Who says you can’t make a great living with an art degree?
Time and time again, young talents desire to attend college to pursue visual & fine arts, but incorrectly feel that doing so may jeopardize career earnings.
Actually, the opposite is true: going to college for art can open up a significant world of opportunity, providing the foundational skills for success in dozens of lucrative careers.
Pursuing a career in art, however, can give you something so much more than just a fantastic salary; it can provide the path towards a career you feel incredibly passionate about.
However, just like anyone in any discipline, artists desire to have careers filled with opportunity, satisfaction, and very importantly, a consistent salary.
The following careers are all excellent choices for the aspiring professional artist. Many of these careers fall under the traditional categories of design, illustration, and teaching, however there are a number of unique, unusual, and highly lucrative careers listed here as well.
Do note that many of these careers you can get with just an art degree, while some will need additional specialization or education outside of a single degree.
Also, all salaries posted are median salaries. The top level artists in every field below can make up to 2x or more than the listed salaries depending on their level of expertise, years in the industry, and more.
Here are 100+ amazing careers you can get with an arts degree – salary information included.
Animators create multiple frames that, when displayed in a rapid sequence, display the illusion of movement. Animators are highly in-demand in the fields of television, video games, and films.
Additionally, many independent animators can display their animations online and develop a following they can monetize, such as FilmCow on YouTube.
Salary: $55k/year (Payscale)
Someone who provides a professional opinion on the value, as well as the authenticity, of a work of art.
Salary: $60,000/year (Study.com)
An architect plans the creation of buildings. This includes helping to design the buildings. Usually requires an architecture specialty degree.
You can succeed in this profession either as an employee of an architecture firm, or you can start your own firm and secure very large contracts.
Salary: $72,000/year (Glassdoor)
A representative of an artist whose primary function is to sell the art of their client. Art agents are paid by commission, usually between 15% – 35%.
Salary: Commission-based, between 15%-35% (Wikipedia). The most successful artist agents exceed $75k/year. The top 1% easily make six figures.
Person who helps oversee the day-to-day functions of an arts company. This work includes administrative, clerical, and fundraising efforts. Some places that employ arts administrators include museums, galleries, and even large-scale musical ensembles like the New York Philharmonic.
Salary: $62,000/year (Paysa)
Also known as an art preparator, this is an individual who is trained to work with artwork. Although it may sound simple, it is not; considering many works of art are worth millions, delicate and professional handling is required to preserve the integrity of the work.
Salary: $34,125/year (Neuvoo)
An individual who skillfully repairs damage to a work of art. Art restorers can work on sculptures, paintings, ceramics, valuable books, and more.
Salary: $42,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
A unique form of psychotherapy, arts therapists facilitate creative self-expression through visual media. The result for an art therapist’s clients can be a reduction in stress as well as an increase in cognition and emotional well-being.
Salary: $45,000/year (Payscale)
Assistant to Artist
High-level, successful artists need help with their day-to-day life. Artist assistants can do anything from maintaining an artist’s workspace, fetching supplies, and doing clerical work for an artist to helping an artist promote their work on social media. Other duties can include handling the schedule of the artist.
Fantastic entry-level job for someone just graduating college.
Salary: $18.50/hour (Payscale)
Creating the appearance of an automobile. This industry applies to essentially any motorized vehicle, including cars, busses, trucks, vans, and motorcycles.
Salary: $78,000/year (Paysa)
An artist who designs the appearance of billboards for use when advertising. One of many much-needed commercial artist positions on this list.
Salary: $57,000/year (Paysa)
An artist responsible for the visual look of a company, including graphics, logos, colors, brochures, and other marketing materials design. Think about the colors, shapes, fonts of Apple vs. Amazon, or Rolex vs. Coca-Cola; a brand designer has overseen all of this before the public views it.
Salary: $81,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Someone who uses computers to design products and buildings. CAD Drafters are highly in-demand in many major firms and agencies worldwide. In addition to knowledge of art, it also requires knowledge in computer programs specializing in commercial design.
Salary: $55,000/year (Study.com)
Calligraphers design letters and special characters with a broad tip instrument, brush, stencil, or electronic pencil. Many calligraphers are self-employed and the salary range can vary tremendously depending on how much work an individual calligrapher commissions.
Salary: $65,000/year (CareerExplorer) Self-employed artists have the ability to make significantly more.
Many arts degrees these days teach the art of filmmaking as well as videography. Even with the rise of selfie cameras, camera operators are as in-demand as they have ever been. Their work includes film, television, and internet publications.
Salary: $82,000 (Salary.com)
An artist who specializes in making caricatures, which are exaggerated drawings of individuals, most notably in editorial cartoons. Hundreds of artists have made livings as caricaturists.
Salary: Caricaturists, if employed by a major company, would be called cartoonists, which is also listed here. However, independent caricature artists can make a lot of money if marketed well.
Someone who draws cartoons, including television cartoons as well as editorial cartoons and even comic books.
Salary: $63,000/year (Salary.com)
Ceramicist (Ceramics Artist)
Someone who makes ceramics, such as pottery. Ceramicists take raw material, mold it, then heat it up in a kiln and then paint it before taking the work to market.
Salary: $53,000/year (TheArtCareerProject)
An artist who captures images for films and major motion pictures. They do this through image-capture technology like cameras.
Salary: $58,000/year (TheArtCareerProject)
Many independent art schools, such as RISD and Maryland College of Art, employ administrators with a background in the fine arts. Additionally, major universities needs arts coordinators to oversee the clerical and logistical functions of an arts department.
Salary: $92,000/year (PayScale)
College Art Professor
Teaches & lectures on relevant topics in the world of art, including contemporary art, art history, and art creation.
Many college professors make two incomes, one from their own artistic endeavors, another from being a professor, making this position flexible and ideal for thousands of artists worldwide.
Salary: Assistant professor $52,000/year. Associate professor $63,000/year. Full professor $81,000/year. Often includes the best benefits of any workplace and eventually tenureship (Chron)
Comic Strip Artist
An artist who creates independent comics or for inclusion in a weekly newspaper. Famous examples of newspaper comics include Dilbert as well as Garfield.
Oftentimes comic strip artists call themselves cartoonists, also covered in this article.
Salary: $60,000/year (Chron)
Commercial Art Director
Someone who oversees the artistic direction in any number of fields, including theatre, film, advertising, marketing, and more.
Most major product companies need an in-residence team of designers and a director to oversee them for everything from product creation to advertising. Art direction can be very lucrative, especially if working in a large-budget team where the company’s visual appeal is crucial for business success.
Salary: $86,000/year (Paysa) – top art directors can make significantly more, especially if the success of a big-budget production is dependent on their work.
Art created for the purposes of helping to sell a product or service, most often used in advertising. Think logos, product design, choice of colors used in an advertising campaign, and more. Perhaps the world’s most famous commercial artist historically would be Andy Warhol.
Salary: $61,000/year (Economic Research Institute)
Community Arts Worker
Someone employed by a government or community to help shape the appearance of a town or other communal space. Their work can include creating artwork for the community, putting together public fundraisers, overseeing professionals to work on arts-related projects, and more.
Salary: $48,500/year (CareerAddict)
Illustration used to create an idea in films, animation, video games, or other visual media. Think about major television productions requiring expansive artistic direction for animated characters.
Salary: $64,000/year (Indeed)
Not to be confused with the previous entry, conceptual artists create work in which the idea, process, or method is the guiding factor in the work’s creation. A commonly used type of conceptual art is large-scale installation, many of which charge fees to experience the art.
Salary: Depends entirely on the reputation and success of the artist. Anywhere from entry-level salary to mid-6 figures or more if the artist is very successful.
Consultant for the Arts
Anyone who is hired for their expertise regarding the arts. Common forms of arts consultants include art investment consultants, who are hired to help a client understand the potential appreciation or depreciation of artwork, as well as arts consultants for hotels to help design their internal appearance.
Salary: $93,000/year (Comparably)
Major corporations hire corporate photographers for headshots of personnel in their business. Imagine businesses with over 1,000+ employees, each with a biography on their website (such as a major law firm website). Because photographers are charging major corporations, asking for large sums is not unexpected.
Salary: $75,000/year (ZipRecruiter). Individual corporate photographers can make significantly more money.
An individual who designs & creates costumes for stage, film, television, and any live or videotaped production. Usually works in tandem with a production’s creative personnel, including lighting and scenic directors.
Salary: $39,000/year (Salary)
Because most jurisdictions do not allow cameras in a court of law, courtroom artists are important intermediaries between the courtroom proceedings and the public/media.
Salary: $53,000/year (The Art Career Project)
Critic – Art Critic
An individual who analyzes and interprets art. They additionally evaluate art for their excellence.
Art critics can find work in creating independent art blogs, as professors in major universities, or in writing pieces for major publications. Some historically famous art critics include Roger Fry and Lawrence Alloway.
Salary: Average is $53,000/year (ZipRecruiter). However, if you work for a major top-tier publication such as The New York Times, you can command a salary of $130k+.
A cook, chef, or other culinary professional who not only prepares food, but makes “edible works of art.” Cake decoration also can fall into this category. Usually requires a degree or background in culinary arts rather than a traditional art degree, however an art degree can help boost credibility and ability in this profession.
Salary: $43,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Artists who create images to grab a reader’s attention. Used often in periodicals, magazines, and web/print publications.
Salary: $53,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
An individual who uses specialized mechanical tools to engrave designs/text into hard objects, such as glass and metal.
Salary: $34,000/year (YourFreeCareerTest)
Entrepreneur – Arts
Any individual who creates an arts-based business. Can be more conventional such as opening a gallery displaying and selling your own artwork, or can be out-of-the-box. For the latter, think about Paint Nite, the national sensation where people take classes in artmaking and pay to attend.
Salary: Sky’s the limit
Someone who professionally creates displays for large-scale organizations and events, such as conferences, trade shows, and museums. Several professional exhibition design firms employing hundreds of people exist in the US, including Ralph Appelbaum Associates based in NYC.
Salary: $54k/year (CareerExplorer)
Sometimes called personal stylists, fashion consultants help their clients achieve the right “look.” Fashion consultants often work alongside movie stars and public personalities.
Salary: $58,000/year (Chron)
The practice of creating original designs for fashion wear, including clothing, bags, shoes, and more. Fashion designers are central to an apparel company’s success. Major fashion designers are also often entrepreneurs and start their own major companies, such as Ralph Lauren and the late Gianni Versace.
Salary: $95,000/year (Salary.com)
Illustrating fashion concepts and ideas prior to actual fashion creation. Sometimes accomplished by the fashion designer, however major clothing and fashion companies hire both designers and illustrators.
Salary: $51,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Fashion specialists who plan exact merchandise to sell at the right time. Fashion merchandisers closely watch for trends in the fashion industry, looking to get ahead of competitors so their company has an economic advantage when selling specific products.
Salary: $50,000/year (PayScale)
An individual who creates films for consumer commercial consumption. Filmmaking has been the dominant art form of the 20th and 21st centuries in terms of gross dollars.
Salary: Filmmakers can hold a number of duties in the process of making films. The average filmmaker salary is $54,000/year according to ZipRecruiter. However, the top positions in a filmmaking studio, such as the director, will often make significantly more money.
Art that is created for the sake of art itself, and generally accepted as separate from art for commercial purposes.
Salary: If you are employed as a sculptor, painer, or illustrator, your salary can be $40,000 – $60,000/year according to Recruiter. If you are an independent artist with a major following, you can make anywhere from a few thousand to millions per year.
Floral designers use plants to create visually satisfying patterns. Many florists open their own shops, and small boutiques may employ a floral designer in their own shop.
Salary: $51,000/year (Salary.com)
Ever watch mystery television shows and see the person who draws a sketch based on a witness description? This position exists in real life and is integral to helping law enforcement find suspects when no photographic evidence otherwise exists.
Catching criminals is not the only job of a forensic artist; they also do other illustrations associated with legal enforcement and proceedings.
Salary: $61,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Similar to an artist assistant, a gallery assistant helps with clerical, administrative, and the general day-to-day tasks of a professional art gallery.
Salary: $36,000/year (Study.com). In the real world, while some full-time gallery assistant positions exist, many are part-time positions and some are even internship-based.
Gallery managers can do a wide variety of tasks based on the needs of the gallery. One common task is the “front of house” role where gallery managers help to take care of customers in the gallery interested in purchasing artwork.
Salary: $48,000/year (Salary.com)
An individual who oversees the artistic vision and direction of a gallery, as well as help boost the gallery’s fame and reputation. A great gallery director helps shape the public’s perspective of an art gallery through careful curation and an understanding of a gallery’s particular aesthetic.
Salary: $54,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
A person who shapes, cuts, polishes and places gemstones. A gem cutter is also commonly known as a lapidary.
Salary: $45,000/year (Economic Research Institute).
Glassblowers help formulate the appearance of glass by blowing by inflating molten glass with a pipe. This position is also called a gaffer or glassmith.
Salary: $33,000/year (CareerExplorer)
An individual who designs or otherwise transforms images. In the modern world, graphic designers are often associated with design on computer programs, such as Illustrator and PhotoShop.
Salary: $46,000/year (GlassDoor)
Greeting Card Designer
All those Hallmark cards need a skilled, qualified artist to oversee and design greeting cards prior to sale.
Salary: $38,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Group Art Course Instructor
An individual who leads casual students in a course on making art. Famous examples include Paint Nite as well as Sip & Script.
Salary: Paint Nite (now Yaymaker) pays instructors an average of $21/hour according to Indeed.
Utilizing technology to create original work. Digital artists are in high demand for commercial applications, and their work overlaps with many of the other professions on this list. Digital art activities include painting, drawing, modeling, music, sound engineering, and more.
Salary: Freelancers make an average of $62,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
An individual who helps design beds, couches, chairs, stools, and any other piece of furniture. Major furniture companies, such as Ikea and Herman Miller, employ furniture designers.
Salary: $51,000/year (PayScale)
An artist who creates a visual piece to articulate the meaning of any given text. Illustrators are used in dozens of applications, including children’s books, textbooks, documentaries, and dozens more.
Salary: $53,000/year (Chron)
Someone who designs products intended to be produced at a massive scale for retail sale. It is separate from the actual manufacturing of a product. A related career on this list is CAD Drafting.
Salary: $65,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
An individual who improves the quality of a building’s interior. Interior designers are employed by corporations to design major buildings and by individuals who want to enhance their individual living space.
Salary: $59,000/year (Indeed)
Any individual who creates and designs jewelry, including necklaces, watches, rings, earrings, and other accessories.
Salary: Although ZipRecruiter says the national average salary is $44,000/year, designers employed in major companies such as Tiffany’s make more than $100,000/year (Glassdoor).
Lawyer – Arts Specialty
Someone who helps oversee the protection, copyright, marketing, and legality behind the creation and selling of art. This is a niche specialty in the arts world. In addition to an art degree, this profession requires a JD, or Juris Doctor, as any lawyer requires a JD to practice.
Salary: $86,000 is average according to Comparably, however the most successful lawyers in any field can make over $400k+ a year.
Librarian – Art
Someone who oversees art collection, research, and questions about art in a college, university, museum, or other place requiring a professional librarian.
Salary: The median salary for any librarian, according to Study.com, is $56,000/year.
An artist who paints onto a stone or metal using special oils. An ancient art, lithography is a printing technology employed worldwide for both fine art and commercial purposes.
Salary: $43,000/year (Economic Research Institute)
Every company, store, website, and individual proprietor needs a logo. In the US alone, over 50,000+ businesses start every month, and they all need logos. This profession falls under graphic design, but is a widely-needed specialty in that niche.
Salary: $59,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
An individual who teaches art classes in a public or private elementary, middle, or high school. For teaching in a public school, an education degree and certification is normally required in addition to an art degree.
Salary: $55,000/year (Glassdoor)
Magazine Art Director
An executive who oversees the artistic direction and visual appeal of a magazine or other periodical. Every major magazines employs staff in art direction to help drive the aesthetic look and sales of magazine.
Salary: $93,000/year (CareerExplorer – general art director salary)
A specialist who applies makeup and other enhancements to individuals most commonly for stage purposes, such as theatre, film, and television. Makeup artists are also found in the consumer industry.
Salary: $32/hour (Indeed)
An individual who uses metal to create objects. Metalworking is associated with art, although a great deal of metalworking is also involved in trades not frequently associated with art.
Salary: $48,000/year (CareerExplorer)
Someone who plays, composes, or produces music for a living. The music industry sometimes requires specialized training an art degree would not provide, however a background in art can help shape the creativity and success of a musician.
Salary: $45,000/year (Salary.com)
Artwork painted or created on a wall. Famous mural artists include Banksy and Diego Rivera.
Salary: Muralists fall under the category of fine artist, and the government says the salary of a fine artist averages to $46,000/year (TheArtCareerProject).
Software engineers who specialize in adding graphics and other intricate visual design elements to software. Often requires knowledge of coding as well as art.
Salary: $66,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Someone who oversees a museum’s contents, including all artwork and installations. Curators are also employed in major artist galleries. Museum directors and museum curators usually have the same responsibilities.
Salary: $59,000/year (Salary.com)
Someone who takes pictures of works of art in a museum. These pictures must be high-quality as they are used in marketing and sales materials to promote the museum.
Salary: $39,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
An individual who specializes in the creation of paper, typically unique handmade papers for artistic expression. While what the general public thinks of as paper is made using automated manufacturing, specialty papermaking is practiced by both novices as well as professionals.
Salary: $44,000/year (SalaryExpert)
Someone who specializes in a live action artform, such as dancing, acting, music performance, comedy, and ventriloquism. Although most art degrees are separate from performing arts degrees, they are still useful for careers in these fields.
Salary: $53,000/year (Comparably)
Anyone who takes pictures for a living. As outlined in this article, many photographers have specialty niches, including news, wedding, and corporate photography. However, some photographers have made livings based on just selling their original photography; a famous example is landscape photographer Ansel Adams.
Salary: $65,000/year (Salary.com)
Someone who helps retouch and shape the “story” of a photograph. Sometimes this is done by just the photographer, but there are specialty photo stylists who are hired by major firms and agencies.
Salary: $41,000/year (Salary.com)
Someone who draws, paints, or otherwise depicts a person, animal, or other important thing through art. Materials for this art often include oil and charcoal. Portrait artists are typically independently commissioned for their work.
Salary: Professional portrait artists can charge between $2,000 – $4,000 per work. Of course, the bigger your name and reputation, the more you can charge.
Designing posters for films, events, concerts, and more. Poster artistry is a specialized subsection of graphic design.
Salary: $46,000/year (GlassDoor – general graphic designer salary listed)
Someone who photographs individuals, places, and events worthy of news coverage. Some are employed by major television stations while others do news photography as freelance work.
Salary: $48,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
A specialist who creates images on unique surfaces, including wood, plastic, or stone, using specialized techniques. Printmaking is an integral component to many art school curricula.
Salary: $51,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Private Art Instructor
Someone who teaches art, either in 1-on-1, group, or online course settings. Many art instructors are employed in independent art schools that specialize in holding group classes for adults and especially children.
Salary: $43,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Retail – Art Store
An individual who works in an art store selling art supplies for public consumption. Many art stores do hire people with art degrees as they are specialized and experienced with the store’s products.
Salary: Retail sales associate salary across all industries is approximately $27,000/year (ZipRecruiter). However, retail managers and directors can make significantly more.
Creating the scenery for television, film, and stage. Although an art degree is useful here, the majority have specialty degrees in theatre arts according to Wikipedia.
Salary: $58,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
An artist who designs material out of silver. Silversmithing is a specialty type of metalworking, which is also mentioned in this article.
Salary: $41,000/year (Salary.com)
Sports Equipment Designer
Someone who designs athletic equipment. Think about how shoes are engineered to help you go faster, or how pads are built to better protect you. Another name for this is called sports engineer.
Having a dual background in engineering and art can be massively beneficial for this career path. In fact, a dual degree in those professions can be beneficial for many jobs.
Salary: $80,000/year (Average Salary Survey)
Stained Glass Artist
Someone who colors glass. Most often, the term “stained glass” applies to specially decorated windows in religious institutions. However, many contemporary stained glass artists make work independent of religious affiliation, such as this person.
Salary: $42,000/year (Economic Research Institute)
An artist who creates and/or oversees the visuals for scenes in animated film or television.
Salary: $72,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Someone who draws permanent art onto a human body. This practice is most often executed in a specialty parlor.
Salary: $53,000/year (Indeed)
Someone who makes pictures out of advanced mathematical, technological, or scientific concepts intended for quicker comprehension. Technical illustration is abundant in contemporary textbooks.
Salary: $60,000/year (Salary.com)
An artist who manipulates fiber into objects. Examples of objects a fiber artist creates includes baskets, paper, knits, and more. Tapestry art is also a type of textiel art.
Major college programs in fiber art exist at many prominent art schools, including MassArt.
Salary: $54,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Anyone who creates and designs toys. These specialists are employed by the major toy companies, including Mattel, Lego, and more.
Salary: $58,000/year (PayScale)
Someone who arranges typed words to make them easier to read and more pleasing to the eye. Typography is sometimes synonymous with type design, which is the creation of fonts.
Salary: $47,000/year (PayScale)
User Interface Artist
Individual responsible for optimizing the user interface of a video game or other electronic application, such as software. These people make video games and software easier to use and manipulate. As this profession falls into technology, even starting salaries can be excellent.
Salary: $96,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
An artist who uses vintage and contemporary video and audio technology to create original work. Distinct from video game artists and videography, both of which will be covered in this article as well.
Salary: Most video artists are independently employed, thus consistent salary data is not easily found. Video artists who are successful and whose work is shown in galleries can make $70,000/year or more.
An individual who films images and stores them on visual media. These individuals are fluent not only in general art, but also video production. Any professional presentation employs a videographer.
Salary: $65,000/year (Salary.com). Many are independent, but have high demand.
Video Game Artist
The visual artist behind a video game. Think about the look, appearance, and feel of your favorite video game characters – modern video games require dozens of video game artists due to their enormous content.
Salary: $69,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Someone who specializes in the aesthetic enhancement of a website, app, or other program. As Toptal describes it, visual design “was born out of a mixture of graphic design and user interface (UI) design.”
Salary: $86,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Visual Effects Artist
Someone who creates special effects most often for film, television, and video games. Major television and video game studios will hire specifically for VFX artists.
Salary: $73,000/year (Study.com)
Someone who looks after anything related to wardrobes in a professional production.
Salary: $39,000/year (ZipRecruiter)
Salary: $54,000/year (SkillCrush)
Someone who photographs people and events in a wedding. Many wedding photographers are independently employed and can charge significantly more than average photography rates.
Salary: Most people spend $2,000 on wedding photography. Spending up to $3,000 – $5,000 is not uncommon. Because of this, ZipRecruiter says the average yearly salary is $104,000.