Art is a broad field of study that may lead to a career as a ceramicist, fiber artist, painter or sculptor. If a job putting your imagination and talents to work sounds exciting, read on for more information about employment prospects, earnings potential and formal education options for artists.

Is Art for Me?

Career Overview

Art is the expression of ideas through the creation of aesthetic objects and visual representations. Various media are used to actualize the artist's thoughts, such as sculptures, paintings and drawings. Artists work with a variety of materials and media, including acrylic and oil paints, clay, pastels and watercolors.

Areas of Specialization

Most artists possess a desire and talent that drives them to work in a particular style with specific materials. The medium you work in usually defines the type of artist you are. For example, if you're a sculptor, you create 3-D works of art with plaster, stone, marble or clay. If photography is your passion, you use a camera to take pictures. If illustration is where your talent lies, you work in pen, ink and paint, and even on the computer, to develop images that convey editorial ideas.

Employment and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), very few artists are able to support themselves solely through the sale of their art, which may be dependent upon the state of the economy. As of May 2013, the BLS reported that fine artists, painters, sculptors and illustrators earned a median annual salary of $42,610. Opportunities for employment are projected to increase by just 4%, or slower than average, between 2012 and 2022. Competition for commissions, grants and showing is expected to be fierce; however, consumer demands for handcrafted items and emerging new media may have a positive effect on the creative job market (

How Can I Become a Professional Artist?

Formal Education

While most artists begin with a natural ability to draw, sculpt, paint or create other types of art, even the inherently talented can benefit from formal training. Degree programs and non-credit classes in the fine arts may include opportunities for portfolio development, a key professional tool that can provide evidence of your skills when pursuing commissions or staff positions. Many colleges and universities offer certificate or degree programs that can lead to Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees.

Undergraduate Programs

In general, most undergraduate fine arts programs include a general education or liberal arts core. You'll also take classes in art history and theory and pursue studio work in your area of concentration, such as drawing, sculpture, painting or printmaking. Some fine or studio art programs include courses in graphic design and the chance to learn about computer-generated art, digital imaging and virtual environments.

Graduate Programs

At the graduate level, Master of Fine Arts programs may take approximately two years to complete and provide you with the opportunity to interact with visiting professionals. In addition to independent studio work, you might be able to attend lectures or participate in student-faculty exhibitions. When choosing an undergraduate or graduate art program, you may first want to take a look at ones that have been approved by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (

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