High School Art Teacher Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a high school art teacher career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a high school art teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a High School Art Teacher Career

If you love art, becoming a high school art teacher can allow you to work with a variety of media and to introduce your students to art and artists. The following table gives more information about the pros and cons of a career as a high school art teacher.

Pros of a Career as a High School Art Teacher
Opportunity to share your passion for art with others*
Above average salary ($56,310 median as of 2014)*
Most teachers receive two months off in the summer*
Certification or licensure is usually K-12, which may provide greater job possibilities*

Cons of a Career as a High School Art Teacher
Slow job growth (6% growth from 2012-2022)*
Interaction with students can sometimes be stressful*
May work long hours during the school year*
Must meet continuing education requirements for certification or licensure*

Source: *U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As an art teacher, you'll teach students to express themselves through various types of art, as well as how to appreciate and recognize the work of a variety of artists. You might teach broad survey classes, art history or the use of a specific medium, such as photography or painting.

You'll also design and teach lessons, assess and report on student progress, prepare students for state exams and communicate with parents, when necessary. You might counsel students about possible career choices, and you'll manage classroom behavior. Additionally, you might organize student field trips, oversee art clubs and coordinate with other teachers to tie art into other subject areas, such as history or literature.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), secondary teachers, except those in special or career/technical education, earned a median annual salary of $56,310 as of 2014. Job growth was projected to be slower than average for high school teachers, with openings for teachers expected to increase only 6% from 2012-2022. Employment growth will vary by region, as student-to-teacher ratios and enrollment play a factor. Sponsoring outside activities, such as art clubs, could be a source of extra income for art teachers, depending upon monies available through a district or school. Public teacher pay scales are often structured to bump pay for every 15 hours of continuing education credits earned.

What Are the Requirements?

All states require a minimum of a bachelor's degree for licensure or certification purposes, and some states and/or school districts require that teachers obtain a master's degree within a certain time frame. Most art education degree programs are designed to prepare students to teach grades K-12. Educational coursework typically covers teaching methods in elementary and secondary education, educational psychology and reading. Your art coursework might include painting, sculpture, art history and working with clay.

Licensure or Certification

Public school teachers must be licensed or certified to teach, and some private schools prefer to hire licensed or certified teachers as well. Qualifications vary by state, but in general, you'll need to complete a specified number of supervised teaching hours and pass one or more state examinations, in addition to meeting education requirements. Most states also mandate that public school teachers take yearly continuing education courses to remain licensed.

Some states offer alternative routes to licensure or certification that will allow you to begin teaching before meeting all requirements. For example, if you hold a bachelor's degree in an area other than art education and you've been working as an artist, your state might grant you a provisional teaching certificate, which would allow you to teach under the supervision of a certified teacher as you work to fulfill licensure or certification requirements. Though programs vary by state, your options generally include entering a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate program, which could be individualized to build upon the skills and coursework you already have, or earning a Master of Arts in Teaching. These programs can provide you with the necessary teaching instruction and practicum experiences.

What Employers Are Looking For

Schools looking to hire art teachers generally specify that candidates must meet state requirements for licensure or certification. Most schools seek candidates with a minimum of bachelor's degree, but some schools, both public and private, prefer those with a master's degree in art or the teaching of art. Creativity, clear communication and the ability to work as part of a team also are sought-after skills. Some schools look for knowledge or skills in particular areas, such as photography, digital media or art history. The following sampling of job openings available in April 2012 can provide insight into the qualities that employers seek:

  • An Illinois school posted openings for a part-time art teacher to provide instruction in graphic design and photography. Candidates needed a current Illinois teacher's certificate and had to hold 'Highly Qualified' status as a teacher in art.
  • A school based in California advertised for an art teacher at the high-school level. Single subject art qualification, California residency and previous teaching experience were required. Art classes would be taught online to students across California.
  • A Massachusetts school sought a teacher experienced in project-based curriculum. The ad called for someone with enthusiasm to work within a team teaching environment. Curriculum design and real-life application of skills were specifically mentioned.
  • A Texas school advertised for an art teacher with a master's degree and the ability to participate in activities such as running art exhibits and attending district art competitions. Working well within a team and creating connections between subjects were listed amongst the job duties.

How Can I Stand Out in the Field?

Join a Professional Organization

Membership in professional organizations, such as the National Art Education Association (NAEA), can help demonstrate your commitment to learning and self-improvement to a potential employer. The NAEA sponsors mentoring relationships, education opportunities and a job board. The organization can also assist you in making connections through networking.

Choose a Specialization

Specializing in an area of art, particularly one that connects to other subjects taught in a high-school setting, might stand out on a resume. For example, American history and American literature classes, both of which are required in most states, could be enriched by selections of art by American artists from different periods of history.

Pursue an Advanced Degree

Earning a master's degree can increase your ability to find a job, but it requires an investment of time and money, and it could price you out of some school districts' ability to pay, given sometimes spotty funding for schools. However, some states and schools require or prefer teaching candidates who hold a master's degree. You can look into the requirements of the state in which you seek to work and the school at which you aspire to teach to determine whether the investment would be beneficial to your career.

Other Career Paths


If you would prefer to produce art rather than teach, a career in fine arts might be worth looking at. Fine artists, who create paintings, sculptures, photographs and other pieces of art, earned a median yearly salary of approximately $45,000 as of 2011, according to the BLS. This field doesn't necessarily require formal education; however, job growth was projected to be just 5% from 2010-2020, which was slower than average.

Graphic Designer

If you're predominantly interested in digital art and enjoy building text and graphics using a computer, becoming a graphic designer could be a better professional choice for you. About one-third of graphic designers are self-employed, while others commonly work in the advertising, design and publishing industries. The BLS reported that graphic designers earned a median annual salary of roughly $44,000 as of 2011, and the organization projected job growth of 13% from 2010-2020. You'll normally need a bachelor's degree in graphic design to work in this field.

Art Director

Art directors can work in a variety of industries and, according to the BLS, earn a higher salary than teachers. As of 2011, the median yearly salary for an art director was reported to be around $81,000. This type of work requires a bachelor's degree, generally in fine arts, 3-5 years of experience and often a master's degree in fine arts or business. Art directors design the visual aspects of products like magazines, movies and newspapers, as well as product packaging. They then oversee artists who implement their designs. Job growth was predicted to be 9% between 2010 and 2020, which was slower than average.

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