What Training Is Needed for a Career As a Professional Artist?

While creativity and artistic ability are intrinsic qualities, formal education and training is often necessary in order to maintain a career as a professional artist. Most find careers in commercial art or other related fields, which may require training beyond inherent ability. Read this article to learn more about training to become a professional artist. See the table below for job prospects and salary information for artists. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Education Overview

There are many degree options for a career as a professional artist. The type of education needed depends largely on the type of artist a person intends to be. The following are varying kinds of artists, all of whom can make their living professionally from their craft.

Important Facts about Training as a Professional Artist

Craft or Fine Artist Multimedia Artist or Animator Art Director Medical Artist
Degree Levels At least a bachelor's preferred Bachelor's At least a bachelor's preferred Master's preferred
Online Availability Fully and partially available online Fully and partially available online Fully and partially available online Accredited programs not available online
Common Courses Painting, art theory, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture Interactive design, video production, sound, game design, graphics Marketing the arts, law and the arts, management, finance, fundraising Illustration, anatomy, surgical sketching, pathology, imaging
Specializations Painting, illustration, cartoons, sculpting, videography Web design, graphic design, animation, games, video production Visual arts, technology, entrepreneurship, international arts Not applicable
Median Salary (2018)* $48,960 $72,520 $92,780 $50,370 (graphic designers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 6% 8% 5% 4% (graphic designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fine Artists

There are many independent schools of art and design; however, plenty of colleges and universities also offer degrees in fine art. Programs at a college or university may incorporate a broader liberal arts education, including courses in social sciences, communication, and art history. Independent schools may focus on the studio arts. Craft and fine artists made a median annual salary of $48,960 as of May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Multimedia Artists

This field offers many training options, including online schooling. In addition to training in art and design concepts, multimedia artists need to learn about the software and tools of their trade. Many multimedia undergraduate and graduate programs focus on a specific area, such as web design, so that students can specialize in their desired area. Multimedia artists and animators made a median annual salary of $72,520, according to BLS statistics, as of May 2018.

Art Directors

In addition to training as fine or multimedia artists, art directors need leadership and management skills. Some degree programs offer useful courses in project management or art direction. Students pursuing this field should consider an undergraduate or graduate degree program in art administration, which would include management training. Art directors earned $92,780 as a median annual salary, as of May 2018, per the BLS.

Medical or Forensic Artists and Illustrators

Some art careers require specialized skills, like medical illustration or forensic arts. Training programs for these disciplines is often offered separately and may be taken instead of or in addition to a traditional art degree program. Graphic designers made $50,370 for a median annual salary as of May 2018, according to the BLS.

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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