Craft and fine artists held about 50,300 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up craft and fine artists was distributed as follows:
|Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators||28,600|
|Artists and related workers, all other||11,900|
The largest employers of craft and fine artists were as follows:
|Independent artists, writers, and performers||9|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||7|
|Motion picture and sound recording industries||3|
|Personal care services||2|
Many artists work in fine- or commercial-art studios located in office buildings, warehouses, or lofts. Others work in private studios in their homes. Some artists share studio space, where they also may exhibit their work.
Studios are usually well lit and ventilated. However, artists may be exposed to fumes from glue, paint, ink, and other materials. They may also have to deal with dust or other residue from filings, splattered paint, or spilled cleaning and other fluids. Artists often wear protective gear, such as breathing masks and goggles, in order to remain safe from exposure to harmful materials. Ceramic and glass artists must use caution in working with materials that may break into sharp pieces and in using equipment that can get very hot, such as kilns.
Most craft and fine artists work full time, although part-time and variable schedules are also common. Many hold another job in addition to their work as an artist. During busy periods, artists may work additional hours to meet deadlines. Those who are self-employed usually determine their own schedules.
Craft and fine artists improve their skills through practice and repetition. A bachelor’s degree is the common for these artists.
Most fine artists pursue postsecondary education to improve their skills and job prospects. A formal educational credential is typically not needed to be a craft artist. However, it is difficult to gain adequate artistic skills without some formal education. For example, high school art classes can teach prospective craft artists the basic drawing skills they need.
A number of colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in subjects related to fine arts. In addition to studio art and art history, postsecondary programs may include core subjects, such as English, marketing, social science, and natural science. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary education programs, which can lead to a certificate in an art-related specialty or to an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in fine arts.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredits more than 360 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these schools award a degree in art.
Medical illustrators must have artistic ability and a detailed knowledge of human or animal anatomy, living organisms, and surgical and medical procedures. They usually need a bachelor’s degree that combines art and premedical courses. Medical illustrators may choose to get a master’s degree in medical illustration. Four accredited schools offer this degree in the United States.
Education gives artists an opportunity to develop their portfolio, which is a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities. Portfolios are essential, because art directors, clients, and others look at them when deciding whether to hire an artist or to buy the artist’s work. In addition to compiling a physical portfolio, many artists choose to create a portfolio online.
Those who want to teach fine arts at public elementary or secondary schools usually must have a teaching certificate in addition to a bachelor’s degree. For more information on workers who teach art classes, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, career and technical education teachers, and postsecondary teachers.
Craft and fine artists improve their skills through practice and repetition. They can train in several ways other than, or in addition to, formal schooling. Craft and fine artists may train with simpler projects before attempting something more ambitious.
Some artists learn on the job from more experienced artists. Others attend noncredit classes or workshops or take private lessons, which may be offered in artists’ studios or at community colleges, art centers, galleries, museums, or other art-related institutions.
Craft and fine artists advance professionally as their work circulates and as they establish a reputation for their particular style. Successful artists continually develop new ideas, and their work often evolves over time.
Until they become established as professional artists, many artists create artwork while continuing to hold a full-time job. Others work as an artist part time while still in school to develop experience and to build a portfolio.
Self-employed and freelance artists try to establish a set of clients who regularly contract for work. Some of these artists are recognized for their skill in a specialty, such as cartooning or illustrating children’s books. They may earn enough to choose the types of projects they undertake.
Craft and fine artists typically have an interest in the Building, Creating and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Creating or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a craft and fine artist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Craft and fine artists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Artistic ability. Craft and fine artists create artwork and other objects that are visually appealing or thought-provoking. This usually requires significant skill in one or more art forms.
Business skills. Craft and fine artists must promote themselves and their art to build a reputation and to sell their art. They often study the market for their crafts or artwork to increase their understanding of what potential customers might want. Many craft and fine artists sell their work on the Internet, so developing an online presence is an important part of their art sales.
Creativity. Artists must have active imaginations to develop new and original ideas for their work.
Customer-service skills. Craft and fine artists, especially those who sell their work themselves, must be good at dealing with customers and potential buyers.
Dexterity. Most artists work with their hands and must be good at manipulating tools and materials to create their art.
Interpersonal skills. Artists often must interact with many people, including co-workers, gallery owners, and the public.
The median annual wage for craft and fine artists was $48,760 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,000.
Median annual wages for craft and fine artists in May 2019 were as follows:
|Artists and related workers, all other||$64,490|
|Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators||50,550|
In May 2019, the median annual wages for craft and fine artists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||$88,460|
|Motion picture and sound recording industries||75,350|
|Personal care services||50,730|
|Independent artists, writers, and performers||39,350|
Earnings for self-employed artists vary widely. Some charge only a nominal fee while they gain experience and build a reputation for their work. Artists who are well established may earn more than salaried artists.
Most craft and fine artists work full time, although part-time and variable schedules are also common. In addition to pursuing their work as an artist, many hold another job because it may be difficult to rely solely on income earned from selling paintings or other works of art. During busy periods, artists may have long workdays to meet deadlines.
Overall employment of craft and fine artists is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028.
Employment growth for artists depends largely on the overall state of the economy and whether people are willing to spend money on art, because people usually buy art when they can afford to do so. During good economic times, people and businesses are interested in buying more artwork; during economic downturns, they generally buy less. However, there is always some demand for art by private collectors and museums.
Job growth for craft and fine artists may be limited by the sale of inexpensive, machine-produced items designed to look like handmade crafts. A continued interest in locally made products and crafted goods will likely offset some of these employment losses.
Illustrators and cartoonists who work in publishing may see their job opportunities decline as traditional print publications lose ground to other media forms. However, new opportunities are expected to arise as the number of electronic magazines and other Internet-based publications continues to grow.
Competition for jobs as craft and fine artists is expected to be strong because there are more qualified candidates than available jobs. Competition is likely to grow among independent or self-employed artists, given that many of them sell their work in the same online marketplaces. In addition, competition among artists for the privilege of having their work shown in galleries is expected to remain intense.
Because the demand for artwork depends on consumers having extra income to spend, many of these artists will find that their income changes alongside changes in the overall economy. Only the most successful craft and fine artists receive major commissions for their work.
Despite the competition, studios, galleries, and individual clients are always on the lookout for artists who display outstanding talent, creativity, and style. Talented individuals who have developed a mastery of artistic techniques and marketing skills are likely to have the best job prospects.
For more information about art and design and a list of accredited college-level programs, visit
For more information about careers in the craft arts and for a list of schools and workshops, visit
For more information about careers in the arts, visit
For more information about careers in medical illustration, visit
For information about grant-funding programs and other local resources for artists, contact your state arts agency. A list of these agencies is available from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
For more information about how the federal government awards grants for art, visit