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 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 meet the grading and curriculum requirements at their school.

Art Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

A bachelor’s degree in education with a state-approved teacher preparation program is the basic requirement for becoming an art teacher at a public school. Additionally, each state requires K-12 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, most states now offer alternative paths to obtaining state teaching certification. Professional artists without a formal degree may qualify based on experience, but may still need to obtain a state license.

Once licensed, art teachers instruct on 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. 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 numerous programs available at the bachelor’s degree level that are designed to lead to initial teacher licensure with a major in art. 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 state teacher certification or licensure. The typical path to becoming an art teacher is as follows:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in art that includes a state-approved teacher preparation program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship at the grade level(s) you wish to teach.
  3. Pass your state’s required tests for art teachers.
  4. Apply for your teaching certificate.
  5. Begin applying to open art teacher positions.

Many states offer a K-12 certification can lead to a career in teaching art from the elementary level through high school. Prospective art teachers may also decide to focus on art education at a specific grade level, such as middle school or high school. On any of these pathways, students can expect to take two years of liberal arts and science courses, as well as art courses. After being admitted to the teacher preparation program at their university, which typically happens in the junior year, students will begin taking courses on methods of teaching specific to the grades they wish to teach. After passing the state tests for teacher certification and completing observations and student teaching, a graduate will be eligible to obtain state teacher certification.

For those who already have a bachelor’s degree in art but did not complete teacher preparation, there are also alternative paths to teacher certification in most states. Earning a master’s degree that includes a teacher preparation component can also lead to initial teacher licensure.

Art Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

Though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 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 and high school teachers over the decade from 2014 to 2024 is projected at 6%, about as fast as the average occupation.1 The median annual salary for elementary school teachers is $54,550, while high school teachers earn a median of $57,200 per year.1,2

Teachers who acquire further training or a national certification may benefit from opportunities for higher pay. Positions in urban or rural environments may offer higher salaries due to the increased demand for quality teachers in those areas.

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 of 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.

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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 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. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm