In the past, an arts degree was known for being a ticket to an uncertain, starving artist career path, with little potential for opportunities and a decent income. However, in today’s creative economy, majoring in fine or commercial art opens the doors to a limitless creative career that can be taken in a variety of promising and lucrative ways. An art major degree provides a student with creative, communication, visual, analytical, and critical thinking skills that can be applied in a variety of fields. While most jobs will require an advanced degree or additional training, we offer aspiring artists and creatives twelve careers that show there’s no shortage of jobs for art majors.
The Best Jobs for Art Majors
Somewhat in hand with game design, animation has also risen in popularity amongst young artists. Animation art uses artistic skills by administering them digitally and incorporates programming and software skills as well. Animators are responsible for the development and production of moving art used for websites, games, and films. Becoming an animator requires this specific set of skills and hours of practice. Therefore interested candidates should both pursue an art major and focus on digital courses within that concentration. Having a background in more traditional art is important as a foundation in animation, on which artists can build up their portfolios and demo reel—which is a simple display of animated talent. An entry-level animator usually requires a bachelor’s degree in art or computer graphic areas, along with a passion for the job within the competitive field.
The art major who most enjoys analyzing artistic works might consider art criticism or art writing. Working as an art critic and writer tends to require both an art and history of art degree and may be hired as freelancers. Art critics usually function as reporters for the arts: they write articles that work to understand and interpret the meanings and qualities of the artwork. These are skills that are primarily acquired through a history of art degree. Art critic job opportunities are more open to those who have years of experience teaching art or art history or working with museums and galleries. As an art critic, your duties include reporting and writing reviews on local art organizations and artists, as well as gallery openings, shows, and exhibits. Art critics may also teach at colleges and even work for art museums as curators from time to time. The expanse of an art critic’s potential lies in their ability to analyze, interpret, and review different forms of art through writing. If you’re a wordsmith searching for a highly analytical career path, this is one of the art-related jobs you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
Similar to becoming an art critic, becoming a curator requires knowledge both through an art degree and a history of art degree. An art major should be aware that oftentimes, a graduate degree is required to be competitive within the curator market. These art-related jobs usually require higher education because the precision and detail behind curation is very extensive. A curator’s job is to help an institution collect art and organize that work for exhibitions or for storage. They also care for and preserve the art, as well as conduct tours of the work they compiled. Curators also have many opportunities to travel, searching for new work to collect and display, while frequently lending or borrowing from collections from around the world. Curation is a hands-on and organized job, one that is heavily business-oriented but also taps into the art major’s passion for art and its appreciation. As a result, it’s often one of the most coveted art-related jobs available to art students.
Becoming an art director is probably one of the more visually-driven art-adjacent careers you will encounter. Typically, an art director starts out as a graphic designer and works their way up into a more senior, creative leadership type of role. Art directors work everywhere: from ad agencies to magazines, private product companies, film and television, and more. An art director guides the vision and direction of the company’s visual identity. At magazines, that means you’re taking a keen eye to layouts and photography. With products, you’ll be steering the item’s branding and logo placement while ensuring it remains consistent with the overall advertising strategy. For film and TV, you’d be working on cinematography and photography. Aside from guiding your staff through the visual process, you need to be able to critique people’s work, hit deadlines, and stay within the budget, all while ensuring that the consumer of your visual design can grasp an informational idea of what you’re trying to display.
Art directors tend to have bachelor’s degrees in creative fields – photography and graphic design are great places to start. In addition, you’ll probably need to have experience in several types of roles before you can assume the role of art director. The best way to land a gig is to put together a killer portfolio, one that shows your best work while highlighting your unique sense of visual style
Art Gallery Director
An art major with a particular sense of business savvy might consider searching for a gallery director position. Gallery directors share some roles with curators in that the curator maintains the artwork while the gallery director oversees and manages the business portion of the institution’s transactions. Overall, directors are in charge of the gallery’s policy as well as managing its day-to-day operations. They can be owners of the gallery or hired by owners, coordinating shows and running the foundations of the business. As a director, useful majors can be topics like art management or the history of art. Having experience in art sales or other management roles can also be helpful. Depending on the size of the gallery, directors may also take on the role of curator for smaller galleries, where directors will not only be managing and marketing but also have the requisite knowledge of the art to be able to collect it and care for it.
Working as an art professor is rather self-explanatory: they offer instruction and expertise in art to students in universities. This art instruction can be specified and not just general studio art—for example, there are photography professors, printmaking professors, and sculpture professors. They improve their student’s knowledge and also offer critical reviews, analyze artwork and publish their own work in scholarly articles. To be a professor, a student must be prepared to earn a graduate degree in their field of study and obtain some real-world work experience before turning to the world of academia.
A registrar works in an archive or museum and is responsible for taking care of the artwork by developing, administering, and implementing a storage and conservation policy. The preservation and storage of artwork require extensive diligence – temperature, cataloging, packing and shipping, insurance policies, and risk management all fall within the purview of a registrar’s responsibilities. They create records management systems while balancing access to works for the curator as they shift their exhibition schedules. For example, a registrar would oversee a museum’s permanent collection, making sure that the curator has access to anything they might like to use for a particular exhibit. They’d also manage the flow of traveling exhibitions, ensuring that each work is properly received and handled.
Most museums require registrars to hold advanced degrees in art history or conservation since it requires a complex understanding of the intricacies of artworks and a museum’s code of ethics. Smaller and mid-sized institutions may combine the role of the registrar with that of the collections manager, while large institutions often have multiple registrars, each overseeing a different curatorial department.
Art Restorer or Conservator
For an art major interested in pairing their knowledge of the arts with a more scientific approach, art conservationists and restorers delve into the history of art and culture. These professionals bring artwork back to its former glory by enhancing its appearance, cleaning paintings, re-plastering nicks and blemishes on frescoes and sculptures and even improving old film to become more visible. The overall goal of a restorer is to bring a piece back to and beyond its original quality. Between restorers and conservators, the difference is subtle: the restoration artist improves the quality of the artwork, while the art conservator focuses on making sure that the restoration work can be reversed. Both roles require study in not only art and art history but also chemistry and anthropology to be able to understand and handle the artwork in the safest way possible. As a restoration or conservation artist, the passion for the safety, upkeep, and detail of the art is a large part of the job, so if you’re searching for highly technical art-related jobs, you may want to consider polishing your science-related skill sets.
Art handlers work with museums, galleries, and private collectors to move, hang, and otherwise situate artworks. Oftentimes, art handlers are responsible for putting together critical aspects of an exhibition, which frequently includes a significant role in the actual creation of the artwork under the artist’s direction. For example, an art handler might set up a sculpture with multiple parts that can’t be transported as a single piece. While it’s helpful to have an art background for this role, it’s not necessary. Simply understanding how to ship, carry, hang, and care for art is often enough. To that end, educational requirements are limited. What’s more important for an art handler is to possess attention to detail, agility, and of course, strength. Museums and galleries are constantly on the lookout for more art handlers, who often work on a contract, part-time basis. If you’re thinking about taking an active role in the arts industry, this is a good place to start.
Some art handlers turn their experience with museum gigs into successful businesses. Many cater to private collectors to manage artwork within their homes, galleries, and businesses. They often cater to high-end hotels and condo residences, as well.
More and more, artists are seeking representatives independent of their gallery relationships. As the art world continues to evolve thanks to social media, artists are being commissioned for non-traditional gigs, such as fashion collaborations and performance installations (think artist Jen Stark’s fabulous Technicolor set during Miley Cyrus’s MTV VMA’s performance in 2015) or magazine covers. Since artists can now make money outside of just selling their art, they often hire agents to help them land these types of contracts. Agents also help artists land traditional gigs, particularly photographers – with an agent, you’ll have a middleman to help you manage any magazine or editorial projects they can swing your way while also keeping a lookout for commercial work.
While having an arts background is certainly valuable, it’s even more necessary to have marketing experience since your job is to land contracts for artists. Being an artist agent means you will need to be well connected among a lot of different groups – magazines, collectors, event planners, interior designers, and anyone that may want to use an artist in some capacity.
The field of video game design is steadily becoming one of the more widely sought art-related jobs, both by artists and employers. Game designers often work with a team to create video games by coming up with their concepts, characters, story, setting, and gameplay. The designers work with programmers to create the code and artistic procedure of the game. Making video games is a meticulous process involving the creativity of an artist and the practical expertise of computer programmers proficient in 3d modeling. Having this type of experience, along with a degree in art, is crucial if you’re searching for work in video game design. For most employers, a passion for playing video games is often a prerequisite.
Reliant on effective communication and visual appeal, graphic designers immerse themselves in digital media by creating advertisements, brochures, and other marketing materials for companies and small businesses. The fundamentals of graphic design are, of course, graphic art and website design. The likelihood of landing a job in this field increases after earning a bachelor’s degree, as well as with a well-rounded portfolio. Unlike artists, graphic designers don’t produce art for the sake of it; instead, their goal is to put across a message to elicit a response through their work. This can often be seen in making logos or selecting color schemes for clients. Graphic designers tend to focus on a particular digital field, like typography, desktop publishing, web design, and logos. Even though graphic design may not incorporate traditional art skills, the technique and mindset behind it can be acquired through an art degree.
The process of becoming an interior designer is structured and formalized and therefore represents a very alternative career track for an art major. Interior designers create indoor spaces suited to their client’s request or to their intended purpose – whether it be a bedroom, a play area, or office space. Some designers specialize in specific areas or styles, like restaurants or a phase in interior design. The path to becoming an interior designer requires formal education, as well as business and marketing skills on top of the individual’s love for design and creativity. Most interior designers need to hold at least a bachelor’s degree and have experience in courses like drawing and computer-aided design. On top of the technical skills of an interior designer, being able to listen well and communicate is also important. Interior designers must be able to understand their client’s requests and translate them into art before building that vision into a living space. If you’re in search of art-related jobs that allow you to apply your artistic eye to practical, everyday spaces, then consider focusing your arts education on interior design.
Are you an art major? What jobs are you searching for?
Naomi is an intern at Orangenius. She is attending Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she is primarily interested in art history and Japanese.