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How do I Become an Art Teacher?

By Desi C.
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There isn’t usually a single path to follow in order to become an art teacher, though formal education, experience, and natural talent are three of the most important considerations. The majority of art teachers hold university degrees in an art-related subject, and usually also hold formal teaching certificates from the country or local jurisdiction in which they work. More or less may be required depending on where you are and what you hope to do. University art professors typically have doctoral degrees, for instance, while community art teachers or people who teach in informal after school programs might have nothing more than an interest in crafts and a love of children. It’s usually a good idea to think about the sort of job you want at the outset, then tailor your education and experience to increase your likelihood of being hired.

Decide on a Setting

One of the first things you should do when thinking about becoming an art teacher is to consider the different sorts of jobs available to you. Many art teachers work in primary schools and their focus is introducing young children to artistic concepts and tools, and providing a creative space for young people to explore their own artistic abilities.

This is by no means the only option, however. Many professionals focus their careers on art history or art theory, and may serve as mentors to budding artists in university settings or in the community at large. People in these categories are usually experts themselves in one or more fields, and have commonly received public commendation for their works. They might have had statutes commissioned by various cities or localities, for instance, or their paintings may be on display in well-known museums. It’s usually a good idea to aim for a teaching job that is in line with your own skills and abilities, and to look for ways of using your talents to help inspire and educate others.

Teacher Certification Requirements

You will probably also need at least some formal education in order to become an art teacher, and in some instances this training might have to be supplemented with a government-issued teaching certification. To teach in most public or state-funded schools, you'll probably need to take graduate-level classes in education. It’s common in many parts of the world for educators in all subject areas to complete a teacher education certification in addition to a bachelor's degree.

There are often ways around the certification question, though. In some places, private school teachers or teachers who work for non-government entities can be hired on experience and enthusiasm alone. Licensing rules vary from place to place and should be verified by contacting the state teacher licensing board for your local area.

Experience and Knowledge

Even with excellent credentials and formal training, you aren’t going to find much success getting an art teacher job unless you have at least some passion for sharing your talent and understanding with others. You might consider volunteering at local art museums or running art education programs within your local community as a way to build up your experience and repertoire.

Depending on the sort of art that you want to focus on, making sure that your own expertise is really sharp can also be helpful. Many schools recommend or even require that teaching candidates submit a portfolio of their own work along with their job application. Coming up with a few ideas of course syllabi and thinking though the exact ways in which you hope to teach new skills or concepts is also usually beneficial.

Considerations for University Professors

It’s usually much more difficult to become an art teacher at a college or university. These sorts of institutions often have a much higher threshold both in terms of required education and professional experience. Getting a job as a professor or lecturer often requires a doctoral degree in art, as well as a number of publications or awards in the field.

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Discussion Comments
By anon257258 — On Mar 26, 2012

It seems like I should have sucked it up and gone to do the two or three years of studying for art school after all. It's something that I am interested in, and maybe I would have met more people I have things in common with. My advice to you all: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

By anon126039 — On Nov 11, 2010

Thank you so much for the information. Definitely helpful for a College student like myself trying to figure out which route to take.

By Crispety — On Oct 02, 2010

Cafe41-Many art teachers in order for them to become teachers have to work with different mediums and be very comfortable with them.

So you really have to have experience with various types of mixed media, graphic design, watercolor and acrylic paint, along with ceramics and print making materials.

By cafe41 — On Oct 02, 2010

Icecream17-Some are teachers have an MFA, which stands for a Masters of fine arts.

This degree is required for teaching art at the college level. You can also seek a Masters and then a doctorate in art education, but that is usually not necessary as the MFA is a Masters in studio art is what most schools are interested in.

Most schools want to hire artists with degrees and experience in the field. This will provide a more enriching experience for the students.

Establishing a portfolio is also critical when learning how to become an art teacher.

Your skills as an artist will also have an effect on how to become a teacher.

By icecream17 — On Oct 02, 2010

How to become an elementary art teacher is easy. You can actually get a bachelor's degree in art education, which is the degree in which you would actually have an internship and would receive practical on-the-job experience on becoming an art teacher.

You can also get a BFA, which stands for bachelors of fine arts which is a pure art degree.

In order to be able to teach you would have to get a teaching certification which can be done by taking an exam in your subject area as well as taking a few extra courses regarding teaching in the classroom.

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