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What is an Art Teacher?

An Art Teacher is an educator who specializes in teaching students how to create and appreciate art. You will teach children drawing, painting, ceramics, printmaking, and any other art form your resources provide. You might also include units that focus on art history. Your classroom will be full of art supplies and its walls will likely be covered with student art and other creative, stimulating items. Whoever said that those who can’t do teach never met an art teacher. You’ll not only demonstrate techniques to your students, but you might also bring them all together to work on group projects. This gives you the chance to take them all the way through the process of creating large projects that they wouldn’t have time to complete on their own.

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Steps to Becoming an Art Teacher

To become an art teacher, you need passion. Not only do you need a passion for art, but a passion for teaching and nurturing children. You can then take that passion and pursue the path that will allow you to take over your very own art classroom.

That path first goes through a bachelor’s degree. You should find a state approved teacher education preparation program that includes an Art Education specialty. Barring that, you can likely major in teacher preparation and pick up a double major, or a minor, in Art. From there, you must pass the required standardized tests, land a job, and then receive your state's teaching credentials.

  • Step 1: Earn a Degree

  • Step 2: Student Teaching

  • Step 3: Pass Your Exams

  • Step 4: Get Your License


Step 1: Earn an Art Education Degree

The first step towards having your very own art classroom is typically an art education bachelor's degree. You can start with an associate's degree, but you will eventually want a bachelor's degree, and perhaps even a master’s. With an associate's degree you can enter a classroom as a licensed Paraprofessional, also known as a Teacher's Aide. Your state may have special licensure qualifications for this position.

With a Bachelor's degree, and a state licensure, you can attain a full teaching credential and launch a career in a classroom of your very own.

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Step 2: Student Teaching

As part of your Bachelor's degree, you will need to complete a student teaching experience. This is considered its own step because it is a vital rite of passage for all licensed teachers. This will likely be your first experience in front of a classroom of eager art students.

During the process, you will work under the direct tutelage and mentoring of the school's art teacher. You will also have a faculty adviser at your college or university who will offer advice and encouragement along the way. They will help you with things such as classroom management, lesson planning, instructional execution, and grading.

At the end of this process, you will likely need to submit various artifacts from your experience, such as a portfolio that documents the experience, a formal write-up, and perhaps even examples of outstanding student artwork. Your college adviser will provide you with a rubric to follow.

Step 3: Pass Your Exams

A large part of any teaching credential is the state approved standardized tests. Most states require the PRAXIS exams. When you first start moving towards your teaching credential, you should take the PRAXIS I. This is a test of your math and verbal skills that is very much like the SAT or ACT. Since you're already in college, this test shouldn't pose too much of a problem. However, if you don't meet the state's minimum requirement for one or both parts, you can retake the problematic portion independent of the other. After you pass the PRAXIS I, you can move on to your subject test.

The PRAXIS II subject test will measure your knowledge of art and teaching the subject. ETS has guides for each of their PRAXIS tests, so you can prepare and be ready to ace it on the first try.

Note that some states, such as California, don't use PRAXIS tests and instead have their own individual approaches to this step in the process. Your particular program will groom you for whatever test their specific state requires. In fact, California has a series of three or more tests.

Step 4: Get Your License

Once you have passed the required tests and completed your education, you need to make sure the rest of your application is complete by providing the state with your transcripts, background check, and letter of recommendation from your department. Once these things are in order, you should get a job.

While you are in the midst of your student teaching experience, see if that school or others in its district need art teachers. You might talk to other teachers in the building to see if they have any information, and make sure your principal knows that you are actively seeking employment. She might know of an as-yet-unannounced opening in that school or elsewhere. Keep in mind that jobs as an art teacher are not very prevalent, so you might need to take an unlicensed teaching position until your dream job opens up. When you land a job, your hiring principal will submit paperwork to the state, and you will then receive your teacher's license.

What Does an Art Teacher Do?

An Art Teacher spends her days in a classroom working with students on a variety of art projects. If you become an art teacher, you will have a working knowledge of a wide range of artistic methods, including oil painting, watercolors, latex painting, printmaking, ceramics, pen & ink, and charcoal drawing. You will be responsible for assessing student work with an objective rubric and assigning grades on that basis.

You might also start an Art Club for students who have special interest in art. Many schools expect teachers to take on such extra-curricular activities and thus enhance the educational value of the school. This will be more important for middle school teachers and high school art teachers, as older students can spend time at school after hours or take special field trips with the club.

To advance the cause of art in your school, you might spearhead other initiatives such as art contests and field trips. Contests will stimulate students with a spirit of friendly competition. Field trips to art museums or exhibits in your town will broaden your students' horizons and larger trips to other cities' art museums will the spirit of lifelong learning.

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Art Teacher Skills to Acquire

Business Administrators are expected to handle a variety of challenging situations while being in two places at once - or at least making it seem that way. In the business profession, gaining new skills could lead to higher positions.

Six most suggested skills:

  • Art Skills
    To teach art, you must have skills in a wide range of artistic mediums. You should be able to teach students how to draw, paint, create 3-dimensional objects with clay, and more. While your specialty might be ceramics, your undergraduate coursework and studio time should be devoted to a wide range of mediums. After all, students will likely find an affinity for a single medium, so you'll need to expose them to a range of artistic expression.

  • Classroom Management
    Art classes might especially need a tightly managed classroom, especially with younger students. You need to grab student attention and keep them focused on the task at hand, rather than how to create a mess with paint.

  • Instructional Skill
    Art is a process, so you'll need to thoroughly instruct students on each step. You'll also need to find creative approaches so that less-engaged students find an interesting entry point to the lessons.

  • Organization
    Every teacher needs to maintain a high level of organization. That means keeping all of your lessons in order, not to mention your classroom. Where most other teachers simply keep their rooms neat, you need to make sure that your classroom is well-organized. If it becomes disordered, the students will make it even more messy.

  • Objectivity
    Art is inherently subjective. Not every student will share your artistic sensibilities, so you will need to have this vital skill in order to give effective feedback and grades.

  • Fund Raising
    It's a sad fact that our schools are struggling to provide adequate resources for teachers. This is perhaps even more true for art teachers. Thus, you may need to find creative ways to fund all the supplies you need in your classroom. There are grants available and perhaps you could kick off some other independent fund-raising efforts. Check with our principal to make sure any fundraising is legal.

Alternative Paths

To fill in gaps on school faculty rosters, many states Boards of Education have allowed districts to entice new teachers with alternative routes to licensure. Thus, if you have a bachelor's degree in art, but haven't received teacher education preparation training, you can still be hired by a principal. They'll need to prove that you are the only and best candidate for the job, that you are pursuing the preparation coursework from a state-approved program, and that you otherwise have shown dedication to a program leading to full licensure. It will help if you have been working as an artist in some capacity, especially if you have been giving private lessons, or teaching your targeted age group in a community center.

When you pursue this route, you will need to take education courses at night while teaching full-time during the day. You must also take PRAXIS I & II, and you will be paired with a mentor who will sit in on your classroom and offer suggestions for improvement.

This alternative route can be a fantastic way to both earn money and achieve maximum fulfillment. Many states also offer alternatives to former military personnel. This program is called Troops to Teachers. Thus, if you are retiring from twenty or more years in the military, teaching offers a career change that allows time off in summer, and satisfaction all year long. In fact, if you achieve a state licensure, you can work alongside the military by teaching on bases worldwide.

Art Teacher Career & Salary

Where Might You Work?


You are most likely to work in a public school. After all, most preparation programs groom their students to attain state licensure and join a school district faculty. Public schools offer competitive pay as well as adequate resources. You are also guaranteed steady raises that coincide with your experience and if you attain additional degrees your salary will reflect that.

If you attain a master's degree in art education you might also teach for a college or university. You might not qualify for tenure, as an MFA doesn't carry quite the weight it once did. Nonetheless, an MFA on top of recognition in the art world might help you with long-term employment.

Art teachers can also give private lessons or teach private classes at local community centers, art galleries, or even retirement centers. If your town has a robust population of home-school students, their parents might like to sign their children up for supplemental courses in the arts.

There are also opportunities in private schools, including Charter Schools. Some Charter Schools are focused on arts so you might have an opportunity to delve deeper into your strongest areas of expertise. Private schools are also more selective, so you are likely to have students who are more engaged than you'll find in typical public schools.

Potential Career Paths

Educators have many valuable skills. In fact, many move from teaching into jobs as project managers, salespeople, or other managerial positions. After all, if you are working with around 100 students per day, you need exquisite managerial skills to be highly effective. If you have an art degree, your opportunities take on a new dimension. Here are a few careers you might consider:

Graphic Designer
Your artistic abilities can be focused to graphic design if you have skills with the Adobe Creative Suite. You can pick up freelance projects if you are teaching full-time or pursue graphic arts full-time in an advertising agency.

Set Designer
Local live theaters often need talented visionaries to design and build sets for their shows. While this might not be full-time work, it can certainly augment your work as an art teacher. Further, when you put your artwork on display you may find other opportunities for paid artistic work.

Many art students pursue commercial mural painting as a viable career choice. You could also find work painting murals that express your original ideas. Many urban buildings employ muralists to beautify their street presence.

Preschool Teacher
Preschool students love to finger paint and create all sorts of whimsical pieces for their parents and grandparents. You are sure to show toddlers how to make turkeys with their hand print or to fold construction paper and make a valentine’s day heart.

Special Education
This specialty area might involve artwork, or it might involve loads of love and patience for students who have profound disabilities. It might also involve helping otherwise talented, but learning disabled, students to express themselves in a visual medium.

School Administration
After five or more years in the classroom, you can attain an M.Ed. and pursue a license in school administration. From this vantage, you will steer a school's faculty and curriculum, while inspiring students with your passion and wisdom.

Art Teacher Career Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Art Teacher, K-12 $39,000 $45,000 $61,000
Art Education Teacher, BFA - - -
Art Education Teacher, BFAEd - - -
Art Teacher, Secondary Education $35,600 $38,300 $54,500
Art Education Teacher, MA - - -
Art Teacher, Postsecondary Education - - -

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the overall teaching profession is slated to grow by approximately 7% through 2026, which is an average rate of expansion. As for art teachers, there is no specific data available. However, media reports would indicate that funding for arts in schools is on the decline, which is dismaying. On the other hand, the rise of Charter Schools might offer more hope. Some Charter Schools have an arts focus, meaning that they will be looking to hire talented art teachers.

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To improve your employment opportunities, you could always attain special endorsements so that you might offer more to a principal. For instance, if you pass the subject test for another area, such as social studies, you could work in that field until an art classroom opportunity opens up.

If you keep your focus on student needs and outcomes, you can find fulfillment in any classroom scenario. Naturally, you will need to demonstrate some aptitude for that particular subject. If you can do this, you might form an art club for students for whom art is a growing interest. That will demonstrate your desires to your administration and hopefully result in a job teaching art later on.

Advancing From Here

If you decide that you wish to move up from your position as an Art Teacher, you have loads of options. For instance, you could move into administration, post-secondary education, or educational consulting to name but a few viable alternatives.

You'll need a minimum of five years in the classroom and a master's degree in Education to become an administrator. You will find your first job as a Vice Principal where you will work with teachers and dole out discipline to unruly students.

If you attain a Master of Fine Arts, you can begin teaching at the post-secondary level. An MFA is often considered a terminal degree, which means that you can attain tenure with it. However, this is changing, and you may need to attain a PhD in Fine Art. You can possibly mitigate this if your personal artwork becomes noted in art journals or featured in well-known, prominent galleries.

If you pursue educational consulting, you will likely need a master's degree and some specialized credentials. For an art teacher, you might consider art therapy, or publish articles related to the pedagogy of art. When you work as a consultant you will need to travel quite a bit and maintain your credentials as an especially talented educator.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where can certified art teachers teach?

A certified art teacher can teach at a public or private school. They are qualified to work as elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

Who makes a good art teacher?

The qualities of a good art teacher include: love for art, good with kids, energetic, organized, dedicated, and passionate.

What does an art teacher do?

An art teachers job depends on the level of education they are teaching. Elementary school teachers focus more on basic art skills such as color and shapes. Middle school teachers focus more on different art mediums such as the different types of materials or supplies used to create art. High school teachers focus on basic art techniques. Postsecondary art teachers focus on art theory, art history, and mastering skills.

What is the average salary for an art teacher?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an art teacher is around $63,000 per year.

What is art teacher certification?

An art teacher certification indicates that the teacher has the appropriate training and qualifications to teach. Some states require an art teacher pass the Praxis II: Art Content Knowledge exam.

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