Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies - A Program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

How Many Artists Are There?

About this Quick Fact

All Artists

The most inclusive answer: using 2001 Current Population Survey data and applying the broadest possible definition of artist -- that is, including all 11 occupational categories classified by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as artistic occupations and counting all self-identified artists, whether employed in primary or secondary jobs or not -- there were 2,511,000 artists in the United States in 2001, representing 1.8 percent of the total civilian labor force. Of these:

  • 2,108,000 (84%) were employed in primary jobs as artists;
  • 315,000 (12.5%) were employed in secondary jobs as artists; and
  • 88,000 (3.5%) were unemployed.

Pie chart: Artists in the U.S. by  employment status. (Current Population Survey)

Artist Occupation Categories
Actors and directors 163,000 6.5% of all artists
Announcers 78,000 3.1%
Architects 224,000 8.9%
Authors 148,000 5.9%
Dancers 33,000 1.3%
Designers 867,000 34.5%
Musicians and composers 273,000 10.9%
Painters, sculptors and craft artists 288,000 11.5%
Photographers 182,000 7.2%
Teachers of art, drama and music 60,000 2.4%
Other artists (not elsewhere classified) 195,000 7.8%
Total 2,511,000 100.0%

Pie chart: Artists in the U.S. by occupational sub-category.  (Current Population Survey)

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Artists in Traditional Performing & Visual Arts Occupations

A very restrictive definition of artist might include only the four categories traditionally associated with either the performing or visual arts -- actors and directors; dancers; musicians and composers; and painters, sculptors and craft artists. By this definition, there were 757,000 "traditional" artists in the United States in 2001 (0.5 percent of the total civilian workforce). These traditional artist occupations account for 30% of all artists in the National Endowment for the Arts definition.

Adding "teachers of art, drama and music" to the category of traditional artists increases the total to 817,000 (0.6% of the total civilian workforce). Adding photographers brings the total to 999,000 (0.7%).

Bar graph: Artists in the U.S. - 2001, traditional artistic categories. (Current Population Survey)

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Artists Compared to Other Professional Occupations

Artists are classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a sub-category of "Professional Specialty Occupations," a classification that also includes the engineering, scientific, medical, teaching, counseling, religious, legal, journalistic, and athletic professions. Counting employed persons only (in primary occupations), artists made up about 10 percent of all employed professionals in the United States in 2001. Professionals, in turn, made up about 16 percent of all employed civilians.

Employed artists as a subset of professionals
Teachers/librarians/curators* 6,663,000 30.9%
Medical workers 4,142,000 19.2%
Scientists/mathematicians/computer scientists 2,685,000 12.5%
Engineers/surveyors 2,145,000 9.9%
Artists (National Endowment for the Arts' 11 occupational categories) 2,108,000 9.8%
Social, recreation, & religious workers 1,449,000 6.7%
Lawyers & judges 966,000 4.5%
Social scientists/counselors 712,000 3.3%
Journalists/technical writers/public relations 572,000 2.7%
Athletes 114,000 0.5%
Total 21,556,000 100.0%
*excludes teachers of art, drama & music (n=45,000)

Pie chart: Artists in the U.S. - 2001 compared to other professional occupations. (Current Population Survey)

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