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Artist Career Guide

If you have a genuine passionate for art, then a career as an artist is one that can offer you a huge amount of variety and flexibility. No formal training is required to become an artist. However, many artists achieve postsecondary education, as this teaches them a wide range of skills.

If the artist has outer and inner eyes for nature, nature rewards him by giving him inspiration

Wassily Kandinsky

Artist Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Artist Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Artist field.
IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33979Director, Shakti Dance CompanyFemale37 None SetMemphis, TN01/01/2010
33836Self Employed ArtistFemale49 $50,000Lakeville, MN01/01/2010
33799Manager/Body Piercing ArtistFemale27 $14,400Fairfield, VA01/01/2010
33785Makeup ArtistFemale25 $40,000statesboro, GA01/01/2010
33698Illustrator/ Fine ArtistMale37 $55,000Brooklyn, NY01/01/2010

Overview

What an artist actually does

‘Artist’ is a broad term that describes occupations in fine arts, crafts, desktop publishing, website design, animation and video game production. The beauty of art is that it can take many different forms. For creative individuals, the possibilities are endless in how they can express their talents. Two people who call themselves artists may have completely different careers. However, the typical duties and responsibilities of all artists include:

  • Using different techniques such as knitting, weaving, glassblowing, painting, drawing, and sculpting to create pieces
  • Developing creative ideas or new methods for making art
  • Creating sketches, templates, or models to guide their work
  • Selecting which materials to use for their work. This should consider color, texture, strength, and other criteria
  • Shaping, joining, or cutting materials for a final product
  • Using visual techniques to produce desired artistic effects
  • Developing and maintaining portfolios. These should highlight their artistic styles and abilities to show to gallery owners and others interested in their work
  • Displaying your work at auctions, craft fairs, galleries, museums and online marketplaces

Why they are needed

Artists are needed for many reasons. Firstly, art is a communicator. It helps people express ideas and share information, visions or thoughts. Art tells exciting stories, allowing us to have a deeper understanding of the history and culture that surrounds us. Finally, artists are need to connect and inspire people globally. This creates communities and safe spaces.

Pros and cons of a career as an artist:

Pros:

  • Many artists are self-employed, which means they have excellent flexibility and control over their schedule
  • You get to do what you love everyday, generally leading to high job satisfaction
  • There is no formal education required to become an artists, making it an accessible career to many
  • Being an artists offers variety: you can work for yourself, for studios, for magazines, for galleries, for businesses etc

Cons:

  • Ever heard of the term “starving artist”? Well, this is because it is hard to make money as an artists (however, when you do, you can make a lot)
  • There is a lot of competition for art jobs. Also, getting funding and commissions can be very hard
  • Artists may have to work an irregular schedule or work long hours when approaching a deadline (e.g., they have a buyer wanting to purchase their work)
  • There are limited opportunities

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of craft and fine artists is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029. The employment growth for artists is largely dependent on the overall state of the economy and how willing people are to spend money on art. As many countries are in economic downturns after COVID-19, it is possible that less people can afford to buy art. However, there is always some demand for art by private collectors and museums. Furthermore, new opportunities for digital artists and illustrators are expected to arise as the number of electronic magazines and other Internet-based publications continues to grow.

Overall, the competition for jobs as craft and fine artists is expected to be strong because there are more qualified candidates than available jobs. Furthermore, competition is likely to grow among independent or self-employed artists. This is because many of them sell their work in the same online marketplaces. In addition, competition among artists for the privilege of having their work shown in galleries is expected to remain intense.

However, despite the fiercely competitive nature of being an artists, studios, galleries, and individual clients will always on the lookout for artists who display outstanding talent, creativity, and style. If you have a genuine talent for art and have developed artistic skills and marketing skills, you will have better job prospects.

Career paths

There are no formal educational requirements to become an artist. However, most types of artists pursue postsecondary education to improve their skills and job prospects. It can be incredibly hard to gain adequate artistic skills without some formal education.

A number of colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in subjects related to arts. These postsecondary programs may include core subjects, such as English, marketing, social science, and natural science which help artists to develop their general knowledge. Independent schools of art and design will also offer postsecondary education programs. It is best to attend a postsecondary institution that is accredited by the The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Different types of artists will need experience and knowledge in different areas. For example, medical illustrators must have a detailed knowledge of human or animal anatomy, living organisms, and surgical and medical procedures. They usually need a bachelor’s degree that combines art and premedical courses

If artists decide that their career path is to teach arts at public elementary or secondary schools, they usually must have a teaching certificate in addition to a bachelor’s degree. For more information on workers who teach art classes, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachersmiddle school teachershigh school teacherscareer and technical education teachers, and postsecondary teachers.

Example Job Titles for Artist

Below is a list of common job titles in the Artist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for craft and fine artists was $48,760 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,000. The top paying industries were ‘Artists and related workers, all other’, which earned a median way of $64,490 in 2019. The second highest was fine artists (including painters, sculptors and illustrators) where the median annual salary was $50,550. Craft artists had a median annual salary of $34,710.

It is important to note that many artists are self-employed. The earnings for self-employed artists vary widely and their income changes alongside changes in the overall economy. Only the most successful craft and fine artists receive major commissions for their work.

Autonomy and Flexibility

The autonomy and flexibility of artists is most likely to be relatively high. Mosts artists are in charge of designing the work they create and how they will do it. They are also often in charge of their own schedule and who they work with (e.g., who they do commissions for or where they display their work).

Locations and commute

Many self-employed artists will work from home, providing that they have a studio at their home. However, according to Zippia, the best states to be an artist are:

  1. Nevada, where the average annual salary was $65,329
  2. Oregon, where the average annual salary was $66,610
  3. Washington, where the average annual salary was $63,613
  4. Idaho, where the average annual salary was $62,547
  5. California, where the average annual salary was $65,685

According to Zippia, the worst states to be an artist were: Colorado, North Carolina, Illinois, Minnesota and Maine.

Work environment

Artists tend to work art studios, where they may share the space with other artists, or in private studios that may be in their homes. Depending on the type of artist, they may be exposed to fumes from glue, paint, ink, and other materials. They may also have to deal with dust or other residue from filings, splattered paint, or spilled cleaning and other fluids.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Artist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Artist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Artist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

As the nickname suggest (“The Creator”), artists are likely to show the ISFP personality type. These types of people are quirky, eccentric and creative. They are called the ‘creator’ because of their penchant for bringing new ideas to the table and for their desire to turn their observations into art and to inspire others.

Although there is no exact scientific exploration, artists are likely to score high on openness to experience, as this is measured partly by someones artistic interests. These types of people tend to be imaginative, curios and open-minded.

Accomplishment and mastery

As there are no formal educational requirements to become an artist, many artists develop their skill and technique overtime, which means skill mastery is high. Furthermore, successful artists will create many meaningful pieces for lots of different people or businesses – this will provide a high sense of accomplishment.

Meaning and contribution

There is a lot of meaning behind a lot of art work. Often, artists are capturing stories, creating history or creating meaningful commissions for clients. I think there will be very few artists who don’t feel that their work is meaningful in some way.

Life fit

Most artists will work full time, although part-time work is also common. It is not unusual for artists to be self-employed and to then have another job on the side. Those who are self-employed will determine their own schedule, but artists can still work long hours in order to get pieces completed and make money.

Who will thrive in this career?

It goes without saying that in order to thrive in this career, you must have the talent and skills to do so. You will also need to be able to self-motivate yourself to produce pieces when times are tough (e.g., during an economic downturn). Successful artists will normally have a niche, and will know how to market themselves correctly.

Who will struggle in this career?

Obviously, those who are rubbish at art will struggle in this career (seriously, if you want to become an artist, make sure you’re good at it!). Similarly, those who prefer to work a stable 9-5 might struggle with the financial instability of being an artist. In fact, unless you are genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about art (and have the talent for it) then you will struggle with the competitive and unstable world of artists!

Requirements

Skills and talents

The main skill that an artist will need is to be talented at art. They will demonstrate this talent in a portfolio. Portfolios are essential, because art directors, clients, and others look at them when deciding whether to hire an artist or to buy the artist’s work. Artists will also need skills such as:

  • Time management skills, as they will potentially be working on a number of projects at once and will need to keep on top of them all
  • Business management skills, as many artists own their own business and need to know how to market and promote themselves
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, as artists will need to work with clients and gallery directors and build professional relationships with them
  • Customer-service skills, as artists must be good with dealing with prospective buyers

Education

There are no formal educational requirements to become an artist. However, most types of artists pursue postsecondary education to improve their skills and job prospects and it can be hard to gain adequate artistic skills without some formal education.

A number of colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in subjects related to arts. These postsecondary programs may include core subjects, such as English, marketing, social science, and natural science which help artists to develop their general knowledge. Independent schools of art and design will also offer postsecondary education programs. It is best to attend a postsecondary institution that is accredited by the The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

If artists decide that their career path is to teach arts at public elementary or secondary schools, they usually must have a teaching certificate in addition to a bachelor’s degree. For more information on workers who teach art classes, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachersmiddle school teachershigh school teacherscareer and technical education teachers, and postsecondary teachers.

Certifications

There are not specific certifications or licensure needed to be an artist.

How to Become

Summary

If you are genuinely passionate about art and have the eye for it, then a career as an artist can offer a huge amount of variety and flexibility.

Immediate action

If becoming an artist sounds like the right career for you, then we recommend starting to build your portfolio and finding art courses and colleges near you.

Education and learning

Although no formal education is required to become an artist, many artists achieve postsecondary education. Postsecondary education gives artists the skills they need to be successful.

Skill development

Generally, artists improve their skills through practice and repetition. They may learn their skills through formal schooling, from on the job training or from noncredit classes and workshops.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Artist careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33979Director, Shakti Dance CompanyFemale37 None SetMemphis, TN01/01/2010
33836Self Employed ArtistFemale49 $50,000Lakeville, MN01/01/2010
33799Manager/Body Piercing ArtistFemale27 $14,400Fairfield, VA01/01/2010
33785Makeup ArtistFemale25 $40,000statesboro, GA01/01/2010
33698Illustrator/ Fine ArtistMale37 $55,000Brooklyn, NY01/01/2010

Resources