Turn Your Illustration Hobby into a Career|Turn Your Illustration Hobby into a Career

Turn Your Illustration Hobby into a Career

As a kid, did you enjoy creating your own comic book heroes? Are you still fascinated with modern masterpieces like Beauty and the Beast, Fantasia, and Toy Story? Do you still doodle on any piece of paper nearby?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're likely an illustrator at heart or even one in reality. Transforming this hobby into an actual career is not always easy, but is quite possible--especially for creative people like you. Thanks to technology and modern day entertainment needs, the illustration field offers many exciting opportunities to explore.

Like sculptors and painters, illustrators are artists who create original artwork using a variety of methods and techniques. Illustrators bring to life interpretations of designs and concepts. They can choose a variety of career opportunities in fields like:
  • Advertising
  • Industry
  • Cartoons
  • Video gaming
Illustration Training Options According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of all artists, including illustrators, is expected to grow faster than average--16% through 2016. Despite this growth, job competition is expected to be high, but with determination and advanced training you can make yourself a more competitive candidate.

You don't need a Ph.D. to become an illustrator, but you'll need at least a high-school diploma. Additionally, an associate, bachelor, or master degree in fine art, illustration, graphic design, or a related field will serve you well. You can even earn your degree online, which offers greater scheduling flexibility. Even if you already have a college degree, you may choose to complement it with a degree in illustration or similar studies. For instance, medical illustrators often have a degree in fine arts along with a degree in medical illustration.

Illustration programs are offered at art schools, design schools, colleges, and universities across the county. These programs focus on the aesthetics, philosophy, and business of the art industry and cover subjects like:
  • Drawing
  • 3-D design
  • Art history
Illustration Career OutlookEarnings for illustrators vary. Self-employed, freelance illustrators have the potential to earn more than salaried artists, but others who aren't as well-established may find it difficult to rely solely on earnings from their art. For this reason, many start as part-time freelance illustrators, build a reputation, and go full-time once they are established. It's also common for illustrators to begin their careers in internships or apprenticeships to gain experience and build their resume and portfolio. Some top employers include:
  • Warner Bros. Studios
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Walt Disney Company
As of May 2006, the BLS lists median annual earnings for several different illustration careers:
  • Art directors: $68,100
  • Fine artists, including illustrators: $41,970
  • Multimedia artists: $51,350
The BLS predicts especially strong job opportunities for illustrators involved in creating video games, movie and television special effects, and animated movies. Tech-savvy illustrators will also be in great demand thanks to website and computer graphics needs. Alternative fields, such as scientific research and design services, will also be seeking qualified illustrators.

There are many opportunities that can turn your illustration hobby into a career. So start exploring your options today and begin the exciting journey of pursuing a job in illustration.

Savannah College of Art and Design
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Academy of Art University

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