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Art Careers

Career Description

An Artist creates art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings. They use a variety of methods—painting, sculpting, or illustration—and an assortment of materials, including oils, watercolors,  acrylics, pastels, pencils, pen and ink, plaster, clay, and computers. Artists’  works may be realistic, stylized, or abstract and may depict objects, people,  nature, or events.

Common Work Tasks

  • Create or reproduce handmade objects for sale or exhibition
  • Create original artwork, using a variety of media and techniques
  • Create special effects, animation, or other visual images on film, on video, or with computers or other electronic media
  • Display works in art galleries, museums,  corporate collections, and private homes
  • Work with many different materials, including ceramics, glass, textiles, wood, metal, and paper, to create unique pieces of art, such as pottery, stained glass, quilts, tapestries, lace, candles, and clothing
  • Work in museums or art galleries as fine-arts directors or as curators, planning and setting up art exhibits
  • Work as art critics for newspapers or magazines or as consultants to foundations or institutional collectors, teach art classes or conduct workshops in schools or in their own studios
  • Specialize in one or two art forms, such as painting, illustrating, sketching, sculpting, printmaking, and restoring
  • Create pictures for books, magazines, and other publications and for commercial products such as textiles, wrapping paper,  stationery, greeting cards, and calendars
  • Mold and join materials such as clay, glass,  wire, plastic, fabric, or metal or by cutting and carving forms from a block of plaster, wood, or stone to form sculptures

Other Job Titles

Artists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Craft Artists
  • Illustrators
  • Cartoonists
  • Painters

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Artists usually develop their skills through a bachelor’s degree program or other postsecondary training in art or design. Although formal schooling is not strictly required for craft and fine artists, it is very difficult to become skilled enough to make a living without some training.

Many colleges and universities offer programs leading to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts. Courses usually include core subjects such as English, social science, and natural science, in addition to art history and studio art. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary studio training in the craft, fine, and multi-media arts leading to certificates in the specialties or to an associate or bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Typically, these programs focus more intensively on studio work than do the academic programs in a university setting.

  Evidence of appropriate talent and skill, displayed in an artist’s portfolio, is an important factor used by art directors, clients, and others in deciding whether to hire an individual or contract for their work. A portfolio is a collection of handmade, computer-generated, photographic, or printed samples of the artist’s best work. Assembling a successful portfolio requires skills usually developed through postsecondary training in art or visual communications.  Internships also provide excellent opportunities for artists to develop and enhance their portfolios.


The median annual salary for an Artist is $45,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $91,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $19,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of artists are:

  • Federal Executive Branch - $64,360
  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers - $28,330
  • Advertising and Related Services- $53,920
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $48,880
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - $49,340

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  16%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 34,000
  • Employment 2006 : 218,000
  • Employment 2016:  253,000
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