Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month to celebrate our new release, Getting into Art and Design Courses, we’re exploring the role of a Cartoonist.

Sam Allen shares his insight into the role of cartoonist with this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is a Cartoonist?

Cartoonists plan and draw original cartoons and captions, both single images and whole cartoon strips or books.

As a Cartoonist, you will plan and draw original cartoons and captions. These can be single images, whole cartoon strips or entire books. You will promote and market your work, for example by sending out samples to newspapers and advertising through the internet.

Cartoonists create images for greetings cards, adverts, book illustrations, magazines, newspapers and websites.

A small number of cartoonists are employed to run regular cartoon features in newspapers or other media, whereas others maintain a webcomic of their work.

If you are self-employed you will have the freedom to set your own working hours. You might need to attend meetings with clients or potential employers, which could involve travelling long distances and working longer hours.


As most professional cartoonists work on a freelance basis, you are likely to be based either in a studio or from home.

Much of your time will be spent at a drawing board or a computer where you will either sit or stand using the materials required.

Type of work

Working alone can be isolating.

Things to consider

Irregular work/job insecurity
As cartoonists are usually paid for individual pieces of work they have little job security, especially at the start of their careers.

You would have the satisfaction of creating original work and seeing it in print.

Irregular work/job insecurity
You will need to have patience while pitching your work to publishers and publications but supporting yourself through your art will be incredibly rewarding.

The work can be isolating as many work alone.

Stressful deadlines/target-driven

If you have a regular place in a publication you will need to have projects completed to strict deadlines.

You will need a natural ability in your chosen field

A strong portfolio and relevant experience are usually more important than formal qualifications. However, most entrants have an HNC/HND or degree in an art and design subject, such as graphic design, illustration or fine art. A minimum of 1 A level/H grade in an art and design subject, a relevant BTEC award or a BTEC Foundation Diploma in Art and Design are usually needed for entry to an HND/HNC. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, many students preparing for a degree also take the art Foundation course. In Scotland the first year of an art and design degree equates to the Foundation year. 5 GCSEs/National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England) and a relevant A level/H grade are usually required for entry to both the Foundation course and the degree.

Cartoonists are required to convey a message with humour, and are increasingly required to have websites that show examples of their work so a qualification in IT could be very useful. It is also useful to be informed on copyright and ownership legislation.

Sometimes well-established cartoonists run workshops for both adults and young people. These may be at the Cartoon Museum in London, at conventions or privately. The Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain (CCGB) and the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation (PCO) also run events and competitions which are useful in establishing and developing skills at any stage in a cartoonist’s career and keeping up to date with the industry.

Cartoonist Salary Progression Table

Salary progression
As a guide, new cartoonists with regular work could earn up to £15,000 per year. Experienced cartoonists can earn between £24,000 and £40,000. A skilled, established cartoonist may charge £300 per picture and can earn up to £50,000 annually.

Top Tip
The Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation run a vibrant and informative blog that keeps up to date with exhibitions and events, both in the UK and abroad.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.