Begin a Career Working on Television Commercials: Options and Info

A career making television commercials requires no formal education, but aspirants can benefit from the portfolio and network building opportunities afforded by a liberal arts program. Learn about the degrees, job duties and experience to find out if this is the career for you.

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Although a formal education is not required to work in the television commercial industry, many individuals breaking into the field may benefit by earning a degree from a liberal arts school. Some of the job titles involved in the production of television commercials include writer, video editor, set designer, and camera operator.

Essential Information

There is a wide variety of preproduction, production and postproduction jobs in television commercial production. Major positions include producer, director, actor, writer, art director and cinematographer; each of these roles is usually supported by staff such as personal and production assistants, which make for solid entry-level roles in the field.

The advertising industry is also involved with television commercial production. Writers and art directors generally work in the creative departments of advertising agencies. According to the Advertising Educational Foundation (AEF), entry-level positions in creative departments include junior copywriters who generate ideas and write dialogue for commercials as well as junior art directors who develop storyboards, visual concepts and oversee on-set production.

In the decade spanning 2014-2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 9% employment growth for producers and directors, 2% for writers and authors, 2% for art directors, 11% for film/video editors and camera operators, 2% for art and design workers and 10% expansion for actors. At that time, the range of 7% to 9% was considered about as fast as average growth, so growth in many of these fields is expected to be slow.

In 2015, the BLS reported median average salaries of $68,440 for producers and directors, $60,250 for writers and authors, $89,760 for art directors, $61,750 for film and video editors, and $49,530 for set designers. According to the BLS, actors work irregular hours and are rarely employed full-time. An hourly median wage of $18.80 was reported for acting professionals.

Required Education None
Other Requirements Bachelor's degree, portfolio
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%-11% (depending on occupation)
Median Annual Salary (2015) $49,530-$89,760 (depending on occupation)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Additional Career and Education Information

There aren't official education requirements to work in the television and film industry; however, many people become skilled by attending liberal arts schools and majoring in subjects like film, advertising and theater. Experience, reputation and expertise is highly valued in these industries, and creating a strong network is essential to growing a career.

Producers oversee each production stage and deal with finances. Directors also manage each production stage and work directly with actors, cameramen, producers, set designers etc. Directors gain experience through shooting television commercials and often develop their signature style. Beginning producers and directors often take on low-budget projects in film school to build a portfolio.

Actors begin careers by auditioning for roles in a variety of productions, including television commercials. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many actors start as 'extras' on set to build resumes and act in a variety of small productions. Actors can find jobs through casting calls, open auditions and talent agencies.

Cinematographers develop and plan what the cameras will shoot and camera operators shoot the actual scenes. Commercial camera operators specialize in working on television commercials and other projects with smaller budgets, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).

The television and film industry has multiple unions to protect workers and ensure eligibility for future work. These unions include the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) for actors; International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) for technical occupations; and the Director's Guild of America (DGA) for directors. Unionizing can help professionals protect their jobs while building communities.

Networking and industry experience are two essential ingredients for building a career in the television industry, which includes commercials. It can also be beneficial to join a union that specializes in representing specific industry jobs, such as Artists and Allied Crafts for technical work. Actor, writer and video editor are but a few of the job options in the television commercial industry.

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