With roughly 14% of Americans having, at least, one tattoo, this counter culture art form has become a viable career option for more people than ever, with around 21000 shops to supply employment. That said, it is still an unknown path. Not exactly on the aptitude test in high school. After researching available options, one will find that there are essentially two paths to a tattoo career: apprenticeship and art school for tattooing, and each has its own pros and cons. Here is a brief explanation of the two options to help with the decision between them.
- Apprentice tattoo artist: This route has the benefit of being the traditional avenue, which means it is better understood and respected by shop owners, otherwise known as potential employers. By learning in a tattoo shop, apprentices learn the business side of the industry as well as the artistic side. However, finding an apprenticeship will involve a lot of rejection, in most cases, and not only do most shops charge for the education, the hours of work are generally unpaid. Furthermore, there will be more hours spent sweeping, an apprentice does as they are told, so cleaning and running to get lunch are within the job description.
- Tattoo school: A great benefit to learning in a reputable tattoo trade school is a wider range of teachers. When learning from just one person, the student can only be taught what that one person, who may or may not be a good teacher as well as a gifted tattoo artist, knows to teach them. However, a person can attend an art school for tattooing or one of the schools that offer to make a person a tattoo artist in 2 weeks or a month. Choosing a bad school not only would be a waste of money, it would not lead quickly, or ever, to a position with a shop. Anyone exploring this route should research tattoo schools thoroughly for the curriculum, length and the rate of placement upon completion of the program.
As this career path becomes more mainstream, the customers and artist both will be trying new styles and techniques in a quest for originality. Only a quality education will allow a new tattoo artist to take part in the development of the tattoo industry.