The first steps to becoming a professional artist are taking art, shop and home economics during high school. Formal education is normally not required to become a professional artist, as many find work with no more than a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Despite the ability to make it without college education, many aspiring professional artists take college classes and earn degrees to enhance their skills and gain credibility, according to the BLS. Associate, bachelor's and master's degree programs are normally available in art and design as well as fine arts. Along with classes in studio art and art history, college-educated artists get a well-rounded liberal arts education as well.
During their education, many artists are able to develop their portfolios through projects and internships, reports the BLS. These portfolios are beneficial to show to employers or studios when an artist is self-employed. Artists can also participate in training programs and workshops to hone or refresh skills.
In addition to education and portfolio development, artists need to build several key skills for professional success, according to the BLS. Artistic ability, creativity and dexterity are key technical skills. Interpersonal skills and customer-service skills help when interacting with employers or clients. Business acumen is also important for self-promotion or self-employment.