Illustrators use pen, pencil and computer programs to create 2D illustrations of buildings, characters, people and animals. Read on to find out about career requirements, specializations, training and salary.

Is Illustration for Me?

Career Overview

Professional illustrators engage their imaginations to communicate ideas and narratives through the utilization of fine arts skills in drawing, painting and design. If you have artistic talent and a desire to impart information and concepts through art, then perhaps you should consider being a professional illustrator.

If you decide to study illustration, you'll learn to combine typography, images and designs in order to market a product or convey an idea effectively. You'll likely study visual art principles, such as color, shape and perspective. You'll learn important skills for artists, which include creative thinking and visual problem solving.


The three most common areas in which the illustrator works are advertising illustration, book illustration and editorial illustration. Some sample job titles include greeting card illustrator, children's book illustrator and fashion illustrator. If you earn an advanced degree in illustration, you could also teach art courses at the postsecondary level.

Employment Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report statistical information specifically for illustrators. However, the BLS did report that the annual median wage for fine artists, which includes illustrators, was $42,610 in May 2013 ( The BLS reported that employment for fine artists was predicted to grow slower than the average for all occupations, at 4%, from 2012 to 2022, but that illustrators with experience in digital formats could expect more job opportunities.

How Can I Become an Illustrator?

Undergraduate Education

It is possible for the artist with talent to find employment as an illustrator without a degree. However, due to the commonplace use of computers and the technical experience required for the multimedia illustrator, many employers now require a bachelor's degree.

A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration degree program is an optimal undergraduate program if you're an aspiring illustrator. You'll learn to produce black-and-white and color illustrations, and you'll be introduced to various illustration formats. By the end of the program, you will also assemble a portfolio, which is essential for seeking employment.

Graduate Options

Illustration master's degrees may provide an advantage to the professional illustrator. Graduate illustration programs provide you with training to further refine your skills and incorporate new techniques into your work. A master's degree can help you advance in your career and increase your earnings. If you specialize in a topic like medical illustration, you can find many new job opportunities.

Illustration course topics may include fundamentals of illustration, advanced illustration, storyboarding, life drawing, anatomy, art history, marketing and digital graphics. Many illustration programs now incorporate business training into the curriculum so you may learn to market and promote your work. Web design has become an important skill that contemporary artists must learn to utilize. Thus, you may expect to take classes that teach you to incorporate business and technology with art.

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