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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree Programs in Illustration

Majors Overview April 9, 2015

Students in fine arts as well as illustration degree programs will gain a foundational knowledge in production methods and studio techniques. Illustration may be available as an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree program, but it is usually available as a concentration in Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) or Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) programs.

Information on Illustration Programs

Students enrolled in an A.A. in Illustration degree program are given the knowledge necessary for seeking entry-level positions in art, publishing, or graphic design or for pursuing continuing education in the field. Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Passage of an admissions exam involving drawing or presentation of a portfolio of their work may be additional requirements.

Students enrolled in most A.A. programs require about two years of study. In some programs, students are given the option of choosing a specialization, such as fashion illustration. Apart from courses in illustration, liberal arts courses are also included in topic areas such as art history, in addition to classes in illustration-related fields such as computer typesetting, sculpture, and photography.

The curriculum include courses in the principles of composition, perspective, coloration, and illustration. Courses in figure drawing, fashion drawing, and anatomical life drawing are usually available in an illustration degree program. Courses in fashion illustration are included in most programs regardless of the specialty.

Associate’s Degree Programs in Illustration

The common focus of associate’s degree programs in illustration is on studio work in coloration, painting, and drawing. Supplementary liberal arts courses in art history and English are typically requirements in A.A. programs; a broader choice of advanced studio courses is usually available in an A.A.S. or A.F.A. program.

Elective tracks are available to students within illustration, such as comic book illustration or fashion illustration. An associate’s degree can qualify individuals in this field for immediate careers in graphic design and illustration, advertising, and art publishing.

Education Requirements

As in the case of other concentrations in the fine arts, submission of a portfolio of relevant artwork or demonstration of their artistic skills through a monitored examination may be required of incoming students to associate’s degree programs in illustration. Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma.


Illustration coursework covers topic areas aimed at developing and refining students’ abilities as colonists, painters, and draftsmen. Coursework could include topic areas such as:

•Photography and Photoshop
•Figure drawing
•2-D and 3-D design
•Digital media
•Color and lighting
•Anatomical studies

Job and Wage Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies illustrators as a subset of artists and related workers. Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, average job growth rate of three percent have been predicted for fine artists, including illustrators, sculptors, and painters (BLS).

Greater demand has been projected for illustrators and medical illustrators proficient with digital media than for cartoonists and print illustrators, who are expected to see a decline in their professions, along with the newspaper industry.

In May 2012, fine artists, including illustrators, sculptors, and painters, brought in an average annual wage of $44,380. Illustrators operating by themselves tend to earn a slightly higher wage than those working for schools, software companies, or publications.

Continuing Education Choices

Those who complete an associate’s degree program in illustration can opt for continuing education by enrolling in a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in the field. Earning a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or a teaching certificate to augment a bachelor’s degree would benefit those seeking a job teaching fine arts. A specialized master’s degree in the field is also usually obtained by medical illustrators (BLS).

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