Tattoo Artist Jobs

By Eric Hammer

Tattoo artist jobs are not easy to come by. That's because in addition to getting licensed, you usually must also find a professional tattoo artist who is willing to take you under his or her wing and make you an apprentice.

The concept of being an apprentice is one that used to be commonplace. Almost every job you can think of that existed as of 150 years ago required a student to learn from a master in the field and to spend his (most women at the time didn't work) time learning one on one from a master in the field. Today, while most people no longer learn in formal apprenticeships, tattoo artist jobs are some of the very few that still do require it.

The catch of course is finding a professional, licensed tattoo artist who is willing to be your tutor. There is a lot of competition for the best tattoo artists to take on apprentices and you need to be persistent, patient and above all, already good at drawing in order to get in with them.

That last part is the most important part of tattooing by the way. While everything else can be learned, if you are not an artistic person, it's really hard to become a tattoo artist.

How Much Can You Make?

The salary range for tattoo artist jobs is quite wide. It ranges from about $24,231 - $76,302 per year, depending largely on your skill with a tattoo needle. However, it's important to realize that during the time you take your apprenticeship, you will most likely not be earning a living. Most tattoo artists who take on apprentices don't pay anything or pay a minimal amount in order to comply with the law. The theory is that you are learning the trade and so you are getting "paid" in the form of knowledge.

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Keep in mind that there is much more to being a tattoo artist than just picking up a needle. Besides learning how to clean (and possibly make) the needles, you also need to become expert at hygiene as tattooing requires an extremely clean space to work in (you are after all, performing a kind of surgery when you do it).

Keep in mind also that you shouldn't expect to be drawing pictures on client's skin right away. Apprentices, like interns in offices are often given the grunt work that no one else wants, like cleaning up and arranging supplies.

Eventually, if you prove yourself as someone who really is interested in learning and you don't complain and accept that it will take time, your master tattoo artist will show you how to use the needles. You will probably be asked to start out practicing on animal hides or pieces of fruit before you are allowed to touch a client and even when you get to work on a client, you'll be given some basic jobs, like creating shadows and the like before you graduate to doing full body work.

Qualifications / Requirements

In order to become fully licensed, you will need to take an exam administered by your state and, in many states, you will be required to take an apprenticeship with a professional tattoo artist which can last as long as three years (though most are around a year or so). Once you are licensed, you can work for someone else or start your own studio, though few people start out right away with their own studio. You need to develop a following of your own first and then strike out with your own business.

First Steps

You should prepare a portfolio of your art work before you approach any tattoo artists to try to get an apprenticeship. Generally, it's a good idea to talk to lots of tattoo artists and to ask to sit and watch so you can learn the business. Once you have some more knowledge, you can show your portfolio of work. If the artist likes what he or she sees, you may be taken on as an apprentice.


Check out these helpful resources to find out more about tattoo artist jobs:

How to Tattoo - This is a very good web site which offers a wealth of advice on becoming a tattoo artist and also offers to sell you tattoo supplies. Be careful with the supplies though. If you don't know what you are doing, you can cause serious infections on yourself or your friends who you practice on.

The World's Only Tattoo School - They're not really the world's only tattoo school. There are a handful of others available, though most people still learn through apprenticeships rather than a school.

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