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How do I become an illustrator with the least amount of college?

How do I become an illustrator with the least amount of college?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Karin’s Answer

Hi Bill,

You can become an illustrator in a variety of ways. Strictly speaking you don't NEED any post-secundary education. On the other hand, you would miss all the cool skills that you would learn in college as well as the networking opportunities. On the job market you would be at a disadvantage as most other candidates would have a degree. So, I would recommend to get at least an associates (2 years), better yet a bachelors (4 years) degree.

You can get certificates, associated degrees, bachelor or master degrees from a number of universities and community colleges. Some are even online. I have put some links at the bottom.

The next question would be what kind of an illustrator you would want to be. You should probably specialize in something, and that might determine which other classes would be useful. There are book illustrators, technical illustrators, medical illustrators, science illustrators, etc. If you want to be a medical illustrator, some anatomy classes might be useful. If you want to be a technical illustrator, some engineering classes and CAD would be useful, and so on.

The last question would be how you want to work. If you are looking for permanent employment with e.g. a publishing house, a degree would be important. If you want to freelance, a degree would be less important if you have a great portfolio that showcases your talent and abilities. Your income would then vary depending on your sales skills.

I hope this helps to get you started. Read up on the programs at schools you would consider, work out the differences between the programs and make a shortlist. If possible visit campuses so you get a feel for the places. Look at cost, financial packages and scholarships too.

Good luck on your journey!

KP


Karin recommends the following next steps:

https://www.simplilearn.com/how-to-become-an-illustrator-article
https://learn.org/articles/Becoming_an_Illustrator_Education_and_School_FAQs.html
https://www.allartschools.com/graphic-design/illustration-job-description/
https://www.animationcareerreview.com/articles/top-50-illustration-schools-and-colleges-us-2023-college-rankings
https://www.animationcareerreview.com/schools-colleges/alabama-animation-schools
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Bill !

I would be happy to advise you on the wonderful career choice of Illustrator. To start out with, you must be specific to yourself as to what you consider the "least amount" of college. Your college choice would be up to you based on how you want to do training as well as what opportunities you may want to give yourself for networking and making both professional and business contacts. College would be a way to do that, but you will have to decide how much college you would like to have. I would be in favor of a four year Bachelors degree for this field of work, but it's up to you and how strong you can make contacts for both professional and business reasons. All of the arts are competitive so you can think of ways to get a special edge on things and if you can do it without college or by taking individual classes at a college, than decide which is best for you.

If you undertake this career interest without the academic route, you will have to self teach or take online classes, but there will still be no professional feedback or discussions about the skill and techniques during which you might ask questions. Illustration covers a wide scope and your success will depend on how versatile you are and how much you are involved with the art community in your area. You should also take some on line business classes because of what I am about to discuss.

It seems to me, if college is not for you, the one way to be a professional illustrator would be to open your own service. You can easily work from home. Start building your portfolio with a wide range of work. Without the college degree, your portfolio will have to be outstanding for both applying for work and selling your service to a company. You will need to know the correct directories to advertise your Illustration service and be an ace at public relations and networking so people will know about your business. You could also at the same time apply for projects while you run your own service. Learn about the businesses that use illustrators - publishing companies for one.

Create a professional account on Linked In and try to obtain as as many local contacts as possible. Go to the Alabama Arts Summit in March (link is below), become a member of Arts Alliance (link is below), regularly visit art galleries and build an awesome website showing your art as well as what services you offer. Even if you don't get a college degree it will take a lot of time, energy, tenacity and constant learning to be the best illustrator you can be.

I wish you all the best going forward and hope that this was helpful !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

WHERE COMPANIES LOOK WHEN HIRING ILLUSTRATORS https://www.designerhire.com/illustration
ALABAMA ARTS SUMMIT 2024 https://www.alartsalliance.org/2024-alabama-arts-summit
ARTS ALLIANCE MEMBERSHIP https://www.alartsalliance.org/join-alaa/membership
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Rafael’s Answer

To become an illustrator with minimal college involvement, focus on developing your skills through practice and experimentation. Build a portfolio showcasing your best work and regularly update it. Take advantage of online resources like tutorials and courses. Attend workshops and conferences to learn from experienced illustrators. Seek mentorship and gain practical experience through freelance projects. Network, promote yourself, and stay updated on industry trends. Remember, a college degree is not the only path to becoming an illustrator!
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