Becoming an Art Teacher: Job Descriptions & Salary Info

About this article
Learn about an art teacher's career options, salary and licensing requirements. Get straight talk about job descriptions and career prospects to decide if teaching art is the right career for you.
View available schools

Art teachers work in a variety of settings, ranging from teaching pre-school art lessons in a home studio to mentoring college students. The following chart gives an overview of a career in teaching art.

Pros of a Career as an Art Teacher
Job growth for K-6, college and private teaching jobs (12% - 16% between 2012 and 2022)*
Good pay (roughly $64,000 at the post-secondary level)*
Benefits (including possibility of tenure)*
Variety of work environments (public, private and colleges)*
Possibility of control over working hours*
Rewarding profession*
Some positions may not require formal education*

Cons of a Career as an Art Teacher
Dealing with difficult students*
Slower-than-average job growth at the high school level (6% between 2012 and 2022)*
Long hours*
Some positions require advanced education (6+ years)*
Continuing education requirements*
Self-promotion and business management for private teachers*
Large classes*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Duties

As an art teacher, you would be responsible for preparing and teaching lessons, classroom management, evaluating student work and communicating with students and parents. You might be responsible for developing curriculum and helping other teachers supplement their curriculum with an arts component.

Career Options

Broadly, there are two basic options to consider professionally. You may work as a private teacher, with individuals or groups of students, working out of a home studio, local art store or museum. A degree is not necessarily required, but you will need to be knowledgeable about art. According to O*NET OnLine, about 20% of private teachers are self-employed, requiring them to advertise their services and manage their business accounts in addition to teaching (www.onetonline.org).

The second option is teaching art in a school or university setting, which will generally require you to have an art education degree to work at the elementary or high school level, or a master's or doctoral degree to work at the college level. This type of work may be full or part time, and may involve traveling between schools during the day. It may also involve licensing and/or certification in order to work at the elementary, middle and high school levels, for which requirements will vary by state.

Salary and Job Prospect Information

The BLS projected a 12% increase in job opportunities for teachers at the elementary and middle school level between 2012 and 2022, and reported median salary figures of around $54,000 for both professions as of May 2014. While high school teachers earned slightly more, with median salaries of just over $56,000, projected job growth estimates were only 6%, which is slower than average. Post-secondary teachers of art, music and drama earned the most, with a median salary of around $64,000, and were expected to see a 16% increase in job opportunities over the same time period.

In the field of self-enrichment or private teaching, the median salary was reported to be around $36,000 per year, or just over $17 per hour for private lessons, in May 2014.

Education, Licensing and Skills Requirements

A bachelor's degree with certification is required to teach grades K-12 in U.S. public schools. Bachelor's degree programs in art education commonly cover drawing and painting, evaluation in the classroom and teaching methods, and include a student teaching component and preparation for any required teaching skills exams. Graduate degrees, which are typically required to teach at the college level, often involve specialization in an area of art and production of a thesis or dissertation.

Private teachers aren't required to hold a degree or to be certified, however you will generally need to have worked in art and will need to market and manage your business. Private schools often prefer to hire certified teachers, but are not required to do so.

Teaching requires personal skills including the ability to communicate clearly, to adapt lesson plans to meet individual needs and to work with a variety of people. You will need to be creative, organized and patient, and will normally need to pass a criminal background check.

What Employers Are Looking For

Job ads for art teachers at the K-12 level requested proof of certification along with transcripts and recommendation letters. Ads emphasized working with members of a team and participating in committee meetings. At the college level, graduate degrees and related professional or teaching experience were requested. A sampling of job postings advertised in November 2012 is below:

  • A Massachusetts high school advertised for a long-term substitute art teacher to teach graphic design, photo and art. Massachusetts licensure was required. Candidates were to forward a cover letter, three letters of reference, resume, transcripts and credentials.
  • An Idaho school district posted a job opening for a part-time, junior high art teacher. A cover letter, transcripts, resume, criminal history background statement and a copy of certification documents were required.
  • A Texas private school sought a lower-school art instructor to teach grades 1-4. An e-portfolio of student work including 2-D and 3-D art was required, along with a bachelor's degree and five years teaching experience in elementary art. Candidate would also create and maintain hallway decorations, assist with testing, lead a club and/or perform recess and lunch duty.
  • An Illinois community college listed an opening for an art faculty member with a master's degree in art or art history and prior college teaching experience. Teaching responsibilities included art history and studio art classes. Applicants needed to be culturally competent, self-controlled and willing to participate in meetings.

Develop Related Skills

Specializing in more than one area of art will add to what you are qualified to teach, regardless of where you teach. Employers often look for teachers who are able to teach both art production (pottery, drawing and painting) and art history. Additional degrees may qualify you to teach at any level; however, you'll need to weigh the cost of the education against any additional earning potential.

Network, Volunteer and Show

Joining an organization, such as the National Art Education Association, may provide you with job search resources and additional networking and educational opportunities. Volunteering at local museums or art galleries would add experience to your qualifications, particularly if you want to work as a private teacher, as would producing and showing your artwork at art galleries or shows.

Vocational School Counselor

If the advising aspect of teaching is appealing to you, working as a vocational counselor may be a good career for you. In some states, this job requires licensing and you'll most likely need a master's degree. As a counselor, you would meet with students and help them work through social issues and advise them about which educational paths will help them to achieve their goals. Job growth projections for this profession were reported at 19% for the decade between 2010 and 2020 by the BLS. As of May 2011, counselors earned a median salary of around $54,000 per year.

Artist

The field of art itself has several possibilities for employment aside from teaching. If you think you'd prefer producing art rather than teaching others to do so, you may want to work as an artist. Formal education is not required, although many educational programs are available. The BLS projected that job opportunities in the field would only grow by 5% between 2010 and 2020, and art is a field that will do well or not based on the economy. While the median salary figure reported for artists was $57,000 in 2010, the BLS also reported that many artists find it difficult to live solely off the proceeds of their artwork.

Curator

If you would like to talk about art with people, but don't necessarily want to teach people how to become artists, you may want to explore being a curator at a museum. Curators oversee the collection and display of artwork for places such as museums or historical sites. They will often also design and conduct tours explaining the collection. Most curators have master's degrees. The BLS has projected that jobs in this field will grow by 16% between 2010 and 2020, and reported a median annual salary of about $49,000 for curators as of 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate of Education - Higher Education
      • EdD Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
    Master's
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Science
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Mathematics
      • M.S. - Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
    Certificate
      • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
      • Certificate - Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • MEd - General Education
      • MAT - Curriculum and Teaching
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
      • MAT - Early Childhood Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    8. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Early Childhood Education - Non-Licensure
    Associate's
      • A.S. Early Childhood Education

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • Doctorate of Education - Higher Education
  • EdD Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
  • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Master of Education - Elementary Education

Are you a US citizen?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
  • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
  • Certificate - Special Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

Are you a US citizen?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?