There’s a long-running myth that either you’re born a good artist or you’re not. And while some people are certainly born with a natural interest in art or perhaps a so-called “artistic eye,” it’s not this black and white. A good art teacher can help an aspiring artist develop the skills that don’t come easily to them. A good teacher can also inspire a reluctant student to realize their artistic passion. No pressure or anything—but an art teacher really does have the potential to change the course of someone’s creative life. 

If you’re interested in—and talented at!—art of any kind, you might just make a stellar art teacher. What does an art teacher do? The answer is: a lot! Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is an Art Teacher?

This might seem like a silly question. After all, isn’t the answer in the phrase itself? It’s true that an art teacher, well, teaches art, but it’s actually a little more complicated than that. An art teacher can teach in many different settings (more on that later) and instruct students about many different aspects of creating and understanding art. 

Broadly speaking, here are a few things that an art teacher might actually teach:

Many art teachers will cover a wide variety of these subjects so that students can develop a broader appreciation for art and their own abilities. 

An art teacher is responsible for deciding what material will be most useful to the students in the educational setting at hand (again, more on that later) and then teaching it accordingly. Art teachers often have a reputation for being particularly inspirational and encouraging, which is an important part of the role. 

Art Teacher Job Description 

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An art teacher can inspire students on any subject in a variety of different settings—even over video!

Ready to learn more about how to be an art teacher? Here are a few tasks that are typically part of an art teacher’s job description:

  • Design curriculum. First thing’s first: an art teacher needs things to teach! This is where the curriculum comes in. “Curriculum” is a fancy word for a course of study that includes all of the lessons that students will learn over a given time period. At any institution, a teacher will be expected to put the curriculum for their classes together, often with influence or mandates from a school board or other governing body. Even with said influence or mandates, there’s usually some wiggle room for creativity (this is art, after all). 
  • Secure materials and supplies. Art lessons almost always require plenty of supplies and materials. It will be up to an art teacher to figure out what items will be necessary for their students and to secure them. They’ll need to stick to a budget in the process. 
  • Teach! Once an art teacher has figured out their curriculum and purchased the materials necessary for it, it’s time to take it to the classroom. Whether teaching art history, art appreciation, drawing, painting, or some other technique, a teacher must be sure to address the needs and experiences of as many students as possible. 
  • Help students troubleshoot. Some students are bound to struggle more than others in an art class. It’s inevitable! Art teachers should be armed with plenty of patience and compassion for those students, who will likely seek assistance when projects don’t go the way they planned. 
  • Clean up! Anyone who’s ever embarked on an art project knows that art is rarely neat. Students will be expected to clean up some of their own mess, but art teachers will probably need to do some finishing touches so their classrooms remain tidy. 
  • Grade or critique projects. In certain educational environments, art teachers will need to assign grades to their students’ projects. It might feel a little strange to rate someone’s artistic endeavors in this way, but it might be part of the deal! Teachers will most likely be able to do their grading based on a standard rubric or set of expectations. And even if that’s not the case, you’ll want to provide plenty of feedback and critique to help your students grow. 
  • Communicate how things are going to stakeholders. No matter where you work as an art teacher, you’ll probably have to check in with certain powers that be about how things are going with your students. Keeping those lines of communication open will (hopefully) allow you to feel more comfortable asking for additional resources—financial or otherwise—when you need them. Plus, you can show off the awesome work that your students are doing! 

How to Become an Art Teacher

There’s more than one way to become an art teacher, but here are a few steps you might consider before you look for art teacher jobs: 

Research the Education Requirements 

If you’d like to teach within a public school district or at a private school, college, or university, you will likely need to have a degree yourself. Some jobs might require you to have a degree in education or a teaching certification, while others would prefer their art teachers to have an art degree. 

Gain Other Experience 

A teaching degree won’t be required in every setting! Continuing education and community programs, for example, might be just as—or even more—interested in your art experience. If you’re searching for jobs as an art teacher, you should be prepared with a portfolio that shows off your best work and the various techniques you’re comfortable working in. You should also note any jobs or volunteer experience that required art or design work on your resume. 

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How Much Does an Art Teacher Make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average art teacher earns $39,654 per year. Art teacher salary differs substantially depending on where you live and where you’re employed. A private school or university, for example, might pay their teachers better than a community-funded education program. 

Jobs for Art Teachers 

As promised, it’s time to break down some of the places where an art teacher can work. 

Elementary School

Watercolor, clay, markers, oh my! Working as an art teacher for little ones offers art lovers the very unique opportunity to awaken a passion for art in the youngest students. Teaching art in an elementary school requires a great deal of patience, so it’s not advised for anyone who has a low bar for chaos and mess. 

Middle School and High School 

As students move through middle and high school, they will likely have a clearer sense of their own passion for and interest in art. In these settings, you can serve as truly impactful mentors during a pivotal time for kids. 

University and College 

Teaching within a fine arts program at a college or university is definitely more intense than teaching in elementary, middle, or high school. After all, you’ll be teaching people who have been selected for their own artistic talents and who are opting to focus primarily on art. Some universities and colleges might require all students—even those who aren’t studying fine arts—to take one or two art courses. 

In any case, securing a job teaching art at the college or university level will be more competitive than securing one in most other settings. 

Adult Continuing Education 

For a less competitive educational environment, check out local adult continuing education programs in your community! These are often funded and organized by community colleges or other community centers. Teaching in an adult continuing education is a lot of fun because all of your students will have chosen to pursue art at this stage of their lives. 

Community Programs 

Art teachers may also be in demand at other places in the community, like summer camps or weekend programs for kids. Do a little research to see where you might put your expertise and passion to work! 

Online Platforms

Online platforms—including Skillshare!—are always on the lookout for talented instructors. Share your passion and expertise from the comfort of your own home as a remote teacher. 

Class Is in Session! 

As you can see, there are many ways to pass your love of art on to others as a teacher. Get out there and change some lives. 

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Written by:

Alli Hoff Kosik