Art and Design Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

Art and Design Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

People who have been trained in art and design are unique in that they practice both creative and technical skills. In most cases, art and design majors also have extensive experience in collaboration and have a great capacity for innovation. As such, art and design graduates can expect to find careers in a wide variety of industries and sectors, including marketing and business, fashion, illustration, and even professional photography.

For the versatility of their skills, artists and designers often have sufficient, lucrative career options. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022), for instance, the median pay for art directors in 2021 came in at $100,890.

To start a career in arts and design, students may choose to enroll in a two-year associate’s program or a four-year bachelor’s degree and pursue advanced studies with a master’s degree and doctoral program. An associate’s degree can land you an entry-level job in fashion, photography, or graphic design.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most art and design career paths, such as industrial design, animation, and film and television production. Having a bachelor’s degree will also qualify you to take advanced studies. Careers related to art history, such as those of a gallery director or museum curator require at least a master’s degree.

This guide provides art and design career information, including the industry outlook and market demand for various roles. While fine artists, photographers, and designer craftspeople tend to take the freelance or self-employed route, art and design majors may also choose from different employment opportunities in various industries. Information on how to start your career in art and design, the required skills, the possible job roles that you may take from entry-level to senior management are discussed.

Art and Design Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in art and design?
  2. Art and Design Career Outlook
  3. Required Skills for Art and Design
  4. How to Start Your Career in Art and Design
  5. How can I advance my career in art and design?
  6. Alternative Career Options for Art and Design Professionals

Why pursue a career in art and design?

In the current marketplace, art and design is big business, with its considerable ancillary industries. Arts and cultural production play a significant role in the United States economy. In 2019, arts and culture contributed $919.7 billion to the U.S. economy, or 4.35% of GDP (NEA, 2021). Of this total contribution, the arts make up $584.5 billion, or nearly half of the creative economy.

While art is traditionally created purely for its aesthetic appeal, design tends to focus on a particular product. Designers primarily focus on functional design. Careers in art and design involve people who have practical skills and talent in using and combining color, space, shape, and form. Artists create works that serve as vehicles for expressing emotions. While their works reflect everyday life as we see it, they also aim to reveal hidden truths that help people view the world from a different perspective.

Artists and designers are part of the creative economy—they have the special ability to determine what looks good, what is creative, and what is unique. While some work on their own, other artists and designers collaborate as part of an art collective or with a design agency.

One study published in Simulation and Gaming established the role of art and design in education, particularly in the acquisition of 21st-century skills. In “The Acquisition of 21st-Century Skills Through Video Games: Minecraft Design Process Models and Their Web of Class Roles,” Hewett et al. (2020) explored educational models exhibited through video games and found that “Minecraft can help students learn to problem-solve, improve their research skills, be resourceful, multitask, and develop their social skills through teamwork—critically think, create, communicate, and collaborate.”

Moreover, the authors observed that “When students are given a task in Minecraft they will self-organize and student leaders will emerge. Minecraft challenged the participants to assess a problem, analyze it from another perspective, and find a creative solution collaboratively.”

Artists and designers generate and develop artistic ideas based on their own experience, or as commissioned by clients. They manage design production and strategies for an entire campaign. They are the creative thinkers and makers that provide their communities with joy, inspiration, and interaction, while at the same time encouraging thoughtful critique. Artists and designers contribute to the advancement of societies.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts

Art and Design Career Outlook

In March 2020, when Sotheby’s moved its mid-season sale online, the company was concerned because the timing was at the onset of the pandemic. The total sales, however, was the highest-ever for an online sale of 20th-century design, with one item selling 20 times its high estimate. This shows that the art market has adapted and is now expanding online. Among the 2021 art market trends and predictions by Sotheby’s is that there will be a reinterpretation of physical experiences, with art presentations outside of the traditional establishments.

Careers in art and design are specialized and come in all shapes and sizes. The graphic design market, for example, predicts a 22% decline in print, but there will be a 24% increase in digital through 2028. The art market contracted by 22% in 2020, while online sales value doubled (Reyburn, 2021). The global animation market size, on the other hand, is expected to hit $642.5 billion by 2030 (Precedence Research, 2021).

While the job outlook for most fine arts and crafts careers is declining, projections for arts and design jobs that integrate technology in the creation process is on the rise. For instance, for those wondering what is the 4th industrial revolution and how it impacts art and design, the World Economic Forum (2020) says that the fourth industrial revolution will create new jobs that will marry art and design with innovation. As jobs in the field of art and design continue to evolve, the careers with low demand will be replaced with a new line of high-demand, newly-created types of jobs, that would still require the core skills of art and design graduates. The technological forces of the fourth industrial revolution will create the space for the most important art and design jobs of the future.

RoleSalaryDemand
Digital Designer$40,7508%
Fine Artist$65,0200%
Product Designer$85,04711%
Video Game Designer$66,3219%
Animator$77,7004%
User Experience (UX) Designer$74,77618%
Lead Animator$90,7084%
Art Director$97,2704%
Art Auction Creative Director$157,9654%

Required Skills for Art and Design Professionals

Artists and Designers are very disciplined when it comes to the creative process. They engage in deep, and often reflective thinking processes in order to produce an art or design that reflects what they strongly believe in. Designers and artists are often viewed as belonging to a different tribe, for they have a combination of skills that enable them to spawn things beyond the imagination.

Essential Skills for Art and Design Professionals

Artistic and Aesthetic – artists and designers are masters in the use of color, space, and line. In the creation process, they apply theories of composition, framing, and abstraction. Artists and designers give abstract ideas visual form and also analyze dynamic forms to generate a unifying theme.

Technical – artists and designers are creative, but they are also highly technical. In choosing a medium for their artwork, they have to know the qualities and limitations of each medium. Industrial designers have a deep understanding of industrial technology, while artists and designers use their high level of craftsmanship and knowledge of 3D modeling software.

Analytical – as an input to the creative process, artists and designers gather, analyze, and interpret information. In the process, they view issues from multiple perspectives, weigh their options, and proceed to explaining and presenting their final work.

General Skills

Communication – designers and artists communicate visually, but they are also good communicators. This skill is crucial to communicating their ideas as they collaborate with other creative teams. This is especially true for user experience designers and art directors who give instructions and manage the design and product development.

Organizational – their personalities may seem complex but artists and designers are equipped with organizational skills as they get involved in planning for exhibitions and roadshows, in assessing client needs, and in initiating workshops.

Collaborative – collaboration is the way to grow as an artist or designer because it brings together different skills that eventually result in an exceptional artwork or product design. Artists and designers know the importance of collaboration in bringing ideas and concepts to fruition.

college degree penetration among artists

How to Start Your Career in Art and Design

Art and design majors are self-motivated and are typically highly entrepreneurial. While they may be focused on the creative process most of the time, in school, they are also trained on the business and management side of the field. And since the market is very competitive, art and design majors know how to hone their skills through self-improvement.

Most careers require at least a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, art history, or film school, but the specialized sectors also employ graduates of certificate programs. While some art and design industry jobs are engaged in the creation, selling, and promotion of original works, some jobs are involved in teaching and helping people express themselves through art. Design skills are also employed in fashion, architecture, media, film, and theater.

What can I do with an Associate’s Degree in Art and Design?

Digital Designer

The digital designer is responsible for creating and testing the interface layout, navigation, and functions for usability. The digital designer also creates digital assets for multimedia and digital projects.

Median salary: $77,200

Photographer

The main responsibility of a photographer is to record and preserve images. The photographer may work in different settings such as fashion, commercial, news, film set, and events.

Median salary; $48,771

Interior Designer

The interior designer creates functional and safe indoor spaces. Through the use of colors, lighting, and essential and decorative items, the interior designer transforms spaces based on the specifications of clients.

Median salary: $57,060

Fine Artist

The fine artist creates artworks through the use of color, lines, and various materials. By employing techniques and design principles, the fine artist creates original works of art for sale or exhibition.

Median salary: $65,020

What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Design?

Video Game Designer

Alongside engineers and programmers, the video game designer is responsible for the creation and implementation of creative designs for video games. A strong background in art and design, including computer graphics and programming, is essential for this role.

Median salary: $66,321

Product Designer

Industries that make consumer products engage the services of a product designer, who is responsible for creating new designs or improving existing product designs. The product designer oversees the product design process from sketching and illustrating to production.

Median salary: $85,047

User Experience (UX) Designer

The user experience (UX) designer works closely with developers and other designers in coming up with functional designs that the target market should find useful, if not indispensable. The goal of the UX designer is to achieve the overall vision for a product.

Median salary: $74,776

Animator

Graduates can start their animation careers with production companies, animation studios, or video game producers to make storyboards with an original design. Animators also design models, backgrounds, sets, characters, objects, and the animation environment.

Median salary: $77,700

Can you get an art and design job with just a certificate?

Certificate programs in art and design, or entry-level design courses are available to students who are looking for short courses. The certificate programs are designed to meet the immediate creative goals as well as the long-term aspirations of students. A sequence of electives is typically included in the program, depending on the specific needs of the student. A portfolio review is typically required to complete the program. Some colleges and art institutes also offer foundation courses in arts and design through certificate programs.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How can I advance my career in art and design?

Postgraduate studies in the field of art and design typically include practical experience, which can be in the form of an internship in an art history program or in a museum. Students interested in art history careers typically pursue postgraduate studies and can become art directors in art galleries and art auction houses.

While most specializations in art and design do not require an advanced degree, holders of master’s and doctorate degrees may take on roles as gallery director, museum curator, art director, executive producer, or animation supervisor. Graduate studies provide advanced education on particular specializations, and at the same time equip the student towards leadership roles.

What can I do with a Master’s in Art and Design?

Postsecondary Teacher

The postsecondary teacher conducts lectures and facilitates art installations and exhibits among the arts and design students. The main focus of the postsecondary teacher in art and design is to update the knowledge base of the college or university to inform practice.

Median salary: $89,044

Lead Animator

The lead animator guides the team of animators in creating 3D animation that meets the required standards of the client in terms of technical quality, originality, and creativity.

Median salary: $90,708

Art Director

The art director determines the overall design for the visual style of images in publications, product packaging, and movie and television productions. The art director leads a team of artists and designers.

Median salary: $97,270

Senior Fashion Designer

The senior fashion designer is responsible for researching material, fabric, and trends with the aim of creating new designs. Keeping the team informed of the latest trends in fashion is also one of the roles of the senior fashion designer.

Median salary: $88,583

Creative Director

The responsibility of the creative director varies depending on the industry, but the main role is to lead in creating and implementing creative work, which could be in the form of graphic design, music, media, advertising, or other related fields.

Median salary: 89,478

What kind of job can I get with a Doctorate in Art and Design?

Senior User Experience (UX) Designer

The senior user experience (UX) designer employs a solid understanding of human cognitive science in creating intuitive user experience architecture. The senior UX Designer leads a team of product engineers, product designers, and product managers in determining how the user experience should be for a product.

Median salary: $101,751

Visual Merchandising Director

The visual merchandising director conceptualizes the overall look of storefront windows, displays, and sales floor. Included in the responsibility of the visual merchandising director is the publication of diagrams and guidelines to optimize visual aesthetics, promote branding, and ensure consistency in all stores.

Median salary: $110,190

Advertising Design Director

The advertising design director oversees the design of all advertising campaigns in the organization. Part of the responsibilities of the advertising design director is managing design teams and ensuring that campaigns are properly evaluated and adjusted based on feedback.

Median salary: $120,938

Art Auction Creative Director

The art auction creative director is responsible for ensuring that the content of campaigns and exhibits is consistent with the organization’s branding. Addressing the concerns of art auction house stakeholders is also one of the major responsibilities of the creative director.

Median salary: $157,965

Which certification is best for art and design?

While most art and design careers depend on years of experience for advancement, postgraduate certifications are also offered by colleges and universities for those who want to update their knowledge through formal means. Certificate programs in art and design are mostly concentrated on a particular specialization, such as game design or animation and character design. Examples of postgraduate certificate programs are listed below.

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Asian Art
  • Postgraduate Certificate on Digital Design – Game Design
  • Post-baccalaureate in Studio Art
  • Graduate Certificate in 3D Animation and Character Design
  • Post-bachelor’s Certificate in Digital Curation

Most artists pursue professional development through part-time employment while taking postgraduate courses. Aside from creative skills, professional artists also take time in learning about marketing and copyright, pricing, and the technicalities of contracts or agreements. For artists and designers that plan to conduct workshops or put up studios, an Arts Management Graduate Certificate is also offered.

arts and cultural production contribution to US economy in 2019

Alternative Career Options for Art and Design Professionals

Some art and design professionals opt for careers that do not involve sculpting, drawing, painting, or computer-based work. There are other rewarding careers that still make use of the foundational knowledge learned in art and design.

What else can Art and Design Professionals Do?

Event Stylist – every event has a concept that is reflected in the overall design as conceptualized by the event stylist. The event stylist provides service for all kinds of events and ensures that the vision of the client comes to fruition. This job is projected to grow at 8% through 2029.

Makeup Artist – the art and design major’s expertise in balance and colors can be very useful, especially in films and theater productions. The makeup artist may do freelance work or may be employed by a production team. This job is estimated to grow by 7% from 2019-2029, with the highest in the field of theatrical and performance art, which is projected to grow by 10%.

Photojournalist – a keen eye for detail is needed to be an effective photojournalist, and art and design majors can do this job with their background in photography. The photojournalist is able to tell a story through a single visual. While the demand for photojournalists is declining due to the proliferation of amateur photos through crowdsourcing, nothing will replace the trained eye of the photographer that has a solid foundation in art and design.

Source: National Endowment for the Arts

Move Forward with Art and Design

Art and design have significantly contributed to the advancement of civilizations. There are many ways to start a career in the field of art and design, but having a degree ensures a more defined path. Once you have earned the formal training, the next step is to acquire experience through the different specializations. Collaboration is important in advancement, but so is individual improvement of skills and craft.

The pandemic may have dampened the outlook for some sectors, but with the growing demand in the digital sector, the overall outlook for this career is positive. This only shows that the industry is adapting as it moves forward. While the web design and interface design sectors are experiencing the highest growth, the traditional forms of fine arts still hold a strong niche. In the history of industrial revolutions, the field of art and design has always played a pivotal role and this might be the perfect time for you to take part in the next revolution.

 

References:

  1. Agrawal, V. (2020), How To Harness Effective Visuals In Advertising, https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/05/18/how-to-harness-effective-visuals-in-advertising/
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022), Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/
  3. Hewett, K.J.E., Zeng, G., and Pletcher, B.C. (2020), The Acquisition of 21st-Century Skills Through Video Games: Minecraft Design Process Models and Their Web of Class Roles, Simulation and Gaming, https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878120904976
  4. National Endowment for the Arts (2021), https://www.arts.gov/
  5. Precedence Research (2020), https://www.precedenceresearch.com/animation-market
  6. Reyburn, S. (2021), Art Market Shrank 22 Percent in Pandemic Year, Study Says, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/16/arts/design/art-market-size-ubs-art-basel-report.html
  7. World Economic Forum (2020), The Future of Jobs, https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020

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