Education and Training Requirements

High School

In the public school system, there is very little art instruction at the elementary level, so high school is your chance to take as many art courses as you can. Many schools offer general art instruction that exposes you to several techniques and principles. Some schools offer specialized art classes in painting, sculpture, design principles, graphic design, photography, and computer graphics. You may have to find other art instruction outside of your school if you are interested in ceramics, woodworking, stained glass, or another specialty. Check community centers, junior colleges, independent schools of art, or local galleries that might offer classes.

Postsecondary Training

There are no formal educational requirements for becoming a visual artist. However, most artists benefit from training, and most attend art schools or programs in colleges and universities. Many artists major in fine arts and some go on to earn a master's degree. Master's programs may offer majors in ceramic art, fiber art, art history, film and photography, sculpture, and a number of others.

Two-year or associate's degree programs are available in many art specialties, including computer graphics, multimedia art, advertising design, fashion design, illustration, and photography, among others.

Some types of artists need training in an additional field. For example, medical illustrators are required to have training in biology and anatomy. Medical or scientific illustrators not only have a four-year degree in art with an emphasis in premedical courses, but most have a master's degree in medical illustration. Only a few schools in the United States offer this specialized course work.

Apprenticeships are sometimes available in certain art fields, such as glassmaking, ceramics, printmaking, woodworking, and papermaking. Apprenticeships allow young artists the opportunity for intensive training under master artists while actually producing art objects.

Other Education or Training

Besides earning a degree, there are many workshops, private studios, and individuals that offer instruction, practice, and exposure to art and the works and ideas of other artists. It is wise to learn a variety of techniques, be exposed to as many media and styles as possible, and gain an understanding of the history and theory of art. By learning as much as possible, you will have more choices for your own artistic expression. Professional associations such as the American Craft Council, International Sculpture Center, National Art Education Association, and the Society of Illustrators also provide classes, workshops, and other continuing education opportunities.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

No certification or licensing is required for artists. Those who work as public school elementary and secondary art teachers must be licensed under regulations established by the state in which they teach. Artists who own art galleries typically must be licensed by their city or local government.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A solid background in art, design, art history, and digital design will be helpful.

While attending classes, earning a degree, or working under a master artist, it is important for fine artists and craft workers to build a body of work that shows a definite and unique style and a thematic progression. Gallery owners and sales representatives want to represent artists they can count on to keep producing work. They also like to see a certain amount of consistency of style to satisfy customer demand for a particular artist's work. Commercial artists need to build a portfolio of published work to show to potential clients and employers. A portfolio can be very specific—showing only portrait photography, for example—or it can be general, showing your ability to use a number of techniques for varied clients.

You need creativity and imagination to be a visual artist, but you also need patience, persistence, determination, independence, sensitivity, and confidence in your abilities.

Because earning a living as a fine artist or craft worker is very difficult, especially when you are starting out, you may have to work at another job. With the proper training and educational background, many fine artists are able to work in art-related positions, such as art teachers, art directors, or graphic designers, while pursuing their art activities independently.