How to Become an Artist

Artist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $43,700
Avg. Pay / hour $21.01
Education 0-6 Months
Job Outlook 8%

An Artist is a professional who uses their artistic and creative ability to produce a variety of imaginative renditions providing them for exhibitions or for direct and consumer sale.

Some Artists are self-employed and work as a sole proprietorship to make a living while some work for companies or organizations providing their skills in fields such as advertising.

Individuals who want to become an Artist will have a natural and innate talent in creating a variety of original images, items and crafts.

Individuals who would like to pursue this career have many opportunities to use their artistic ability to express themselves while also making a living.

Education Requirements to Become an Artist

Individuals who would like to become an Artist do not need formal education in order to enter this profession.

However, gaining some basic formal education in art will help strengthen an individual’s natural ability.

Many Artists have a minimum of a high school degree; during their time as a student, Artists will gain experience and skills through classes such as art, shop, woodworking, drawing, sewing or home economics.

Individuals who would like better job prospects typically pursue a collegiate degree to improve their technical knowledge and skills in art.

Individuals who want to become an Artist have a variety of options when deciding on a college track to focus on.

Artists may pursue a major in the arts such as: art history, photography or studio art.

These types of programs also require students to gain a comprehensive education including classes in English and the natural and social sciences.

In addition, individuals also have the opportunity to choose a specialization.

For example, individuals can opt to gain a medical background by studying biology or a similar field in order to pursue a career as a Medical Illustrator.

Some Artists also combine their artistic ability with another field, such as in graphic design, marketing or advertising.

Some Artists also work as sole proprietorships and gain the skills to become self-employed.

This type of specialization shows that individuals who want to become an Artist have several different opportunities in many industries.

Artist Job Description

Being an Artist encompasses a variety of artistic specializations and can range from individuals who draw and paint to those who create pottery or sculptures and even those who use technology to create graphic arts for use on websites or print material.

Depending on the industry an individual works in, Artists will have the ability to create artwork for events such as exhibitions where they will sell their work directly to consumers.

These types of artists will create a variety of art and may use some of the following techniques, depending on their specialization:

  • Sculpting
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Glassblowing
  • Pottery
  • Weaving
  • Knitting

These are some of the basic techniques individuals can use to create a variety of art.

In addition to these techniques, Artists will also use a variety of materials to create their artwork including: paint, ceramics, textiles, wood, metal, paper, ink or graphics using computer software.

Artist Salary and Career Path

In 2012, the median wage for Craft and Fine Artists was approximately $44,380 per year.

Exact wages will depend on the type of art an Artist specializes in.

For example, the median annual wage for fine artists such as painters, sculptors and illustrators was approximately $44,850 while craft artists earned a median wage of approximately $29,600 per year.

Wages will also depend on whether an individual is self-employed.

Self-employment enables an Artist to charge fees based on their experience.

Some charge small fees in order to gain a reputation while some experienced freelancers charge more than salaried Artists.

Wages may also vary for self-employed individuals because work may be seasonal or temporary.

Some self-employed artists will also supplement their income by working part-time in other industries.

The job outlook for Craft and Fine Artists is expected to grow at a 3 percent rate through the year 2022.

Employment for Fine Artists, which includes sculptors, painters and illustrators, is expected to grow by 4 percent during the same time frame.

This rate is considered slower than average, but will ultimately depend on the growth of the U.S.

economy as the purchase of art is healthiest when the economy is strong.

However, the actual growth may be impacted because the improvements in the economy.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Idaho- NA -
Kansas- NA -
Michigan- NA -
New Hampshire$42,580
New Jersey$81,830
New Mexico$45,250
New York$120,510
North Carolina$45,330
Pennsylvania- NA -
South Carolina- NA -

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $120,510.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $120,510
Connecticut - $107,140
New Jersey - $81,830
Minnesota - $72,820
Oregon - $69,470
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Fine Artists, Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators, OCC Code 27-1013, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does an artist do?

In a nutshell, artists make art.

The art of an artist’s choice might include paintings, drawings, sculptures, pottery, photographs, videos or even performances.

Artists aim to express an idea or thought through physical form.

An important part of being an artist is having the opportunity to share your works with others.

An artist has to have an audience that can receive the message and, hopefully, buy some of the works.

However, being an artist is not only about creating art.

It is also about self-promotion, representation, and marketing, as well as paperwork, taxes, and finance.

An artist can find an agent that will be paid to promote his or her works.

How much do artists make?

An artist’s salary will depend on his education and experience.

The average annual salary of a Fine Artist and Painter is around $57.000, according to BLS.

Bear in mind that the salary can be as low as $19.000, in case you are a newbie.

Popular artists can earn over $100.000 a year.

The salary will depend on who you work for.

Usually, an artist can expect to earn two times more than the starting salary after 3-5 years of experience.

The amount of money you earn will also depend on the industry that you decide to work in.

Typically, the highest-paying industries are the engineering and architectural (around $75.000 per year).

How much does it cost to become an artist?

In case you are willing to earn a degree, then you should know that there are two types of art degrees out there – a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Arts.

The schools that offer the first degree concentrate on a specific arts profession, but if you are generally interested in art, then a BA can be a better (and cheaper) option for you.

The absolute majority of art degrees will cost you a small fortune.

The tuition rates usually start from $30.000 per year but bear in mind that you would have to pay for the supplies separately (around $2.000-$3.000).

What is the demand for artists?

In comparison to a lot of other jobs, the art-related occupations will not increase as much in the future decade.

According to BLS, the jobs for visual artists, for example, will increase from 2010 to 2020 only by 8 percent.

People tend to spend more money on art when the times are good.

That’s exactly why the salary of an artist usually depends on the state of the economy on the whole.

Print artists might start losing their jobs as the majority of the works will be placed on the Internet.

How long does it take to become an artist?

An artist can become well-known even if he has no education at all.

However, earning a degree or at least completing some courses might help you start your career in art.

Acquiring a degree in art will take you 4 years, while some postsecondary art courses last 1-2 years or even less.

An artist has to be able to build a portfolio; make sure to take care of that while you’re still at school.

Any type of experience is always a great addition to your resume.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.