Art Teacher Career Guide

    Art teachers help students learn about the history of art and provide opportunities for students to create their own art by exploring their own artistic creativity. 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 one, and the salary and job outlook for art teachers.

    Art Teacher Job Description

    Art teachers work primarily to bring knowledge of artistic and creative concepts, including color, shape, and texture, to students in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary learning environments. They help students understand artistic concepts in various types of visual communication, including drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, 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.

    Teacher Quote: “Students must be able to think creatively and synthesize information across disciplines, combining it in innovative ways. They learn analytical reasoning, effective communication, and collaboration by developing knowledge, skills, and competencies through an active and participatory engagement with the arts.” –Gene Diaz and Martha Barry McKenna, Preparing Educators for Arts Integration: Placing Creativity at the Center of Learning

    Art Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

    A bachelor’s degree in education with coursework in art, art education (a Bachelor of Fine Arts–BFA–in Art Education), or art history with a state-approved teacher preparation program is the basic requirement for becoming an art teacher at a public school. Prospective art teachers at the primary level typically pursue a bachelor’s in education while secondary art teachers typically obtain a bachelor’s in art or art history. 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 usually 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 art education, most states now offer alternative paths to obtaining state teaching certification, including pursuing a master’s degree in art education or a related subject. Professional artists without a formal degree may qualify for art teacher positions 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 include high levels of organization and time management, patience, reliability, and artistic talent.

    How to Become an Art Teacher

    People who wish to become art teachers 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 teacher preparation 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 education 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 in art that 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 in bachelor’s degree programs 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 an approved teacher preparation program, there are also alternative paths to teacher certification in most states. Earning a master’s degree that includes a teacher preparation component is another common path to initial teacher licensure.

    Art Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

    Though the US Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide art teacher statistics, we use similar teaching categories as a proxy for data on the median salary and employment outlook. Job growth for elementary, middle, and high school teachers over the decade from 2018 to 2028 is projected at 3-4%, slower than the average for all occupations.1-3 The median annual salary for elementary school teachers in 2018 was $58,230, while middle school teachers earned a median of $58,600, and high school teachers earned a median of $60,320 per year.1-3

    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 will help a candidate stand out from other applicants.

    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.

    Frequently Asked Questionsr

    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: How much do art teachers make?

    Answer: The BLS doesn’t report them median or average salary for art teachers, but the amount depends on many factors, including the grade level taught. The BLS does report that elementary teachers earn a median of $58,230, middle school teachers earn a median of $58,600, and high school teachers earn a median of $60,320 per year.1-3 Other factors that may impact the salary of art teachers include years of experience, type of school, and geographic location.

    Question: Can you become an art teacher without a degree in teaching?While there are exceptions, most schools require state teacher certification. Some private schools may accept demonstrated competency as a substitute for teacher certification.

    Question: Besides public and private 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, daycare centers, senior centers, and non-profit organizations like the YMCA.

    Question: What degree do you need to be an art teacher?

    Answer: Typically, a bachelor’s degree is required to become an art teacher, usually in art or art history or a related subject. If you aim to teach at a public school, teacher certification is also typically a requirement, which requires the completion of a teacher preparation program in addition to (or along with) your degree.

    1. 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. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
    3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm