Art Teacher Career Guide

Art teachers help students learn about the important concepts and history of art and provide opportunities for students to create their own art. An art teacher should have a strong enthusiasm for art and enjoy teaching young people. In this guide you will find information about what art teachers do, how to become an art teacher, and art teacher salary and outlook.

Art Teacher Job Description

Art teachers work primarily to bring knowledge of artistic and creative concepts to students in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary learning environments. They help students understand the artistic concepts in various types of visual communication, including drawing, painting, ceramics, and design. Additionally, they must work to cultivate these skills while meeting the academic and emotional needs of each student as well as the grading and curriculum requirements at their school.

Art Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

A bachelor’s degree in education through a state-approved teacher preparation program is the basic requirement for becoming an art teacher at a public school. Additionally, each state requires teachers to obtain a license or certification from the state by fulfilling the requirements overseen by the board of education. Licenses are not required for art teachers working in private institutions but some private schools may prefer teachers with a state license or certification. For prospective teachers who did not complete a bachelor’s in education, all states now offer alternative paths to obtaining a state teaching certification. Additionally, professional artists without a formal degree may qualify based on experience, but still need to obtain a state license. Once licensed, art teachers instruct the basic principles of art and its history through hands-on interaction with their students. They must supervise student progress, assist students in cultivating their creativity, manage classroom discipline, grade papers, and prepare lessons. Furthermore, art teachers interact with management, other instructors, parents and the community to address issues from the student level to the school budget. The basic attributes of a successful art teacher will include high levels of organization and time management, patience, reliability and artistic creativity.

How to Become an Art Teacher

Those who wish to become an art teacher must first choose which path they are interested in taking. There are several teacher degree programs that can lead to a state teacher certification and eligibility for employment as an art teacher. Some teacher preparation programs are intended to lead to initial licensure with additional coursework in art. Other programs combine curriculum for a degree in art with curriculum for a degree in education. One of the important factors to consider is whether the program is approved by your state’s department of education and whether it will satisfy requirements for a state teacher certification or licensure.

Some candidates decide upon a teacher preparation program with a middle school endorsement in art, which can lead to a career teaching middle school, while others decide upon a special K-12 certification, which can lead to teaching students from K-12. To receive a teacher certification with a middle school endorsement in art, students can expect to take two years of general courses. After admission into the education program at their university, these students will then begin taking a regimen of courses on the methods of teaching. These classes will cover content of all subject areas, and after passing the mandatory state testing and completing all observations and student teaching, a graduate will be eligible to obtain a state teacher certification if all the state requirements are fulfilled. To receive the endorsement in art, students must take a number of art courses and the proper courses for middle school endorsement. This route would allow the candidate to teach in an elementary school as a regular education teacher, or allow them to teach middle school art.

A special K-12 certification can lead to a career in teaching art at an elementary or high school. With the extra courses, those educators may be eligible to teach at middle schools or junior high schools. The student can expect to take two years of general education classes, and then move on to the education classes after being accepted into a school of education. These students will experience a variety of courses designed to expose the student to a variety of grade levels and topics. A number of art classes are also required. After passing the state mandated testing and successfully completing student teaching and all other requirements, the graduate will be eligible to apply for a license to teach. There are also alternate paths to certification, which are based on each student’s educational background and experience.

Art Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

Since the government doesn’t provide art teacher statistics, we can look at similar teaching categories for data on the median salary and employment outlook. Job growth for elementary teachers over the decade of 2012-2022 is projected at 12% or about as fast as the average occupation.1 For high school teachers, job growth is expected to be slower at 6%.2 The median annual salary for elementary teachers and high school teachers is $53,400 and $55,050 respectively.1,2

Teachers who acquire further training or a national certification may benefit from opportunities for higher pay. Positions in extreme urban or rural environments offer higher salaries due to the demand for quality teachers in those areas. Additionally, states in the South and West are experiencing large enrollment increases, resulting in a heightened demand for teachers in those areas. Northwest enrollment is forecast to decline, so teachers who are willing to relocate may find more opportunities. Moreover, the non-English speaking population continues to increase, resulting in opportunities for bilingual teachers.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Skills and experience in both teaching and art will help individuals be effective in this career. Strong communication skills and in-depth knowledge about art history and art concepts can help a candidate stand out from other applicants.

Examples of Job Requirements

  • State teacher certification or license.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Ability to work effectively with students, parents, and administrators.
  • Ability to modify instruction to meet student needs.

Additional Resources

National Art Education Association – A leading professional association for visual art educators from the elementary school to college level. The NAEA also provides lesson plans and a job board for members.

Art Teacher Degrees and Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming an Art Teacher

Question: Do you need special training to become an art teacher?

Answer: In some states you can apply for an art endorsement to add to your teacher certification. The requirements vary but may require additional coursework in art and a portfolio.

Question: Can you become an art teacher without a degree in teaching?

Answer: While there are exceptions, most schools require a state teacher certification. Some private schools may accept demonstrated competency as a substitute for a teacher certification.

Question: Besides public schools, what are other employers of art teachers?

Answer: There are many organizations that offer art classes and may provide a source of full or part-time employment. These include churches, community centers, day care centers, senior centers, and non-profit organizations like the YMCA.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm