Originally from Colorado, Carlile received her BFA from Cooper Union in 1966 and her MFA from the Pratt Institute in 1971. Jan has taught printmaking at Brooklyn College since 1971, and was assistant Director of the Brooklyn Museum Art School in 1972.
Carlile founded and directs the Brooklyn College Art Department Press, which produced the Women's Portfolio from 1990 as well as another in 1977. She was included in the major retrospective Thirty Years of American Printmaking at the Brooklyn Museum. Her work is in the collections of the Hirschorn Museum in Washington, the Neuberger Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum. She has been a CAPS awards panelist, and has been affiliated with the Associate American Artist Gallery and the Blue Mountain Gallery, both in New York.