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What Education Do I Need to Become a Cartoonist?

Students interested in how to become a cartoonist can begin their career by earning a bachelor's degree in one of several different fields. Learn about the different cartoonist program options, as well as other cartoonist requirements.

Cartoonist Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), multimedia artists, animators and fine artists typically need a bachelor's degree. Cartoonists generally fall within one of these categories.

There are several different bachelor's degree programs an aspiring cartoonist can pursue, including Bachelor of Science (BS) degree programs in areas like animation, which may be available in online formats. However, the most common degree for a cartoonist is a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in areas like cartooning, studio art, visual communications, or animation. Students specifically interested in traditional cartoons for publications should pursue a program in cartooning or studio art, while those more interested in animation or other aspects of the field, such as becoming a game artist or animator, may pursue an animation or visual communication degree.

BFA degree programs are available in online formats, but most cartooning or studio art degree programs are on-campus programs due to the hands-on nature of the field. Students in these programs participate in studio courses to practice and improve their drawing abilities. Other coursework for these programs may include:

  • Coloring
  • Design
  • Drawing
  • Portfolio development
  • Writing
  • Perspective

Some cartoonists may even pursue a bachelor's degree program in English, journalism, or communications to obtain a broad background in the liberal arts. These programs also help prepare aspiring cartoonists with research, writing, and communication skills needed to create smart cartoons. Students who pursue these kinds of degree programs will still need formal training in the fine arts to develop their drawing skills.

How to Become a Cartoonist

Outside of formal education, a cartoonist generally needs to develop their artistic skills and creative abilities through self-study and practice. Like other artists, they may also train with professional cartoonists and/or take additional courses, workshops, or lessons to further evolve their skills. Cartoonists should continue trying new techniques and styles in their work to diversify their professional portfolio and grow their reputation as an artist.

Many cartoonists work as free-lance artists, so they may need to hold another full-time job. As their reputation grows, their career may advance to a point where their cartoons are well-known and they are established as a professional cartoonist.

Other Cartoonist Requirements

Although they are not formal requirements, there are several other important skills that cartoonists should work to develop. Some of these skills may depend on the type of cartoonist, such as knowledge of politics, economics, and business for a political cartoonist. Other skills are more common for all types of cartoonists, such as:

  • Creativity
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Time-management skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Writing skills

Cartoonist Career Overview

Typical DegreeBachelor's degree
Other RequirementsExperience
Annual Median Salary (2018)*$49,380 (for fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators)
Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)*1% (for fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Traditional cartoonists work for various kinds of publications, such as newspapers and magazines, to draw and illustrate cartoons for readers. These cartoons may cover a wide range of topics, including politics, news events, celebrity life, and more. Some cartoons may be funny, while others may convey a deeper, more serious message. Not only do these professionals need to draw their cartoons, but they must also clearly express ideas or tell stories in written form.