skills I Need to Have?

As an artist in visual disciplines, you can benefit from business training to strategize marketing your finished product. Effective communication practices can build collaborative networks among fellow artisans, while public speaking ability will facilitate proper presentation of your artistic message. Definitive, clear writing is essential for you as well to effectively promote your work via proposals to prospective customers. When you are a visual artist in any medium, you will benefit from aptitude with computers to manage your own business operations or be more effective in the workplace.

Where Do Professionals Work?

If you elect graphic art as your focus, you could freelance or be affiliated with a firm. Prospective clients might be publishing houses, advertising agencies, television or movie studios, as well as other business establishments, where your expertise can transform ideas into an artistic medium to satisfy their requests. With a postgraduate degree in the field, you can consider teaching or management positions. In fine art, your endeavors will be directed toward the display of pieces, typically in galleries, museums, libraries or public buildings, along with drawing and painting, such as background scenery, in the performing arts.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers hold similar jobs to fine artists and only require a high school diploma. These workers create various pieces of jewelry to sell. They may also appraise precious stones and repair jewelry. Art directors and fashion designers are also related to the visual arts. Both of these careers require a bachelor's degree. Art directors may work with graphic designers to create visual styles for magazines, brochures and other publications. Art directors may also maintain a particular visual style for performing arts productions. Fashion designers design and create pieces of clothing or accessories. They may sketch designs, select materials and sometimes have involvement in the production process for their designs.