Comic Cartoonist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons to becoming a comic cartoonist? Check out some real job duties to get the truth about career prospects to learn if becoming a comic cartoonist is the right move for you.
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Pros and Cons to Being a Comic Cartoonist

Comic cartoonists convey stories and humor through art. Learn about the ups and downs of being a comic cartoonist by reading below.

Pros to Being a Comic Cartoonist
Self-employment opportunities*
Work in a comfortable environment*
Minimal education requirements if you have good artistic skills*
Multiple areas to choose from for your work (political, sports, humor, advertising, etc.)*

Cons to Being a Comic Cartoonist
Work can be sparse if you're freelancing*
Strict deadlines can result in having to work overtime*
Many aspiring comic cartoonists have to hold down other jobs*
Slower than average employment growth (four percent from 2012 to 2022)*

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

Occupational Information

Job Description

Magazines, newspapers, greeting card companies and advertisement agencies all use cartoonists to catch the attention of readers. While some cartoonists may work with a writer, opportunities are also available for cartoonists to come up with own stories. The words and pictures are expected to complement each other into a coherent piece. You'll often storyboard your work first and create basic sketches before moving onto creating a final piece. You might present early versions of your cartoon to your employer in order to seek approval on the final direction of your comic.

Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that fine artists - like illustrators - earned about $51,000 on average in 2014. As of August 2015, Salary.com reported that cartoonists and animators had a median salary of around $49,000. The bottom ten percent of cartoonists earned below $34,000 per year, while the top ten percent earned over $68,000.

Vocational Requirements

Education and Training

There are no formal education requirements to become a comic cartoonist as long as you possess the necessary artistic talent. However, many people choose to develop their artistic abilities through post-secondary educational programs. There are certifications, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees and graduate degrees in animation that you can pursue.

Ideally, you'll want to find a program that specializes in cartoon or comic art. In a program like that, you can hone your skills in classes, like comics as journalism, figure drawing, cartoon and illustration basics, inking comics, greeting card design and digital coloring. You'll want to make sure that the program you're enrolled in has received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

What Are Employers Looking for?

Employers are always looking for the next popular cartoonist. If you want to be a cartoonist, then you need to possess the drive and creativity to catch an employer's attention. Interpersonal skills are also very important to employers since cartoonists often work in teams with other artists and writers. Here are real job postings from employers in May 2012:

  • A comic book illustrator is looking for a cartoonist willing to make black and white designs of a superhero and sidekick. The story has already been written, but a cartoonist is needed to create the illustrations. Applicants need to submit a drawing of the superhero and a portfolio of their previous work.
  • A freelance job in California is available for a comic cartoonist who has previously worked with vector art. Individuals interested in applying for the job need to be prepared to work in a fast-paced environment and have a strong knowledge of comics. The employer also wants applicants who are proficient with computer software programs, such as Adobe Illustrator.
  • In Minnesota, a company has positions available for cartoonists with experience in storyboards. Applicants must be able to develop stories, have a portfolio and experience in coloring and writing dialogue. The job includes a benefits package and the opportunity to advance within the company.

How to Stand out as a Comic Cartoonist

Developing your work portfolio is one of the best ways to stand out from other comic cartoonists. You'll want to highlight your best work in your portfolio to showcase your skills and abilities as an artist. If any of your work has been published, you'll want to highlight those pieces. If you possess a unique style, your portfolio is your chance to demonstrate your skills and set you apart from other applicants in the field. Additionally, many comic cartoonists have started their own comics online. These Web comics are an excellent way to promote your career as well as work on your artistic skills.

Alternative Career Options

If you're interested in working in animation, consider applying your cartooning skills towards a career as a multimedia artist. In this occupation, you'll work on movies, television shows, cartoons, video games or other mediums. By using computer programs, you create various animations and graphics to tell a story. Typically, you focus your work in a specific area such as background design or character design. The BLS in May 2011 reported that multimedia artists and animators earned about $68,000 on average annually.

If you want to lead a team of artists and decide the direction of your employer's business, look into becoming an art director. Working for television and movie productions, newspapers, magazines and product packaging, you'll determine the images and visual style of the art used in your company's work. This involves understanding the artistic approach needed for an assignment and developing a timeline and budget for your project. Art directors had an average yearly salary of $96,000, according to the BLS in May 2011.

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