Art teachers instruct, inspire and help students express themselves creatively. Through their art, people of all ages can not only explore their emotions, they can share them as well. They can also use art to explore their creativity and give free rein to their imaginations. As an art teacher, you will guide your students through all these processes and will also instill in them a lifelong love of art in all its facets.
Art education includes a balance of theoretical and practical knowledge of art theory, color theory, design, art history and other art-related subjects. The art curriculum in K-8 is broad and gets more concentrated in high school and college.
K-12 art teachers in public schools may work with students from kindergarten through secondary school, based on their certification. Teaching art at the college level or teaching K-12 at a private school doesn’t require certification. Most teachers don’t have to work during the summer months, although some teach summer school.
Our guide offers insights into the required education, salary and job outlook of the art teaching profession. Browse through the content or use the following links to jump to your desired destination:
At-a-glance: Art teachers
|Elementary and middle school||High school||College/postsecondary|
|Education||Bachelor’s; master’s preferred||Bachelor’s; master’s preferred||Master’s/Doctorate|
|Typical study time||4-6 years||4-6 years||5-10 years|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
The requirements and education level needed to teach art depends upon the level of the class being offered. Teaching art at an after-school program or a community center may require nothing more than a basic understanding of art and art techniques. To teach at an elementary school, most states require teaching candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in education and meet other stringent requirements as well. To teach art at the college level, you will need a master’s degree.
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Art teacher job description
Art teachers prepare lessons daily for each class. The work includes rounding up the supplies needed to complete the assignments. But teaching art is more than just art projects. Students also learn about art history, color theory, composition and elements of design.
Students in the lower grade levels are typically more excited to be in art class, and the art teacher can even be viewed as a celebrity in some schools. When teaching high school students, the lessons are more complex, but the students may be less motivated to do the work because they doubt their skills and don’t want to appear foolish in front of their peers.
Teaching art vs. creating art: It’s important to note that teaching art and creating art are two completely different disciplines, and not all artists enjoy teaching. The student teaching component in an aspiring art teacher’s education is a crucial time to assess whether this career is a good choice.
“My favorite thing about being an art teacher is getting to experiment with creativity every day with my students—trying out new ideas from a variety of inspirations, from other artists to new media to history and academic connections. I love spreading the idea that art is connected to everything and everyone!”
– Hope Knight, Elementary School Art Teacher, Johns Creek, Ga.
Who makes good art teachers?
Additionally, a great art teacher is:
- An artist who is passionate about teaching.
- Able to encourage creativity in others.
- Energized by working with young people.
- Skilled in traditional 2D and 3D art techniques as well as digital art tools.
“Teaching art is not just a job for me, but is my mission/ministry in life! As a pastor is called to the church…I feel I am called to the art room. It is a place where I can grow students in the creative, but also provide them stability, grow confidence, and show compassion. Where else could I have such an impact?”
– Ted Edinger, Elementary School Art Teacher, Hermitage, Tenn.
Interested in becoming an art teacher?
Here’s a spotlight on Joe Fusaro, a high school art teacher who helped his students define “power” through paintings and drawings.
“I believe, that as an art educator, inspiring children to engage in the visual arts is a reward in itself. The exhilaration I feel when students first discover that they can draw or that they can produce their own painting, and/or create designs using technology is an indescribable event. When this new-found wisdom has the ability to alter the way they view the world or even change their lives, it becomes priceless.”
– Andrea Love, K-8 Art Teacher, Sturgeon, Mo.
Teaching art at the various levels
The work environment of an art teacher depends on the type of art being taught and the age of the students involved. The environment for a college-level line drawing class, for instance, will probably be a quiet studio with good lighting and lots of open space for drawing tables. A pot-throwing class, on the other hand, will require work benches, potter’s wheels and firing kilns. A class filled with young children will require lots of hands-on aid from their teacher.
The creative environment of an art class — especially one that involves children — necessitates a certain amount of chaos. If you thrive in a noisy, busy, messy, unstructured environment, you will thrive as an art teacher.
A number of other factors come into play in deciding what education level to teach. These include:
- Range and breadth of art concepts: the higher the grade level, the more specialized the curriculum.
- Age and motor skill levels of students, from kindergarten to college.
- Local salary considerations and employment opportunities.
“I love being an art teacher because I am able to use my creativity every day. It is very rewarding to watch children grow and develop their artistic voice. Art is a powerful way to communicate and children have lots to say!”
– Marcia Beckett, Elementary School Art Teacher, Madison, Wis.
K-12: art teachers in elementary, middle and high school
Art teachers in the K-12 levels generally teach in classroom or workshop settings. Some art programs are held after normal class hours, usually as part of an after-school program.
Click here for in-depth details about K-12 art teachers
- What do elementary, middle and high school art teachers do?
- Educational and certification requirements
- Salary and employment projections
- Pros and cons of being a K-12 art teacher
Because students in K-12 settings differ greatly in motor skill development and creativity, K-12 art teachers must proactively seek various forms of instruction and assessment to enrich the classroom.
K-12 art teacher job description
Elementary art teachers on average teach 24 classes per week and may teach in a single school or travel from school to school within a district. Middle school and high school art teachers are most likely to teach one or two more specialized subjects in a classroom.
Typical duties include:
- Planning lessons and preparing materials for class activities.
- Instructing students individually and in groups, using various teaching methods such as lectures, discussions and demonstrations.
- Explaining and demonstrating artistic techniques.
- Evaluating and grading students’ classwork and projects.
- Developing and enforcing classroom rules for behavior.
K-12 art curriculum
Art instruction in elementary grades is general and becomes more specialized at the middle school and high school levels.
Elementary school art curriculum: The purpose of K-5 art classes is to inspire an interest in art and allow students to creatively express themselves through visual arts.
- Students learn basic skills in drawing, painting and crafts.
Middle school art curriculum: Students continue to refine their basic skills.
- Art history is introduced.
- Various elements of art are covered: shapes, textures, perspective, etc.
High school art curriculum: More specific classes are offered.
- Popular classes include ceramics, photography, video production and computer animation.
- Art theory is introduced.
- Students spend more time on creating art.
How to become an elementary, middle or high school art teacher: educational requirements
Ideally, to become an art teacher you would earn a degree in art education. However, not all schools that offer education degrees offer an art education degree, so you could double major in general education and art.
Most student teachers spend one or two semesters in a K-12 art classroom, teaching under the direction of an experienced art teacher. During this time, student teachers plan lessons, teach students how to create art projects and learn how to grade art projects fairly.
|Kindergarten Art teacher||Elementary school Art teacher||Middle school Art teacher||High school Art teacher|
|Less than high school diploma||2.0%||0.2%||0.2%||0.2%|
|High school diploma or equivalent||13.2%||0.3%||0.3%||0.3%|
|Some college, no degree||23.8%||2.9%||2.9%||2.3%|
|Doctoral or professional degree||0.7%||3.9%||3.9%||4.0%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for teachers overall, and not art specific)
Almost half of all K-12 art teachers pursue a master’s or doctorate degree.
Certification requirements for K-12 art teachers
All public school teachers in the United States are required to be licensed or certified, however, certification specifics vary from state to state. Teachers are usually required to take professional development classes as a condition of certification.
A license is not required to teach in private schools, but some schools prefer certification.
Teaching License Reciprocity by State: Visit our state-by-state teacher licensing and reciprocity page for regulations in your state.
K-12 art teacher salary and employment projections
The median salary for K-12 art teachers across the U.S. ranges from $46,999 to $56,630 annually:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: $53,090 to $56,630
- Glassdoor: $46,999
- Indeed: $55,000
- Simply Hired: $52,000
K-12 art teacher employment projections
Jobs for K-12 teachers are expected to increase by 12 percent through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specific data about K-12 art teachers is not included in the report. According to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Education, budget cuts during the past decade have impacted arts education, leading to fewer visual arts classes offered in elementary schools. Middle schools and high schools were not as adversely affected.
But there are efforts to reverse some of the cuts. Many states are restoring funding for arts education as part of their new academic standards. School districts in Dallas, Portland and Chicago are increasing arts education in the curriculum in an effort to cultivate creativity in students. This “STEAM” movement (STEM + Arts) is championed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Pros and cons of being a K-12 art teacher
- Getting to do what you love — create art.
- Most of your students love being in your class.
- Most art teachers have summers off.
- Not being taken as seriously as teachers of other subjects.
- Feeling isolated, especially if you’re a traveling art teacher.
- Extra duties such as bus, cafeteria or detention duty.
Postsecondary/college art teachers
College art teachers help students develop their artistic techniques and give insight on how to market and build their creative professions.
Click here for in-depth details about postsecondary/college art teachers
- What do postsecondary-level art teachers do?
- Educational requirements
- Salary and employment projections
- Pros and cons of being a postsecondary art teacher
The type of courses an art professor teaches depends on his or her expertise, such as painting, drawing, digital media or ceramics. Art professors typically are practicing art professionals who show and sell their work.
Postsecondary art teacher job description
Postsecondary art teachers’ schedules generally are flexible. College teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and keep office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule and decide when and where they will prepare for class and will grade assignments. However, all postsecondary teachers typically spend some time, outside of their teaching and student advising duties, in carrying out administrative responsibilities such as serving on committees.
Typical duties include:
- Explaining and demonstrating artistic techniques.
- Preparing and delivering lectures to undergraduate or graduate students on topics such as art techniques and art history.
- Initiating, facilitating and moderating classroom discussions.
- Evaluating and grading students’ classwork, performances, projects, assignments and papers.
- Staying up on developments in the field by reading current literature and participating in professional conferences.
Art courses at the college level are more specialized than at the K-12 level. Subjects can include painting, drawing, graphic design, sculpture, photography, animation, media arts and art history. Most college art professors must also have at least several years of professional artist experience in the medium they wish to teach.
What about teaching art online?
Art instruction is not just restricted to the classroom. Many art educators teach classes online. They typically give the lecture and demonstrate the techniques through video, and students post their work online for discussion and feedback. Many of these online instructors work as adjunct instructors and teach on a contract basis. Some online adjuncts teach several courses for multiple schools and work enough hours to be considered full time.
How to become a postsecondary art teacher: educational requirements
To become an art professor, it’s recommended you earn a degree in visual arts or fine arts. Most community colleges and universities require a master’s degree of full-time professors, but some junior colleges may accept a bachelor’s degree for adjunct positions.
Level of educational attainment for postsecondary teachers:
- Less than high school diploma: 0.2%
- High school diploma or equivalent: 0.1%
- Some college, no degree: 2.6%
- Associate degree: 2.3%
- Bachelor’s degree: 16.0%
- Master’s degree: 35.6%
- Doctoral or professional degree: 43.3%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Postsecondary/college art teacher salary and employment projections
The median salary for postsecondary art teachers across the U.S. ranges from $53,624 to $82,601 annually:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: $62,830
- Indeed: $63,000
- HigherEd Jobs: $53,624 to $82,601
Employment of postsecondary teachers overall is projected to grow 16 percent through 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Part-time positions will make up a considerable amount of these new jobs. Many openings for teachers at all types of postsecondary institutions are resulting from retiring teachers coupled with steady increases in student enrollments. Adults returning to college and foreign-born students will also add to enrollment increases, especially in fast-growing states such as California, Texas, Florida, New York and Arizona.
A note on tenure: For postsecondary teachers, a significant goal in the traditional academic career is attaining tenure — a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. Tenure can take up to seven years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching. However, institutions are relying more heavily on limited-term and part-time faculty contracts; therefore, tenured positions and positions on a “tenure track” are declining.
Pros and cons of being a college art teacher
- A flexible schedule with more time to work on your art.
- Part-time work can supplement your income from selling artwork.
- The opportunity to teach students who are interested in art.
- Dealing with department politics.
- It’s difficult to get hired full time and even more so to get tenure.
- An adjunct professor has little job security.
Professional development for art teachers
As the K-12 art curriculum includes more digital art, many art educators find they need to update their skills with more training in digital art media. These classes are offered through community colleges, universities and online. For K-12 teachers especially, continuing education classes are required as a condition of certification renewal.
Other avenues for professional development are conventions and conferences. The National Art Education Association (NAEA) holds a national convention each year where art teachers can learn about new developments in the field, take continuing education classes and network with other art educators.
“I love being an art teacher because an education in Visual Art helps to develop a whole child who is aware of infinite possibilities for self-expression while fully understanding the challenge of constantly refining skills to be able to communicate her/his ideas. Visual Arts education engages students in problem solving through the steps of ideation, evaluation, revision and presentation. This process is used in all areas of life, yet is rarely learned in other disciplines in the creative way in which it is explored through the Visual Arts.”
– Alice Matthews Gentili, Middle School Art Teacher, Mendon, Mass.
Professional associations for art teachers
- National Art Education Association
- Arts Education Partnership
- Association of Teaching Artists
- College Art Association
Jobs available to art teachers beyond teaching
An art teacher can find employment in many types of educational settings. Many summer camps, day camps, day care centers and after-school programs offer art classes. Art classes are often offered as part of programs like the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA. Most public schools offer art as part of their ongoing curriculum, as do most universities and colleges. Adult learning centers, community colleges, and even some senior centers offer art classes as well. All of these environments create positions for art teachers.
There are also a number of art-related careers that an art educator can pursue outside of teaching. Some of these positions include:
- Graphic designer
- Art director
- User interface designer
- Museum educator
- Art curator
- Exhibit designer
- Community arts program director
- Art therapist
Best of the Web: Our favorite art teacher websites and Twitter handles
Favorite art teacher websites
- Thomas Elementary Art
- Cassie Stephens
- Smart Class
- Art Teachers Hate Glitter
- Art with Mr. E
- Dali’s Moustache
- Tales from the Traveling Art Teacher
- Art Is Basic
- Organized Chaos
Favorite art teacher Twitter handles
- Art Teacher: @NYarteacher
- Andrea Love: @ArtTeacherK8MO
- Miss Szilagyi: @ArtTeacherSara
- Mrs. Knight: @MKSAfaf
- Cheryl Trowbridge: @TeachKidsArt
- Jessica Balsley: @theartofed
- Artist Teacher: @TeachArtDesign
- Jennifer Carlisle: @Carlisleartclas
- Mona Lisa Lives Here: @MonaLisaLivesHe
- Sherri Kushner: @sherrip
- "Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013
- "Elementary School Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013
- "Occupational Outlook for Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
- "Occupational Outlook for Middle School Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Middle School Teachers
- "Occupational Outlook for High School Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, High School Teachers
- "Occupational Outlook for Postsecondary Teachers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Postsecondary Teachers