How to Become an Art Teacher

Teaching art is a shared experience. Our ability to share our own personal vision and interact with others through art can be realized. Michael Bell

Art teachers are highly skilled at teaching different art techniques to students of all ages. Art teachers can teach any art related topic ranging from mixing basic colors to art history. Art teachers bring out the inner artists of students to help build skills and self-confidence.

As with any teaching job, the rewards associated with being an art teacher are predominantly based on the students. An art teacher has the opportunity to teach skills that offer students an outlet or an alternative for negative behavior. The outlook for art teachers is a bit lower than teachers in general as art programs are often cut from public education settings, but average for other school types.

Qualities of an Art Teacher

An art teacher needs to be able to showcase his or her own work and allow students to do the same. The same teacher should be able to teach students basic techniques and encourage them to take the techniques further. Art teachers must be encouraging and able to inspire students to practice skills that may be uncomfortable at first. Art teachers now should be well versed in visual and graphic arts to allow students to explore different mediums.

On the Job Duties

An art teacher is responsible for many of the same duties as regular education teachers. Art teachers will perform duties to keep students safe, such as hallway or bus monitoring, take attendance, monitor student behavior, create lesson plans, and grade assignments. An art teacher is a teacher like any other though art is not a topic that is tested as a core subject on standardized tests.

What are the Requirements for Teaching Art?

Education Requirements for Teaching Art

If you want to be an art teacher, you must go through a program to receive a Bachelor's Degree in education with a specialty in art. This type of program is offered in many accredited colleges and universities. A teaching college must be accredited by the proper accrediting agency. An accredited college or university should offer a dual program in which you gain a Bachelor's Degree and teaching certification.

Beyond the obvious classes of art, art history, and the basics of design, an art education major will have to take developmental classes, computer classes, and basic teaching methodology classes. The future art teacher will be required to do observation hours and student teaching over the course of the degree. Upon successful completion of all requirement, which may vary slightly among educational institutions, you will have both a teaching degree and a teaching certificate. This means you may apply for and accept jobs immediately.

Tests to Pass for Teaching Art

Just as with other fields of education, art majors must pass basic proficiency exams in reading, writing, and mathematics early on in the program. As the program ends, the future art teacher will have to pass art specific pedagogy tests. Some programs may also require passing grade level generalized tests for teaching at some or all grade levels. Scores for such tests will vary from state to state.

Alternative Teacher Certification

Some states may offer alternative certification for individuals with industry-specific experience or skills; however, this route may not necessarily lead to full licensure. Each state has different requirements for becoming a teacher.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

Who Will My Students Be?

Although art teachers can usually teach grades K-12, they are most common in middle and high schools.

Teaching Art in Elementary School

Some elementary schools may have an art teacher to serve multiple grade levels. The students in an art class in grade school will be students who are required to take the class, typically two to three times a week. Some school districts have an art teacher that travels between schools to teach skills to numerous classes.

Learn more about a career as an Elementary School Teacher.

Teaching Art in Middle School and High School

At the middle school level, art is often an elective. Some students will choose the elective while some will be placed in the class because others are full. This means the mix of students will vary greatly. High school art students will likely have chosen to take an art class so these students will mostly be interested in art and know more than just the basics.

Read more about becoming a Middle School Teacher or a High School Teacher.

What Does An Art Teacher Do?

An art teacher teaches different styles of art relative to the age of the students. An elementary teacher may begin by teaching how to mix colors or to draw shapes. A middle school teacher may start to experiment with different mediums such as watercolors, pastels, or chalk. High school students may take art a bit further with a large scale projects or the use of new techniques to create art.

A typical art classroom can vary from school to school, but in middle and high schools, the art room usually contains large tables, easels, cabinets for storage, and at least one sink for clean-up. Elementary classrooms may contain large tables or art can be taught in the regular classroom. While standards exist for the art curriculum, it is considered an elective. This means that the actual topics covered and curriculum chosen is a bit varied from school to school and teacher to teacher.

Art Teacher Jobs & Job Description

Far more complex than ‘playing with paint', teaching visual arts to students at the elementary level and beyond requires a host of critical analysis skills, a working knowledge of art themes and media as they relate to history, and the ability to convey art techniques to an array of students. The job does vary in scope and depth between art taught at the elementary and secondary levels; you'll find a typical job description below:

Elementary School Art Teacher

Elementary school art teachers are responsible for many students' first experience with creating and analyzing visual arts - with that goal in mind, art teachers:

  • Help students develop aesthetic awareness
  • Teach students to use the creative process and problem solving skills
  • Guide students to search for innovative approaches to meet challenges
  • Help students manipulate elements, media, and forms to convey messages about their thoughts and feelings
  • Teach students about cultural innovations and influences on modern art and art theory
  • Guide students to construct works of art using various media
  • Teach students to express feelings and thoughts using words while considering a piece of art
  • Teach students to express feelings and thoughts through the creative process to make a finished artistic product while considering a theme or criteria
  • Help students connect art to other subjects, peoples, and the world
  • Develop appropriate instructional strategies given the age, outcomes and curriculum expectations
  • Bring enthusiasm to the classroom
  • Vary teaching and assessment approaches
  • Address individual student needs for success
  • Use knowledge of students, classroom, and the world at large to guide activities and learning opportunities
  • Help expose students to a broader social, cultural and historical context through art
  • Provide opportunities for students to practice patience and perseverance through the creative process
  • Enthusiastically participate in collaborative co-curricular and extracurricular teams; draw students into these projects
  • Be ready to receiving teaching feedback and support from teaching partners and administration
  • Demonstrate initiative, resiliency, and frugality, while maximizing student experience
  • Be reflective listeners and accurate assessors
  • Support the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Be committed to teaching students in their particular community
  • Set and help students achieve high goals
  • Pursue professional development on a regular basis
  • Proactively and reliably communicate with families about student progress
  • Enthusiastically promote school culture and practices, as well as instructional strategies and student rules
  • Praise students in meaningful ways related to their academic development and achievements
  • Collaborate with other educators to advance the school's mission
  • Develop positive and meaningful relationships with students and their families
  • Conduct all activities in a manner that practices professionalism

Secondary School Art Teacher

Secondary school art teachers are responsible for refining students' first artistic experiences by deepening their knowledge of various artistic processes and media, as well as helping them relate more fully to self-expression, emotion, and concepts from the wider world - with that goal in mind, art teachers at the secondary level:

  • Have strong knowledge and skills in their content area
  • Have strong skills in art of teaching, assessment and evaluation
  • Be strong analytical and critical thinkers who strive for professional objectivity
  • Be flexible and personable; stay willing to engage in debate and discourse
  • Lead students to use a variety of individual and collaborative strategies to generate ideas and perform analysis
  • Lead students through the revision process as it relates to creativity
  • Help students document their process where relevant
  • Assist students in documenting samples of their best work in usable portfolio format
  • Help students explore different gradations of media and creative elements for learning and self-expression
  • Explore principles of design and apply them in the classroom
  • Help students refine and direct the message and intent they convey through the creative process
  • Explore emerging technologies and tools to the creative process
  • Assist students in understanding and practicing presentation and display methods for finished work
  • Work to assist students to first identify and then verbally describe the feelings and connections that a work of art evokes
  • Teach students to identify elements, media and techniques used purposefully or unconsciously by the artist to create a mood or illustrate a concept
  • Work to uphold an enthusiastic appreciation for visual art and its connection to the world; make these connections apparent to students
  • Vary teaching practice and assessment/evaluation approaches to remain objective and provide a robust grading rubric
  • Individual instruction for each student's learning needs
  • Guide activities and learning opportunities by student interest, classroom dynamic, and events in the world
  • Teach students about influencing social, cultural and historical factors through art
  • Enthusiastically participate in collaborative co-curricular and extracurricular teams; draw students into these projects
  • Be ready to receiving teaching feedback and support from teaching partners and administration
  • Demonstrate creativity and economy, while maximizing student experience; seek additional sources of funding and materials where appropriate
  • Be active listeners
  • Support the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Be committed to teaching students in their particular community
  • Set and help students achieve high goals
  • Pursue professional development on a regular basis
  • Support the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Be committed to teaching students in their particular community
  • Proactively and reliably communicate with families about student progress
  • Promote school culture and practices, as well as instructional strategies and student rules through extracurricular and co-curricular activities and direction
  • Praise students in meaningful ways related to their academic development and achievements
  • Collaborate with other educators to advance the school's mission
  • Develop positive and meaningful relationships with students and their families
  • Conduct all activities in a manner that embodies teacher professionalism

Certified art teachers have a number of employment avenues open to them. Read on to learn more.

Where Can Certified Art Teachers Teach?

A certified art teacher can teach at a public, private, or charter school.

Public Schools

Those that teach in a public school will have a higher level of diversity among students and abilities throughout the school year. Those in the public school system are most likely to work in middle or high school. Public schools are free to attend for all students and are subject to state standards and testing. This is usually not much of a concern for art teachers who do not teach an area that is tested.

Private Schools

Those that teach in private school will have students who are paying to attend classes. These classes may have a stricter curriculum and have required topics to cover. Private schools may also have a religious or group affiliation that affects the type of teaching that can take place.

Charter Schools

Those who choose to teach at a charter or magnet school may find success as some programs focus on the arts. This means that the students will be well versed in the arts and need a diverse curriculum. Charter schools are free to attend, but because they are not state funded, the curriculum is controlled by the school and a bit more variation can exist.

What is the Salary for an Art Teacher?

The average starting salary for a certified art teacher can range from $40,268 (Payscale.com) to $46,999 (Glassdoor.com). On average, private school teachers earn $10,000 less per year than their public school counterparts. Quite often, however, teachers cite smaller class sizes and less red tape as important reasons to work in private schools. As art teachers gain experience, they can expect their salary to increase by almost $20,000 by the end of their career. Finally, art teachers with a Master's in Fine Arts (MFA) earn approximately $9,000 more than those with strictly a Bachelor's Degree.

Read more about a teacher's salary and all the benefits associated with it.

Art Teacher Organizations & Associations