How to Become a Sketch Artist

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Creating sketches of potential crime suspects, missing persons, and other people of interest is an essential part of the law enforcement field. Sketch artists are trained professionals that create a variety of sketches for many different purposes.


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What does a sketch artist do?

Sketch artists are typically employed by police agencies and they create realistic sketches of subjects of particular interest. They interview victims and witnesses to obtain as much information as possible about a person’s appearance. They ask specific questions to help client recall physical features and they also show or draw examples of eyes, lips, forehead, nose, and other features. They must listen clearly as the victim or witness describes the information. The sketch artists often make a variety of changes until a close match of the person is achieved. Some sketch artists use computer programs to create images or age progression photos.

What kind of training does a sketch artist need?

Sketch artists typically at least a high school diploma and some postsecondary training. Many sketch artists have a bachelor or master degree in art, art and design, or other related field. Prospective sketch artists typically complete courses in studio art, art history, drawing, and computer-generated drawing. Sketch artists must also have a solid understanding of law enforcement concepts to be able to obtain information from victims and witnesses. Many aspiring sketch artists complete volunteer experiences to gain practical experience in the field. Many sketch artists create a professional portfolio of their best drawings to present to potential employers. Sketch artists often complete continuing education and attend workshops and seminars to improve their skills and stay up to date with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a sketch artist?

Employment of sketch artists is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 12% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and increase in criminal activity will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good with strong competition. Sketch artists with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will arise from the need to replace sketch artists that retire, transfer, or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do sketch artists make?

As of January 2010, the average annual salary for sketch artists is $43,000; average annual sketch artist salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a sketch artist is a great choice for people with excellent artistic ability and a strong interest in law enforcement. Sketch artists must have a solid understanding of a variety of drawing techniques and law enforcement policies and procedures. Patience, detail orientation, creativity, accuracy, and good problem solving skills are essential characteristics. Sketch artists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they work with a variety of law enforcement professionals and interview many different victims and witnesses.

Joshua T Osborne

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