Professions in Art: Career and Salary Facts

Learn about the variety of professional options available in the art field. Find out about education requirements, career options, and salary and job outlook to decide if this is the right career path for you. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Careers in the Arts?

There are many opportunities available in the arts, including education, administration and studio practices. Art teachers, from the kindergarten to the postsecondary level, provide students with information on different artistic techniques, help them improve their skills and may introduce them to concepts from art history, depending on the age of the students in question. Fine artists and illustrators use the skills learned through art degree programs to create their own art for a range of commercial and exhibition purposes. Art therapists provide their patients with means of creative expression in order to work through issues in their lives, requiring them to have strong communication and listening skills as well as a knowledge of art. Arts administrators, such as those that work in museums and galleries, are in charge of overseeing exhibitions that may include art, often choosing which pieces should be acquired and presenting them in an appropriate fashion.

The chart below outlines the education requirements, earning potential and job outlook for the professions mentioned above.

Fine Artist/Illustrator Art Educator Art Therapist Arts Administrator
Degree Required Bachelor's Bachelor's or Master's Master's Master's
Education Field of Study Fine arts Art Art therapy/Counseling Art/Art administration
Licensure Required None Required for elementary and secondary school Board certification None
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%* 6% (elementary teachers); 6% (secondary teachers); 11% (post-secondary art teachers)* 12% (recreational therapists)* 7% (archivists, curators, and museum workers)*
Average Salary (2015) $54,170* $57,730 (elementary teachers); $60,440 (secondary teachers); $76,710 (post-secondary art teachers)* $47,790 (recreational therapists)* $101,070 (managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Art Professions

The field of art includes a number of different career options, depending on your skills and educational background. Some common professions are:

  • Fine artist
  • Illustrator
  • Art educator
  • Art therapist
  • Arts administrator

Fine artists typically use creative methods, such as painting, sculpting, printmaking, drawing or similar techniques, to produce 2-D or 3-D works that are then displayed in museums, galleries, homes and businesses. You could also sell your work through art dealers or through private commissions.

Illustration is a specialization within fine art, and as an illustrator, you could create the images for anything from children's books to textiles, video games, medical textbooks or advertisements in magazines. Illustrators practice a specialized form of fine art and may work in a variety of media, including digital, pen and ink, watercolor, charcoal or pencil.

Art teachers, many of whom are artists themselves, may teach at public schools, private schools or through museums and related cultural programs. You may instruct students on various artistic techniques or provide lessons in art history and art appreciation.

If you're interested in combining your passion for art with counseling, you could work as an art therapist. Art therapists work with children and adults, using creative activities to help them express themselves and address social, emotional and behavioral issues.

Arts administrators generally work to introduce and support art in their communities. You might work at a museum, gallery or nonprofit arts-oriented organization. You may be the person who manages curating, marketing, programming, event planning and fundraising tasks.

Academic and Professional Requirements

Depending on your career goals, you may need to earn a bachelor's or master's degree. For some careers, additional training, licensing or certification is required. Fine artists tend to work independently, and while a degree in art isn't required, it may help you develop your technical skills and teach you how to market yourself as an artist. If you're a fine artist planning a career as an illustrator, an associate, bachelor's or master's degree program can help you build foundational skills, cultivate your artistic style and prepare a portfolio and strategy for entering the workforce.

Employment requirements for teachers may vary by state; however, elementary and secondary school art teachers typically hold a bachelor's degree and teaching license. In some cases, you may be able to enter the field through a master's degree program in art that includes student teaching experience, provided that you possess some undergraduate coursework in art or a related field like art history. Postsecondary teaching jobs in art often require at least a master's degree.

To work as an art therapist, you typically need a master's degree in art therapy or a closely related counseling field. Additional training and experience is generally required to earn the registered art therapist and board-certified registered art therapist credentials offered by the Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc. (www. Some states may also have specific licensing requirements for art therapists.

A master's degree in art or arts administration is also usually the minimum educational requirement for jobs in arts administration. You could also earn a postbaccalaureate certificate in arts administration or a related credential. These jobs often require significant work experience.


Your prospective salary depends on which career path you choose. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2015, the median annual salary for artists and related workers, which included fine artists and illustrators, was $46,460. Meanwhile, the median salary for recreational therapists, which according to the BLS included art therapists, was $45,890 in May 2015.

Elementary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $54,890 in May 2015, while middle school teachers earned a median annual wage of $55,860, and secondary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $57,200. These figures collected by the BLS include art teachers. At the same time, the BLS reported that postsecondary art, drama and music teachers earned a median annual salary of $65,340.

The BLS does not have information on the median wage of arts administrators, but those employed by museums, historic sites and similar institutions in management occupations, which is where arts administrators were counted by the BLS, earned an average annual salary of $101,070 in May 2015, according to the agency.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Art is an extremely broad field with plenty of varied opportunities for work. If the careers listed above are not suited to your interests, consider becoming a multimedia artist or animator. This career will require you to have studied to the bachelor's degree level and have an up-to-date knowledge of all commonly used technologies in the field. Multimedia artists and animators create moving images and special effects for television and film productions. Alternatively, if you are interested in working within arts archiving, you may want to become a librarian. Librarians catalogue information like curators, but focus their knowledge on books and other forms of print media. To become a librarian, you need to have earned a master's degree.

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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