Police Sketch Artist Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a police sketch artist. Learn about professional certifications, job outlook and salary projections to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Children`s Book Illustration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Police Sketch Artist?

A police sketch artist is an artist who assists law enforcement professionals. They produce a visual likeness of people or things related to police investigations. They may talk to witnesses to develop a sketch of a suspect, of another witness that the police want to locate, or of an item relevant to the investigation. The police sketch artist continues to work with the witness and make adjustments to their work until the witness believes they have created an accurate likeness. These images may be scanned into computers and distributed online to other police departments. The work that police sketch artists do is often used on news broadcasts, in printed newspapers or is distributed to the public in the hopes of identifying the person illustrated.

Education Required Bachelor's degree, forensic art training courses (recommended)
Education Field of Study Art, illustration or related field
Key Responsibilities Create images of suspects for identification
Certification Forensic artist certification (recommended)
Job Growth (2014-2024) -1% to 1%* (for artists and related workers)
Average Salary (2015) $58,450* (for artists and related workers)

Source: *O*Net OnLine

What Would I Do as a Police Sketch Artist?

Police sketch artists use their drawing talent and skills to create an image of a suspect as described by a witness. You need to listen and interact well with the person who is describing the facial characteristics that you are sketching. In some cases, you may be called upon to provide courtroom testimony.

What Education Do I Need?

An undergraduate degree in art may prepare you for a career as a police sketch artist. There are also specialized forensic art training courses available through different organizations, such as colleges or public safety organizations, which are open to public enrollment. Such a course generally includes instruction on how to work with witnesses and what kinds of questions to ask in order to get descriptive answers, using reference and visual aids, using specialty art materials and testifying in a court case. You'll also gain practice in drawing faces with racial, gender and age variations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers a three-week course to people currently working as police sketch artists in crime laboratories, law enforcement agencies or the military (www.fbi.gov).

Do I Need to be Certified?

Though you don't have to be certified to become a police sketch artist, the International Association for Identification (IAI) offers a forensic artist certification with concentrations in facial reconstruction and image enhancement, age progression and composite imaging (www.iai.org). To become certified, you must have two years of experience in the forensic art field that includes a minimum number of cases worked on and participate in 120 hours of IAI-approved forensic training, lectures and workshops. You'll also need to submit a portfolio of previous work to qualify for the certification exam. The certification exam includes written and practical components. Certification is good for five years.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

The pay you make as a police sketch artist can vary widely according to your location and the type of employment you are able to find. Though there are a few full-time forensic artist positions, most police sketch artists work part-time or on a freelance basis. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that all fine artists, including sketch artists, made an average yearly wage of $54,170 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Craft and fine artists and multimedia artists and animators all perform some tasks that are similar to the work of a police sketch artist. Craft and fine artists include painters and illustrators. Their artistic talents may be used to create a two-dimensional representation of things, people or places for artistic or commercial purposes. They may sell sketches or make sketches that are used for books, calendars or other printed materials. Multimedia artists and animators produce different types of materials that can be utilized in various platforms such as video games, among others. Their outputs are commonly and predominantly used in the entertainment industry. All of these artistic professionals need artistic skill and have to be able to consistently produce a convincing likeness or visual presentation. No formal training is required to work as a craft and fine artist. Multimedia artists and animators need a bachelor's degree. While the purpose of the material they produce may be different, craft and fine artists, multimedia artists and animators and police sketch artists all take information that they either see, imagine or hear about and use it to produce a visual product.

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