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Illustration Degree

An illustrator can help you win American presidency! While it may be an overstatement but who can deny the power of Frank Shepherd Fairey’s “Hope” poster in the 2008 presidential election?

An illustration degree gives those individuals who aspire to be artists the necessary skills and education required in order to work in the field. These degrees explore both the practical and theoretical aspects of art and cover all of the various mediums used today in illustration.
Typically, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient to seek out employment in the field. A master’s degree may be pursued by those looking to further refine their skills, while doctoral degrees are intended for aspiring teachers or researchers.

What Does Illustration Mean?

Illustration is a method used to communicate visually. It is a way of portraying and enhancing words, sentiments, products, and various other forms of communication. A degree in illustration allows individuals to develop their own visual language in order to communicate effectively through art.
The field of illustration is broad and covers a large range of tools and techniques. Today, illustration may be used to entertain, inform, decorate, or illuminate. It can be used in everything from entertainment, popular media and advertising to books, packaging, etc. The possibilities within the field are seemingly boundless.

Illustration Degree Types

Illustration no longer simply refers to tools and techniques that were used in the past to bring art to life. With the advent of technology, illustration itself has evolved considerably. Now, there are many digital programs, software, tools, and techniques that students need to be familiar with in illustration. Illustration degrees teach students the necessary conceptual and technical skills required in order to be successful in an increasingly competitive profession.
Online illustration courses and degrees are very rare due to the fact that students must physically attend studio sessions and are required to build a portfolio in an on-campus workspace. The degree is too hands-on in nature to be offered online.

Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration

Bachelor’s degree programs in illustration explore both traditional and digital illustration methods. Students spend a considerable amount of time learning a wide range of illustration skills including painting, drawing, and computer-based illustration. This work typically takes place in a studio setting. Classroom components of the program cover the history of art and art theory. The program culminates with a final project or exhibition, and students may also be required to submit a portfolio of all of their work.

 This program typically takes four years to complete.
Entry Requirements:

  • A high school diploma or its equivalent
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • A portfolio of all of your creative work
  • ACT or SAT scores are required by some universities
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of entry

The curriculum of these programs involves a mixture of general education courses, theoretical courses, and practical components.
Some of the courses typically offered in these programs include:

  • Introduction to color theory
  • Fundamentals of digital illustration
  • 3-D design
  • Introduction to painting
  • Introduction to drawing and illustration
  • History of art and illustration
  • Drawing animals
  • Digital image editing

Master of Arts Degree in Illustration

A master’s degree program in illustration is intended for those individuals who wish to study illustration in-depth, further develop their portfolios, or study a specific concentration area within the field.
Entry Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in illustration
  • A portfolio of all of your creative work
  • Professional experience
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of entry
  • For some programs, applicants may have to appear for an interview

The curriculums of these programs build upon the previous artistic knowledge students have gained in order to help them further their skills and develop their own creative voice. The program involves both practical and theoretical components. Students will spend time in the studio and learn advanced methods of illustration. Some programs even offer you the chance to specialize in a specific type of illustration such as digital illustration.
Some of the illustration courses which may be offered in this degree program include:

  • Illustrating characters
  • Studio session: illustration
  • Art and narrative form
  • Conceptual communication
  • Visual thesis
  • Illustration in film
  • History of illustration

Ph.D. in Illustration

Ph.D. programs in illustration are intended for those who wish to teach fine arts, including illustration, at the postsecondary level. Students will choose an area of concentration and study art history, art culture, and art theory in depth. The program culminates with a thesis project or dissertation.
Entry Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in illustration
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • Statement of entry
  • Some programs may require applicants to submit a portfolio of their work

The curriculum of doctoral programs is made up of courses relating to your chosen area of concentration, as well as core courses on art, culture and research. Much of the program is also devoted to the development of a dissertation.
Some courses which may be available in these programs include:

  • Qualitative research
  • Art and culture studies
  • Methods and theory in art history
  • Research in the arts
  • Educational research

What Can You Do With an Illustration Degree?

With a degree in illustration, individuals may work as professional artists in a number of different settings. Some of the common jobs that one may seek out with this degree include:

  • Magazine illustrators
  • Newspaper contributors and illustrators
  • Entertainment industry
  • Cartoonist
  • Graphic novel illustrator
  • Book illustrator
  • Film or television animator
  • Advertising illustrator for periodicals, direct mail or greeting card companies
  • Freelance artist

Job Prospects & Salary

Here are some statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics concerning careers for illustrators:
Craft and Fine Artists

  • In 2012, the annual median salary made by craft and fine artists was $44,380.
  • The median annual wages in 2012 was $44,850 for fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators.
  • The top 10 percent of professionals in this field earned more than $93,220.
  • The projected employment growth for fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, between the years 2012-22 is 4%.
  • Competition for these jobs is very strong and will continue to remain intense.

A degree in illustration provides aspiring artists with the necessary skills and knowledge to secure employment in an increasingly competitive field. A bachelor’s degree will typically suffice for entry level positions in the field. Those looking to further refine their skills or teach at the postsecondary level would have to consider graduate and doctoral degrees in illustration.


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What are the majors related to illustration programs?

A:If you are looking for majors similar or related to illustration programs, you could look into graphic design, sequential art, painting, printmaking, branded entertainment, accessory design, architecture, advertising, arts administration, art history, fibers, industrial design, historic preservation, interactive design and game development and photography. These could also be opted for as minors with an illustration major. Source: SCAD

Q:What are online illustration courses?

A:Online illustration courses help students develop a unique portfolio that demonstrates their personal style along with high level of professional skills. Student portfolios are deemed to be of a professional quality in terms of drawing and understanding of figures, concepts and storytelling, use of color to convey feelings and moods, perspective and compositional skills, skillfulness of technique, content, presentation and market factor.

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