From the look and feel of our living spaces to the colors displayed in advertisements to the layouts of websites, art & design influences our lives in ways we don’t even realize. As such, art & design careers can take forms you might not have thought about: people with art and design degrees find work in nearly every industry imaginable, in niche roles that didn’t even exist ten or fifteen years ago.
Art & Design Careers Start with the Right Degree
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Art & Design Career Paths
A full list of all the career opportunities open to artists and designers would be nearly impossible to write – and just as difficult to read. There careers open to the artistically-minded individual are nearly infinite. Here’s just a snippet of the fields within art & design that are available to aesthetically creative people.
Careers in graphic arts revolve around the use of images, colors, and designs to convey ideas, emotions, or messages. Graphic arts are generally associated with advertising and marketing, but can also include fine arts like drawing, painting, printmaking, and calligraphy.
Fashion careers involve anything related to the design, creation, or marketing of clothes and accessories. Careers in fashion can encompass a wide range of roles within the product cycle, from clothing design, to the production of fabrics and the fabrication of the garments themselves, to retail purchasing and consumer marketing.
Animation and motion picture careers are dedicated to the creation of films, television shows, cartoons, web-based shorts and animations, and anything else involving the creation of moving pictures for public consumption. Those working in animation and motion picture careers can produce works for everything from entertainment to education to advertising.
Careers in performing arts are those which revolve around the visual arts – acting, dance, or music being the major forms. With performance art, the artist’s face and body are the medium through which they express themselves.
Architecture and physical design is the design and implementation of physical structures and spaces. Careers within the field include landscape architects, urban planning, interior design, and anything else related to the creation and refinement of inhabitable spaces.
Art & Design Career Salaries
Art & design salaries vary wildly across all professions, and can have very wide ranges even within specific jobs. Area, experience, talent, and exposure can all have a huge impact on how much an artistic individual can hope to earn from his or her work. Based on the sample of careers discussed above, here’s a sample of the salary ranges that art & design careers can expect to bring in.
Graphic arts salaries can vary the most among all artistic professions. Graphic designers can expect to earn just over $40,000 annually, while they too are greatly affected by the industry in which they work. Designers working in interactive media and computer systems can expect to earn closer to $50,000 per year, while those working in print media can expect to earn about $31,000. Craft artists – those who create various pieces of art and sell them at shows and demonstrations – earn, on average, just under $30,000 annually. Fine artists (such as painters and illustrators) earn an average just above $42,000 per year. Salaried animators and multimedia artists earn an average of about $56,000, while art directors (those responsible for coordinating art departments within advertising and communications departments) earned an average of $74,000.
Fashion salaries can range greatly as well. Fashion buyers – those responsible for buying clothing at wholesale scales for retailers who then sell directly to consumers – earn an average of $66,000 annually. Fashion designers earn an average of approximately $74,000 – however it should be noted that the path to becoming a successful fashion designer is often a difficult one. Of those who actually make the clothing, patternmakers earn an average of about $18 an hour, while tailors and dressmakers earn an average of about $12 an hour.
Animation and motion picture career salaries often depend highly upon the types of projects being worked on. Camera operators, for instance, earn an average of about $41,000, with the middle 50 percent earning between $29,000 and $60,000. Audio and video equipment technicians earn just over $38,000, while sound engineers earn a median wage of $47,000 per year. Animators and multimedia artists earn an average of around $64,000. Television and movie producers earn also around $64,000 – though obviously, the most successful producers earn much, much more than this. Likewise, the median hourly salary for actors and actresses is about $17 an hour (with those in performing arts companies earning less at about $14 an hour, and those in motion pictures earning much more at closer to $30 an hour). However, we’ve all read about the incredible salaries of the most famous movie and television stars, so the sky is the limit in terms of earning potential for actors if you’re talented – and lucky – enough.
Architecture and physical design careers offer salaries that are often commensurate with experience and education. Architects earn a median salary of around $70,000 per year, with the lowest ten percent (often those just starting out) earning about $41,000, and the highest ten percent earning nearly $120,000 per year. Landscape architects earn a median salary of around $59,000. Interior designers usually earn around $44,000 annually, though this will vary considerably depending on the market and the type of firm the designer works for.
Art & Design Career Education
Graphic artists have wide latitude in the amount and type of education required to work in the field: for many positions, talent and an eye for good design is all that is necessary to break into the profession. However, graphic arts positions within the advertising and marketing field are highly competitive, and often require at least a college degree. Likewise, advanced positions such as art directors often require college or even graduate education in order to be competitive. And even for self-employed fine artists and illustrators, post-secondary education can be a great boon to their careers: advanced training in media manipulation, color theory, and other elements of design can turn a good artist into a great one.
Careers in fashion require varying amounts of education. In order to be competitive in the fashion designer job market, applicants often need to have a 2- or 4-year degree in fashion design focusing on textiles, and fabric properties. Fashion buyers and wholesalers usually – though not always – will hold bachelor’s degree in either fashion or a business discipline. And patternmakers, tailors, and seamstresses sometimes have post-secondary training, though the majority learn their skills on the job.
Animation and motion picture careers likewise require a wide range of education. Actors and actresses often have some formal training beyond high school – or attended performing arts schools. However, formal training is seldom required to gain employment: knowing the right people and giving good auditions are key. Likewise, producers come from varied backgrounds, and there are few formal educational requirements for landing producing roles. Audio/visual technicians and engineers often hold college degrees.
Architecture and physical design careers nearly always require formal training in the field. Architects require a professional degree – either a five-year undergraduate program, or a master’s program following a bachelor’s. Additionally, architects must pass licensure exams and gain experience working for licensed architects before becoming fully certified. Likewise, landscape architects must pass licensure exams after receiving bachelor’s or master’s degrees and accumulating work experience. Interior designers often require associate’s or bachelor’s degrees, though in some cases two- or three-year certificate programs are sufficient to gain employment.
Featured Degrees in Art & Design
- Schools and Degree Information in Web Design
- Schools and Degree Information in Animation & Game Design
- Schools and Degree Information for Graphic Design
Art & Design Career Projections
Graphic artists can expect their job prospects to grow steadily over the next few years, about keeping pace with the overall expected number of jobs being created nationally. Graphic designers will see their job prospects grow by about 13 percent by 2018, slightly faster than the national average for all occupations. However, those designers skilled in computer applications and web animations will find more jobs open to them, as the demand for online media and interactive design increases greatly. It is worth remembering, as mentioned before, that as many artists are self-employed – and there is keen competition for funding, buyers, and freelance work – artists without specific patrons or contracts may find it difficult to earn stable wages until their establish themselves.
Careers in fashion, generally speaking, are expected to grow, but more slowly than the national average for all jobs. Those involved in fashion production can expect to see fewer and fewer available jobs as positions continue to move overseas – the BLS predicts another 15 percent drop in employment by 2018. On the other hand, purchasing agents and managers can expect to see employment grow between 2 and 14 percent. Fashion designer positions are expected to grow by about 1 percent.
Animation and motion picture career openings are expected to grow, though competition for jobs within the industry will remain fierce. Animation and multi-media artist positions are projected to expand by about 14 percent. Opportunities for producers and actors are both expected to grow by about 11 percent. Audio and video technician positions will grow by about 8 percent overall, while camera operator positions will grow by about 11 percent.