Art Director Degree Programs and Career Information

Prospective art directors may enroll in bachelor's programs in graphic design and master's degree programs in art administration to receive training for this field. Read on to find out about program specifics, as well as career and salary info.

Essential Information

Bachelor's programs in graphic design tend to focus on artistic topics, providing studies in color theory, typography, drawing and Web graphics. In addition to a high-school diploma, many bachelor's degree programs for graphic design require the submission of a portfolio or sample of work for program acceptance; many also require an internship or the completion of a senior project for degree completion. Students acquire skills in the conceptualization, history and development of posters, Web pages, brand designs and publication designs.

On the other hand, master's programs in art administration emphasize promotions, fundraising, planning and financial management. These programs explore arts policy issues, technology and political and social factors that impact the arts.

Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design

Often considered a requirement to enter into this field, those interested in a career as an art director typically begin their educations by pursing a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. Because these interdisciplinary programs emphasize basic and advanced art skills, such as drawing and color theory, as well as digital media, design programs and Web development, they are ideally suited to emphasize the skills necessary for art directors.

Students actively develop professional portfolios throughout their undergraduate careers. Students earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design will typically complete around 65 hours of coursework. Typical coursework for graphic design programs include:

  • Drawing
  • Color theory
  • History of graphic design
  • Typography
  • Production design
  • Electronic media and production

Master's Degree in Art Administration

Students who wish to pursue a master's degree in art administration will typically earn a Master of Science in Art Administration or a Master of Art in Art Administration. Students acquire skills in areas such as management practice, economic problem solving, legal issues that affect the arts and fundraising. Many programs require students to have obtained a bachelor's degree in art, design or a related field for acceptance, although some will accept applicants who do not have art backgrounds, provided additional program-specific criteria is met.

Art administration programs typically require around 45 hours of coursework, as well as the completion of a master's thesis or project. Master's programs also include courses in areas such as business management and finance. Typical courses for art administration degree programs include:

  • Arts administration
  • Fundraising and grant writing
  • Financial accounting
  • Arts promotion
  • Strategic planning and evaluation
  • Writing for the arts

Popular Career Options

In addition to art directors, graduates of graphic design programs go on to many other careers. Popular career options include:

  • Corporate brand designer
  • Design director
  • Editorial designer
  • Multimedia designer
  • Production director

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Art directors are responsible for overseeing the creation and design of the visuals that appear in magazines, newspapers, books and even many online publications. For the years 2014-2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( reported that art director jobs are expected to increase by 2%. The BLS also predicts that jobs in publishing will decline swiftly as more media move to online formats. In 2015, the median annual salary for art directors was around $89,760.

To begin pursuing a career as an art director, a bachelor's degree in graphic design will provide a solid groundwork in artistic topics. A master's program in art administration can then strengthen expertise in the leadership and management of artistic campaigns.

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