How to Become an Art Teacher: Job Description, Training & Salary


As a kid, who among us did not love to color and paint? Heck, some of us still love to break out the crayons and coloring book from time to time to put the grown up world behind us. For those of you that have artistic ability beyond simply coloring inside of the lines, a job as an art teacher might spark your interest. It’s an interesting field that allows you to still dabble in your artistic interests while you make a living and help to nurture young minds. If this sounds like something that you might be interested in, then keep on reading because we are going to tell you all about how to become an art teacher.

How to Become an Art Teacher

The job of an art teaching sounds like a pretty cool job if you ask us! You get to play with paint, crayons and clay all day along with watching kids of all ages get their creative juices flowing. Let’s talk a bit about how to become an art teacher, so grab a colored pencil and take some notes if this is a career path that you are going to want to pursue.

Step 1: Develop a Range of Artistic Skills

To be an art teacher you will want to be proficient in various artistic styles and subjects. Some of the basic skills that you will want to have will be in oil painting, watercolor, clay, charcoal as well as other artistic mediums. To increase you knowledge and talent base you can attend some extra art classes during your college days.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To become an art teacher you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree program in art education. There are some states that will also let you become an art teacher after getting a bachelor’s degree in art followed by the completion of a teacher education program. Many students prefer to focus on one specific area of the arts during their schooling, but this specific focus will not hinder your ability to become an amazing art teacher at the elementary, middle school or high school level.

Step 3: Complete a Teach Education Program

If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree program in art education then you will more than likely be in the clear as the required tests to receive your teaching credentials are included. For those that consider completing a bachelor’s degree in art, you will be required to complete the teacher education program before you can begin teaching. Teacher training programs most often require students to complete supplementary courses in lesson planning, classroom management and teaching methods. You will also be required to teach a bit at a school under the watchful eye of a licensed teacher.

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Step 4: Obtain a Teacher’s Certification

Each state will have varying requirements for obtaining a teaching certification and you can bet your crayons that you can only receive this certification if you have the proper formal training. You will also be required to pass some basic skills tests in math and reading with additional focus on art competency, media and design. Also something to keep in mind is that public schools will only hire certified art teachers, but private and community art programs may have different standards in place.

Step 5: Gain Experience Teaching

After you have completed your schooling and received your teaching certification, you will need to get some actual teaching experience under your belt. You can do this by completing an internship, volunteering as an art teacher at a children’s program or working as a substitute teacher. You can look for open teaching positions on local school boards, school websites and educators and teachers union’s classified ads.

Art Teacher Job Requirements

As with every type of career there are certain requirements that are essential to fully performing your job’s tasks. Here are some of the job requirements of an art teacher:

  • Explain and accurately demonstrate how to perform proper artistic techniques
  • Review and grade each students’ class work, performances, projects, assignments and/or papers
  • Promote and moderate classroom discussions about artistic topics
  • Gather and organize course materials in the forms of syllabi, homework assignments and handouts
  • Help your students get ready for exams or assessments no matter which form they may take
  • Constantly review and potentially revise your curriculum to ensure that it is current and in tip top shape
  • Keep as up to date as possible in all areas that you are teaching. This will ensure that you are teaching your kiddos the most up to date information

 Art Teacher Salary

The salary that is to be expected by an art teacher totally depends on the type of school that you are teaching at. What we are saying is – elementary, middle and high school teachers all make slightly different wages. There are also slightly different wages for college art teachers as well.

art teacher 2

According to our pals at the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012 the median annual wage of an elementary school art teacher is $53,400. The top 10% percent of art teachers at the elementary level can expect to earn $83,160 per year and the lowest 10% are likely to earn $35,630 a year.

We checked the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the median annual income of a middle school art teacher too. We found that the BLS is reporting that middle school art teachers are earning $53,430 as of May 2012 with the top 10% earning $82,190 and the lower 10% earning $36,740.

The BLS reports that the median annual wage for high school art teachers as of May 2012 is $55,050. There is a bit of a range here with the top 10% earning $85,690 a year and the lowest 10% earning $36,930 a year. Are you noticing a trend here? We sure are!

Lastly, the expected annual salary of a post-secondary art teacher is slightly higher than the other art teachers that we’ve thrown paint at…oops we mean that we’ve discussed up to this point. We have called on the guys and gals of the BLS for some information about the median wage of a college art teacher. The median annual wage of a college are teacher as of May 2013 is $62,830. The top 10% of earners can make up to $122,360 a year and the lower 10% of earners can make around $32,530 a year.

How to Become an Elementary Art Teach

The requirements to become an elementary art teacher will vary depending on the state that you would like to become employed in. Art teachers to be will need to complete a Bachelor’s of Science in Education with a focus on art degree or a Bachelor of Science in Art Education degree. The groundwork that you will cover in either of these degree programs should really be enough for you to apply for a elementary state teaching license.

On top of your schooling you will also need to have some time actually teaching elementary aged children. A great way to get this experience is to spend some time as a substitute teacher in an art classroom. During your time as a substitute it will give you a great amount of experience using lesson plans as well as learning the expectation of school administration.

We’d also like to add that some schools in some states will consider applicants for an art teacher position that do not have a traditional Bachelor of Science in Art Education degree. They may possibly consider accepting an aspiring art teacher that has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History or a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

To become an elementary art teacher you will be required to take some general education classes to provide a good baseline for the students you will be interacting with on a daily basis. You will need to complete classes in education theory and child development. You also can’t be a very effective art teacher if you don’t have the basics of teaching an art class on your checklist as well. Some common courses that aspiring art teachers will cover in school are art history, drawing, painting, artistic styles and art concepts. Lastly, you will cover some basic classes that will help to function as a teacher and meet the standards of being a teacher. You will attend classes that cover teaching methods, human development, lesson planning and fundamentals of public education.

Luckily there aren’t any formal certification requirements for elementary art teachers other than the state teaching license. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NPBTS) does offer some addition certifications for art teachers that are looking to expand their certification base. The NPBTS offers teachers art certifications in early to middle childhood and early adolescence to young adulthood. You may be required by your state or school to complete some first aid and CPR training since you will be working with young children.

How to Become a High School Art Teacher

art teacher 3There are a few differences between becoming a high school art teacher and an elementary school art teacher, but one thing remains the same. You will have to have a bachelor’s degree in art or art education. You will also be required to complete your teacher training and again, this is best performed as a substitute teacher. You may decide to specialize in students that are in grades 5 through 12. Before you can become a full-fledged high school art teacher, you will be required to take the following classes: human development, learning issues, classroom management, curriculum development, pupil assessment, critical thinking and teaching resources.

You will be required by the state to obtain your state teaching license of course, but you will also be required to take skill assessment tests. This test is called the PRAXIS I test and this must be submitted prior to receiving your license. As a high school art teacher you will likely also have to take the PRAXIS II-Art Content Knowledge exam to test your skills in this area.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Art Teacher

Well this answer kind of rests on you and how long you would like the completion of your bachelor’s degree to take. Typically speaking though, a bachelor’s degree should take about 4 years of steady schooling at a full time course load. Now it’s totally up to you if you’d like to take more or less classes. It really just depends on your personal preference and what you can fit into your life that will ensure that you successfully complete your degree program. Remember that you will have a great career waiting for you at the end of the college tunnel.

Schools for Art Teachers

Concordia University

The Concordia University that is located in Portland, Oregon, offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education. The curriculum at Concordia focuses are the passion for art that comes with a desire to be an art teacher and the required course work is reflective of that as well. At this school you will take classes in art history as well as more specific artistic mediums. Concordia University also offers students some online degree programs as well as course work online.

Eastern Washington University

Eastern Washington University also has a Bachelor of Arts in Education program. This program is available for students that are wishing to pursue a career as an elementary or secondary art education teacher. Like most degrees in this career path, students are able to select a major area of emphasis to focus on during their schooling. As a student at Eastern Washington University you will be able to take classes in drawing, painting and digital art.

Ohio State University

Another viable schooling choice is the Ohio State University. OSU offers a Bachelor of Art Education to students that would like to venture into the world of teaching art to kiddos in grades P through 12 (“P” stands for pre-kindergarten). Being admitted to this program is a bit more difficult than other schools as all interested students are required to fill out an application and submit a portfolio for review…no pressure though, folks. Some of the classes that are offered at the Ohio State University are introduction to ceramics, beginning drawing and encountering contemporary art.

Meet Awesome Art Teacher Carolyn O’Doherty

Sometimes it is really helpful to hear the first hand account of why someone followed a particular career path. Lucky for you guys and gals because we happened to find a great little first-hand account of what made a pretty cool lady named Carolyn O’ Doherty put down her paint brush to teach.

Carolyn teaches lots of different types of art in her classes. She teaches pottery and even cartoon illustration to her students. She loves that her students are as passionate as she is about art. She always had a real love for art and it was an easy choice for her to become an art teacher. In fact she was the first person in her family to achieve a college degree.

She fell into her job as an art teacher by chance when she was working in her art exhibition and a local teacher approached her to apply for a teaching position. That was the turning point in her life and she hasn’t looked back since. Her need for artistic expression and love of teaching has driven her life and she has high hopes of eventually running the art department at her school of employment. Carolyn seems like a pretty awesome lady and her students are lucky to have her as their teacher. Take a quick watch of her YouTube video and see what else she has to say!

Bring on the Funny – Silly Stories from Art Teachers

We all know that kids say and do the most hilarious things. Art teachers seem to catch a good amount of funny kid-isms, so we thought we’d share a few that are sure to tickle your funny bone.

Say “Hello” to Miss Jemma an Art Teacher in the UK

Teacher: “Class, can you please draw a picture of a spaceship?”

About 10 minutes of time elapses and most of the students are happily coloring away and some even make “pew pew” sounds like laser beams. The only hiccup here was that one student seemed to have drawn a bright blue refrigerator

Teacher: “That’s an interesting spaceship, Johnny. It looks more like a refrigerator though. Want to try again?”

Johnny: “Well actually. this is a TARDIS, which is a spaceship AND a time machine. It doesn’t really look like a “fridgegator”, it looks like a police box. Why can’t a spaceship look like a “fridgegator” though?”

The teacher at this point was both amused and a tab bit confused due to not knowing what a TARDIS was. She is now a loyal Doctor Who fan thanks to little Johnny and his TARDIS, spaceship and “fridgegator” hybrid.

Meet Mrs. Oreo (yep that’s her real name) an Art Teacher from Athens, Georgia

Mrs. Oreo was an elementary art teacher and on this particular day was teaching a group of second graders all about painting shadows.

Mrs. Oreo: Today we will be working on painting shadows since we all have shadows that you see on sunny days. The only way you wouldn’t have a shadow would be if you were a vampire, then I guess you would be without one.

Janie (a very precocious little eight year old): *rolls her eyes dramatically* Uhm…Mrs. Oreo! If you or I were actually a vampire we would still totally have a shadow. We wouldn’t have a reflection…”

Yep, Mrs. Oreo totally got owned by an eight year old smart aleck!

Final Grade

It is time to break out the red pen and give the final grades for the job of an art teacher. Let’s go ahead and get right to it for the no holds barred grading of a job as an art teacher.

  • Degree vs. Debt: B-

The degree to debt ratio is totally doable with the career path of an art teacher. The amount of debt that you may incur during your schooling will not be over the top since you will be earning a pretty good salary right out of the gate. Sure college is expensive but it will be worth it when you have a great career that pays you well too.

  • Difficulty of Degree: B

The coursework that is involved when getting your degree to become an art teacher is not too bad at all. It’s not exceptionally hard and doesn’t require much math or technical abilities. You will spend a lot of time fine tuning your artistic abilities and finding new ways to challenge yourself. You will probably find that the hardest thing about this degree path is getting the paint stains off of your skin and out of your clothing.

  • Happiness Quotient: A+

Being an art teacher really sounds like a fun and rewarding job…a little messy too, but it’s all in the name of artistic expression, so bring it on! You can’t really beat a job where you get to immerse yourself in your artistic passions every single working day. Then when you add on to it the act of allowing little and big kids to fully express themselves in any artistic fashion = a good time had by all.

  • Job Outlook: C

The job outlook for art teachers varies slightly depending on whether or not you are teaching elementary and middle school or high school art. For those that are interested in teaching elementary or middle school art classes we have good news. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (yes, we know we keep talking about them and may have a little cyber crush on this awesome data bank) projects there to be a 12% job growth between 2012 and 2022. Now for those that are thinking about teaching art in a high school setting – it might be time to put away the watercolors for now. The job growth is only predicting a 6% growth between 2012 and 2022. This means that the job growth is slower than average for all other jobs, so not so hot in our opinion.

Sources and Recommended Reading

We kindly put down our pastels and sketch pad to find these super helpful links for you. Don’t forget that we do like to slip some of them into the article, so you can click throughout or just copy and paste from right here. Different paint strokes for different folks and all.

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