Illustrators create images to be used in advertising and visual productions. They are artists of a very special kind, and provide visual representations used in all types of communications. A degree in visual arts or fine arts can lead to a career as an illustrator.

What Types of Degrees do Illustrators Have?

Today’s illustrators are no longer limited to pencil-and-paper drawings. While they still use these tools, computers have made it possible for illustrators to create both 2-D and 3-D graphics that enhance written or visual materials. Training for illustrators could include:

Associate’s Degree – A two-year degree in illustration allows students to pursue entry-level jobs as illustrators. Some students also become freelance illustrators, working on their own on assignments from clients.

Bachelor’s Degree – A four-year degree in illustration may open more doors to illustration jobs. Employers often prefer to hire those with higher degrees. However, the real benefit of a four-year illustration degree is that the student has exposure to more types of illustration techniques and has a broader understanding of the history and scale of fine arts.

Master’s Degree – Many medical illustrators have master’s degrees in which they study human anatomy and other subjects designed to give them an understanding of complex body systems and parts. A master’s degree in illustration usually includes more intense study in the fields of computer-generated illustration and multimedia.

These degrees include classes in drawing and painting, but also include classes in computer design, design principles, and other subjects to allow illustrators to have a broad background in the fine arts and the techniques used to create illustrations.

There are no standardized examinations for illustrators, although some do become certified through various accreditation organizations. On the whole, employers typically prefer to see a well-stocked portfolio of original images than certification, although some specific illustration fields such as medical illustration may require some type of certification.

Illustrators are often best served to receive a minor or even a second degree in a field that relates to the field in which they want to work. For example, a medical illustrator might take a minor in biology; an illustrator who wants to work with graphic design might take a second degree in graphic arts.

How Much Can I Earn As An Illustrator?

The pay for illustration jobs varies tremendously depending on the type of work you are doing. Medical illustrators and those with higher degrees may earn more because of their specialized skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual salary of multimedia artists is $58,510 with a bachelor’s degree. While this figure will not cover all illustrator jobs, it is representative of what can be obtained if an illustrator finds steady work in a specific field. On the other hand, freelance illustrators may earn much less, as they are paid by the job and must handle their own taxes and expenses.

What Is The Job Outlook for Illustrators?

Due to the computerization of much graphic art these days, the job outlook for illustrators is less positive than it was in the past. The job field is very competitive, and only those with talent and imagination can command good jobs and high salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for multimedia artists in general are expected to grow by about eight percent. These jobs will primarily come from the commercial sector rather than publishers or other fields.

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