The University Network

12 Jobs For Art Majors

No matter what some cynics may tell you, a degree in art can provide you with valuable (and marketable) skills. The art business is a large and flourishing industry that employs close to 3.5 million people across the United States. An art degree may not lead to a traditional career path, but it can teach you valuable skills that translate across a number of industries. Of course, an art degree is a natural point of entry to a career as an artist, but it can also help lead to other careers within the art world (curator or gallery director, for example), or artistic careers in various other fields (graphic design or animation).

Here is a list of 12 jobs for art majors:

Most Common Jobs for Art Majors

1. Artist

Count this one under obvious. Most people go to art school with the goal of becoming a full-time artist and exhibiting their work in galleries, museums and other venues. Artists are typically self-employed or are represented by a gallery that helps promote and sell their work. Most of their money comes from sales of their work or from commissions on large-scale, public and permanent works. Many artists also seek grant funding for their projects. In general, artists enjoy a great deal of creative autonomy, and may work with a variety of mediums. Financial stability can be hard to come by, however, and plenty of artists are forced to find additional employment or sources of income. There is no educational requirement to be a fine artist, but attending art school can be a great way for artists to develop their skills and build valuable connections before entering the art world. It can also provide a path to other careers down the road.

Median annual wage: $49,520

Common entry-level degree: None required

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 4%

2. Art Professor

It’s not uncommon for arts graduates to pursue careers in higher education. For many artists, teaching provides the best of both worlds, so to speak, offering both financial stability and a creative outlet. Art professors spend the majority of their time teaching or working with students while class is in session, but are also afforded studio time to work on their art and advance their careers. Universities typically hire art professors who have at least a master’s degree in art as well as a strong portfolio of work or some degree of notoriety or success within the art world.

Median annual wage: $66,930

Common entry-level degree: Master’s/Doctorate degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 3%

3. Graphic Designer

It is not uncommon to find artists working as graphic designers, applying their artistic abilities and knowledge of design to commercial products, advertisements, books, and more. Graphic designers may work as self-employed freelancers or for a design firm. Others are employed by advertising agencies or by companies with an in-house design department. Graphic designers need strong illustration skills and a proficiency in digital illustration, photo-editing and layout softwares. Graphic designers typically need a degree in art or graphic design, as well as a strong portfolio that demonstrates their ability.

Median annual wage: $48,700

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 8%

Specialized/Unique Jobs for Art Majors

4. Curator

Curators are responsible for managing collections and organizing exhibitions at galleries and museums. Curators may work independently as freelance or contract curators, organizing exhibitions on a case-by-case basis, or they may be a permanent part of an institution’s staff. Museums typically will employ a number of curators to oversee different departments of their collection, while galleries may have a curator on staff or they may work with independent curators for each exhibition. When organizing exhibitions and managing their institution’s collection, curators are responsible for overseeing the acquisition of works and gaining the rights to exhibit works. In smaller institutions, they may also take care of administrative tasks, fundraise, and even manage some of the organization’s finances. Typically, curators have at least a master’s degree in art history or museum studies, and it is fairly common to find curators with doctorates.

Median annual wage: $53,700

Common entry-level degree: Master’s/Doctorate degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 0.7%

5. Art Director

Art directors work for a wide variety of different organizations and companies as the directors of their visual style and overall aesthetics. Art directors are frequently employed in: publishing, where they design the layout, cover and visuals of a magazine or book; advertising, where they design the visual components of advertising campaigns; film or television production, where they manage set and costume designs, the color department, and other visual aspects of the production; and most other fields of media and culture. Art directors typically work their way up from lower-level positions in their field. For example, art directors in advertising may have previously been graphic designers, while art directors in film may have previously been set designers. It is possible to become an art director with a bachelor’s degree and requisite experience, though some art directors have master’s degrees.

Median annual wage: $92,500

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 2%

6. Gallery director

Gallery directors are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of a gallery, growing its reputation, overseeing the collection, organizing exhibitions, promoting the artists it represents, selling artworks, and finding new artists to represent. They are also responsible for creating the artistic vision, character and policy of the gallery. The best gallery directors have an extensive knowledge of art history and a shrewd taste in art as well as business administration and management skills. Gallery owners may be their own directors, or they may hire a director. Typically, gallery directors have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in an art or art business subject and a strong record of experience in the art business. A common stepping stone to employment as a gallery director is an entry-level job as a gallery assistant.

Median annual wage: $45,635

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: N/A

Non-Traditional Jobs For Art Majors

7. Art Conservator

Art conservators are experts in the restoration and preservation of works of art. Typically employed by a museum or a gallery, they may also work for an art conservation firm or work freelance. Art conservators must be proficient in both art and science, and should have a working knowledge of art history. Art conservators must have a master’s degree in art conservation. Art conservation programs typically combine coursework in studio art, conservation techniques, and science. After obtaining a master’s degree,  art conservators often then complete a fellowship program, which may last 1-4 years.

Median annual wage: $40,670

Common entry-level degree: Master’s degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 59%

8. Art Therapist

Art therapists are trained professionals who work with a variety of clients and patients, using art activities to improve their overall well-being or provide relief or recover from personal challenges, illnesses or injuries. Art therapists may work in a number of settings, including schools, where they work with children with special needs, hospitals where they work with patients, and community centers. As a result, art therapists must be capable of working with a wide variety of individuals with unique challenges. Art therapists also may not be employed under the title of “art therapist” but in community and counseling jobs with various other titles. In order to become an art therapist, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in art or psychology and a master’s degree in art therapy. You will then need to complete an internship where you work firsthand with patients, and become licensed in the state you intend to practice in.

Median annual wage: $47,680

Common entry-level degree: Master’s degree and license

Likelihood that robots will take your job:0.3%

9. Fine Art Agent

Many larger artists work with agents who handle the business side of their career. Agents work on behalf of artists to sell their art, boost their profile, and find them other sources of income. This job often involves a wide array of responsibilities, such as contract negotiation, media engagement and booking management. For artists represented by galleries, the gallery will typically perform these services, functioning as the artist’s agent. For those who operate independently, they may choose to partner with an independent agent. Generally, agents are paid through commissions on sales of artworks. Commission rates may vary among agents. The standard gallery commission rate is 50 percent. Some agents may charge a 50-percent rate, but it is more common for agents who don’t have a gallery space to charge lower rates. There’s no educational requirement to become a fine art agent, but art school can be a valuable resource for building the connections and skills that are needed to succeed as an agent. Aspiring art agents might also consider pursuing a Master of Arts degree in art business.

Median annual wage: $64,940

Common entry-level degree: None required; Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is beneficial

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 24%

Other Jobs for Art Majors

10. High School Art Teacher

An art major who loves working with kids and young adults should seriously consider becoming a high school art teacher. More than a fallback option, teachers have among the most rewarding and engaging careers. As a teacher, you can communicate and hopefully pass down your passion to the next generation and significantly impact the lives of your students for the better. To become a school teacher, you will need to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in the subject you want to teach, while completing your school’s teacher preparation program. You’ll then need to complete a teaching internship in your subject, take and pass your state’s teaching licensure tests, and get your teaching license. Prospective teachers should consider majoring, or pursuing a master’s degree, in art education.

Median annual wage: $59,130

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 0.8%

11. Multimedia Artist or Animator

Artists who have a proficiency in animation and computer graphics might consider working as a multimedia artist or animator. Multimedia artists develop graphics, designs and visual effects for television, movies, video games, websites and other kinds of media. This is a burgeoning and relatively high-paying career within the arts that is expected to continue to grow with increasing demand for computer-generated imagery. A bachelor’s degree in art is a great stepping stone to a career in this field, but arts majors will need to develop and demonstrate computer graphics and multimedia design skills. When considering applicants, employers look first and foremost for a strong portfolio of work, which you may develop in classes, by working freelance, or on your own time.

Median annual wage: $70,530

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 1.5%

12. Editor

An art student with strong language skills and a passion for the written word might consider pursuing a career as an art editor for a magazine, newspaper or publishing company. Editors perform different tasks based on the kind of company they work for and their specific editorial position. Generally, the job consists of coordinating with writers to draft and develop articles, books, or other kinds of content, fact checking and editing texts, and working with design staff to formulate the layout of published pieces. Editorial jobs are available to candidates with bachelor’s degrees, but advanced degrees can certainly provide a leg up when searching for employment. It’s not uncommon to find editors with master’s degrees, and aspiring editors with a bachelor’s degree in art might want to consider obtaining an advanced degree in art history or English.

Median annual wage: $58,770

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s/Master’s degree

Likelihood that robots will take your job: 6%

10 Famous People Who Studied Art

  1. Nick Cave, musician
  2. Eric Clapton, musician
  3. Tracy Emin, artist
  4. John Lennon, musician
  5. Kim Gordon, musician
  6. Abbi Jacobson, actor and comedian
  7. Joan Jonas, artist
  8. Jeff Koons, artist
  9. Pete Townshend, musician
  10. Kara Walker, artist