Government Job Profile: Art Teacher

art teacher helping students
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When most people think about art class, they image students standing at easels wearing white smocks covered in flecks and splatters of paint. While painting is one of the mediums of artistic expression students learn, it is not the only one. Students learn drawing, sculpting and many other ways of creating art. Art teachers help students recognize their own artistic talent and encourage these young artists to develop their skills.

Art teachers instruct students at all grade levels in creating works of art. As students progress through their educational careers, the sophistication with which they create art increases. Kindergarteners finger paint nature scenes and glue macaroni to construction paper. High schoolers create real-to-life charcoal drawings and abstract oil paintings with complex meaning behind them. All along the way, art teachers are there instructing, guiding, constructively criticizing and challenging students.

The Selection Process

School districts use the normal government hiring process to fill art teacher vacancies. The hiring manager for the position is often the school principal who supervises the new hire.

The Education You'll Need

Art teachers need a bachelor’s degree to teach in public schools. Many art teachers have degrees in education. College coursework not only teaches individuals how to teach; it also helps them fulfill state licensing requirements.

Those who earn other degrees can still be teachers. They just have to go through an alternative certification program. In these programs, individuals learn classroom management skills and prove they have mastered the subjects they intend to teach.

The Experience You Need

Art teachers do not need experience, but it certainly helps in the hiring process.

Individuals with teaching experience are more likely to find teaching jobs than those without such experience.

What You'll Do

Art teachers instruct classes for students of all grade levels. As they develop curriculum for each grade level, art teachers take into account the intellectual maturity and manual dexterity of their pupils. A second grader cannot work a pottery wheel, and a high school senior gets bored with finger paints pretty quickly.

In addition to teaching students how to express themselves through the various mediums, art teacher discuss art history with their students. Influential artists and their impact on their crafts and on society are explored. By studying past artists, students gain an understanding of what can be accomplished through art.

Students are graded on mastery of technical knowledge and completion of art projects. Teachers use the projects to determine whether students can apply the techniques taught in class.

Art teachers organize exhibitions for students’ artwork. Such exhibitions take place at art contests, on the school grounds, in other public buildings and in art galleries. Elementary students are happy to see their work displayed in their classrooms or in school hallways.

Older students want to know just how good their art actually is. Contests allow students to receive objective criticism from judges who do not know them.

Like all other teachers, art teachers must address discipline problems that arise in their classrooms. Students behaving in unacceptable manners must be corrected. It is unfair to other students to allow one student to compromise the learning environment for everyone else. After repeated attempts to modify a disruptive student’s behavior, teachers may be forced to send the student to the principal’s office for escalated behavior modification techniques.

What You'll Earn

According to 2010 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers earn a median salary of $53,230. Art teachers earn the same salary as other teachers with like tenure and degrees.

School districts set their teacher salaries based on a teacher’s tenure and level of education. Newer teachers tend to make less than the median; more tenured teachers tend to make more. Teachers with advanced degrees earn a little more than other teachers with the same tenure.