How to Become a Cartoonist in the US

How to Become a Cartoonist in the US

Cartoonists draw pictures that are meant to tell a humorous story. However, cartoons can also be used as a tool for political satire or social criticism. Cartoonists usually need to be highly creative and have a sense of humor to entertain their audiences. They can work in a number of industries and have their work featured in print on online media. Therefore, you will need to choose a specialization if you wish to go into this field.

What Does a Cartoonist Do?

Cartoonists draw pictures that tell stories. Although the pictures should be able to tell the story without further explanation, cartoonists usually include story lines to further convey their message. They draw inspiration and relevance from the issues of the day.

Their specific duties include:

  • Drawing cartoon characters both by hand and using a computer.
  • Developing concise story lines to go along with the images.
  • Researching on current issues to obtain an angle for their comic pieces.
  • Collaborate with script writers and animators when developing cartoon sketches for an animation movie
  • Meet with publishers and syndicate owners to discuss the viability of mutually beneficial projects such as a comic strip, graphic novel, political satire or any other cartoon illustration.


You do not need formal qualifications to become a cartoonist. However, a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design, fine arts, animation or other related field can equip you with the foundational requirements for the job.

A degree course covers topics such as:

  • 2D and 3D Drawing
  • Narrative structure
  • Principles of coloring
  • Lettering
  • Multimedia design

Additional qualifications include:

  • Portfolio of both published and unpublished works.
  • Knowledge of computer graphic art and design and digital cartooning techniques.
  • Relevant previous experience such as completed apprenticeships.


To work as a cartoonist, you will need:

  • Talent, creativity and a sense of humor.
  • Story-telling skills.
  • Ability to take criticism positively.
  • To be observant and maintain a keen awareness of the issues of the day


The cartooning industry is relatively difficult to break into, so the entry-level salary is relatively low. However, as you gain exposure in the field, you will have opportunities to improve your earning capacity. The salary also varies depending on the specialization you have chosen. For example, cartoonists in the animation, gaming, television and political satire industry tend to earn highly because their work is mass reproduced to reach a large target audience. The salary range as at 2012 was:

Entry Level



Mid Career







Work Environment

Cartoonists spend a good amount of their time at their work stations, whether located in the office or at home. The rest of the time is spent meeting with prospective clients and working with other collaborating professionals on a project as and when the need arises. As a cartoonist, you can work from anywhere so you are not necessarily tied to your desk, even if you are employed.

Career Growth and Job Outlook

Although it is difficult to break into the field, the career prospects for cartoonists are relatively bright as more industries venture into cartooning for advertising purposes. There are also numerous opportunities for cartoonists in the animation industry that continues to develop movies for children audiences. Cartoon television programs, gaming companies, online cartoon series and syndicated political cartoon satires offer more opportunities for career growth.

If you are naturally talented in drawing and story-telling, have a sense of humor, are keenly observant and can incorporate your observations into a pictorial narrative, then this job offers you the best opportunity to integrate your talents and make a career out of art and humor.


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