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Arts and Design Schools

According to the website for one school for the arts, "The revolution in electronic communications, multimedia and entertainment has created a growing need for highly skilled artists and designers." Graphic designers today not only work in print advertising and publications, but may also be involved in website design and development. Illustrators do not draw artwork only for books anymore: With computer technology, they can use their talents as interactive gaming illustrators.

Art Design

Career specializations for artists and designers

Today's artists have a wide variety of career and employment options. They may work from home as freelancers or independent contractors or be employed on staff by large enterprises. But wherever they work, they typically must be able to play well with others and meet deadlines. Clients, art directors, publishers -- anyone you work for up and down the food chain -- has a vision of what the final product you work on should look like. You have to be wise enough to know when and how to accept their direction even if at times it conflicts with your own creative vision. Some of the most important skills you need as a commercial artist are not just creativity and talent -- they are the ability to adapt, change gears and have work completed on time.

Talented artists and designers who have these qualities often find careers in the following areas of specialization, which may overlap, making it possible to cross over from one area to another with some additional training:

Graphic and interactive design. Graphic artists, or communications designers as they are sometimes called, work in print or digital media to visually communicate ideas. They may design materials that include advertising and marketing brochures, logos, packaging, corporate reports and webpages. Combining art with the use of software, they lay out text and choose fonts, select and edit images to illustrate text, create images from data to convey statistical information in a visual format and incorporate design and decorative elements to give the work a finished and eye-catching appearance. Some of the sub-specialties that graphic designers might choose include these occupations:

  • Typography designer
  • Visual interface designer
  • Advertising designer
  • Logo/corporate identity designer
  • Web designer

Illustration. Some illustrators work in pen and ink and make drawings that are scanned to produce electronic images, but more and more illustrators are using computer technology to create digital images directly. They primarily make illustrations for books and other publications, advertising and animation. Various types of specialties that illustrators can choose from include the following:

  • Children's book illustrator
  • Medical, science, technical or nature illustrator
  • Book jacket illustrator
  • Police sketch artist and courtroom illustrator
  • Interactive gaming illustrator

Digital and multimedia arts. If being a part of the entertainment industry appeals to you, digital arts could be your field. Digital artists and illustrators work with 3D design, computer-generated images (CGI), graphic illustration and animation. Your skills could land you a job creating visual effects for movies, TV and video games. Computer animators must be team players who each contribute his or her part toward creating the final product. Occupations for digital artists include these:

  • Game designer
  • Concept artist
  • Animator
  • Storyboard illustrator
  • Production illustrator

Certifications and degrees for artists and designers

Talent and creativity do not guarantee an artist a paycheck. While some artists and designers can find work in their chosen field straight out of high school, few do. Many earn a bachelor's or even a master's degree in fine arts before looking for a job. The objective of any art training, however, should be the compilation of your portfolio -- or in the case of animation, a "reel" -- which showcases your creativity for prospective employers or clients. Earning a certificate from a vocational school may be one way to start the creation of your body of work, which is as important as a resume is to other occupations. Technical schools for arts and design offer certificates and include some of these courses in the following career tracks:

  • Graphic design -- basics of illustration and typography, color theory and Photoshop
  • Web design -- Web development, Internet systems architecture, JavaScript, graphic design for the Web
  • Illustration -- 2D design, drawing, various art surveys, portfolio development
  • Digital media -- digital media production, new media animation, video animation
  • Multimedia arts -- intro to motion, html and css essentials, Photoshop, video production, editing, After Effects
  • Game design and animation -- 3D graphics programming, game theory, design principles, character animation
  • Fine arts -- color theory, life drawing, painting, studio

Some vocational school programs allow you to add concentrations in other art specializations through an advanced certificate program.

Salary and job growth projections for arts and design careers

Employment growth for graphic designers, multimedia artists and fine artists such as illustrators is expected to be slower than average than for that of other occupations as projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) for 2012-2022. Average wages for graphic designers nationwide was $49,610 as of May 2013, with the top-paying jobs in metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Multimedia artists averaged $72,400 with the highest-paying jobs concentrated in Los Angeles and San Francisco. California, New York and Florida employ the most fine artists, which includes illustrators, and their average salary was $50,900 nationwide; however, those illustrators employed in the video and motion picture industries averaged $68,630.

If you have a passion for art and your heart is set on a career in design, pursuing a certificate or degree from a technical or vocational school could be the first step.


Careers in the Arts, Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development, http://www.mica.edu/Documents/Career%20Services/Careers%20for%20Visual%20Artists11.pdf

Craft and Fine Artists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/craft-and-fine-artists.htm

Digital Media Production Certificate Program, Emerson College, http://www.emerson.edu/academics/professional-studies/certificate-programs/digital-media-production

Fine Artists, including Illustrators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271013.htm

Graphic Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271024.htm

Graphic Designers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm

Graphic Design Certificate Programs, Sessions College for Professional Design, http://www.sessions.edu/certificate-programs/graphic-design-certificate?utm_expid=10211580-17.1UF9IpjwRSKVHI5jZzybvw.1&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sessions.edu%2Fcertificate-programs%2Ffine-arts

Illustration Certificate, Prince George's Community College, https://www.pgcc.edu/Programs_and_Courses/Program_Detail.aspx?programID=6442462312

Multimedia Artists and Animators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271014.htm

Multimedia Artists and Animators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm

Multimedia Arts Professional Certificate, Sessions College for Professional Design, http://www.sessions.edu/certificate-programs/multimedia-arts

Online Game Design and Animation Certificate, Post University, http://www.post.edu/online/degrees/game-design-certificate/

Parsons Certificate Programs, Fine Arts and Foundation, http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/fine-arts-foundation-certificate-programs/

Temple University, About Tyler School of Art, http://tyler.temple.edu/careers-visual-arts

Web Design and Development Certificate Courses, UC Irvine Extension, http://unex.uci.edu/areas/it/web/courses.aspx

Arts and Design Schools
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