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What to Expect from a Career as an Illustrator

What to Expect from a Career as an Illustrator


Job Description

Illustrators typically create pictures for books, magazines, and other publications and for commercial products such as textiles, wrapping paper, stationery, greeting cards, and calendars. Increasingly, illustrators are working in digital format, preparing work directly on a computer.

Evidence of appropriate talent and skill, displayed in an artist’s portfolio, is an important factor used by art directors, clients, and others in deciding whether to hire an individual or to contract out work. The portfolio is a collection of handmade, computer-generated, photographic, or printed samples of the artist’s best work. Assembling a successful portfolio requires skills usually developed through postsecondary training in art or visual communications. Internships also provide excellent opportunities for artists to develop and enhance their portfolios.

Median Annual Salary


Educational Requirements

Postsecondary training is recommended for all artist specialties. Although formal training is not strictly required, it is very difficult to become skilled enough to make a living without some training. Many colleges and universities offer programs leading to the bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts. Courses usually include core subjects such as English, social science, and natural science, in addition to art history and studio art.

For more information about becoming an illustrator, read our helpful guides:

Nine Steps to a Career in the Visual Arts

What to Expect from a Career in the Arts

The Expanding Field of Illustration

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