Become an Advertisement Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an advertisement designer. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the graphic design field. View article »

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  • 0:03 Advertisement Designers
  • 0:50 Career Requirements
  • 1:36 Step 1: Earn a Degree
  • 3:00 Step 2: Gain Experience
  • 4:25 Step 3: Seek Full-Time…

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Video Transcript

Advertisement Designers

Advertisement designers use creativity and visual communication skills to create marketing materials to communicate a client's desired message. Ads may be created for print or the Internet using a number of different media, including photography, illustration, animation, sound, and type. Advertisement designers must research their target audience and take into account social, cognitive, cultural, and physical factors when creating their work. These professionals often work full-time, though they can also be self-employed and submit work from a home office. Competition in the field is strong, and those who stay up-to-date on the latest technological advancements in design may fare the best.

Career Requirements

Bachelor's degrees in graphic design, fine arts, visual communication, or marketing are preferred for advertisement designers. Skills that are key for advertisement designers are creativity; communication skills; multitasking ability; project management; team-oriented; ability to meet tight deadlines; and computer skills, including Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, & Illustrator), Actionscript, HMTL, CSS, and Javascript. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics states that graphic designers may earn a median salary of $46,900 as of 2015. It's best for graphic designers to have at least three years of related design experience.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Although some employers do not require a college degree, many prefer a bachelor's degree in a design or marketing-related discipline. Bachelor's degree programs cover topics such as studio arts, digital imagery, typography, and color theory, as well as provide instruction in commonly used graphic design computer software applications. Associate degree programs are also available and can be found at community and technical colleges.

Success Tips:

  • Create a portfolio. When seeking employment, it's essential that advertising designers have a portfolio that highlights their best work. A portfolio should be a collective body of work that demonstrates a designer's creativity, design abilities, visual communication skills, and attention to detail. Completing a formal training program or gaining work experience can assist designers in adding quality pieces to their portfolios. Some programs include a course tailored specifically to portfolio development.
  • Participate in an internship. An internship will give students the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience often required by future employers. Additionally, interns benefit from the training received by experienced industry professionals, and they may make valuable contacts within the professional community. Internships may sometimes fulfill a credit requirement of a bachelor's degree program.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Advertising and Commercial Design
  • Commercial Photography
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  • General Visual Communications Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration and Drawing
  • Industrial Design
  • Interior Design and Decorating

Step 2: Gain Experience

According to 2015 job postings, most employers seek advertisement designers with at least three years of experience, as well as experience with design-specific software. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that about 20% of graphic design professionals were self-employed in 2014. Freelancing for clients can be a good way to maintain and develop skills while seeking full-time employment. In addition to paid freelancing jobs, students can also gain experience through completing speculative or pro bono work. Additionally, students can also volunteer for companies or compete in competitions.

Success Tips:

  • Attend a local user group. Some cities have groups that meet periodically to discuss the current best practices of Adobe Creative Suite applications, which are often used by advertisement designers. These user groups are generally free or low cost to attend, and can be a great continuing education and networking tool for graphic design professionals.
  • Join a professional organization. In order to build their skills, prospective advertisement designers can join a professional organization, such as AIGA, the professional association for designers. AIGA provides members with professional development opportunities, event and competition discounts, and exhibition previews.

Step 3: Seek Full-Time Employment

Experienced designers seeking to move out of freelance work may seek full-time employment within marketing departments. After gaining several more years' experience in these roles, designers may advance to positions such as chief designer, art director, or creative director.

To review, advertisement designers have a median salary of $46,900 as of 2015, according to the BLS. At least one in five advertisement designers are self-employed. This can be a great way to earn experience before seeking full-time employment and advanced positions, such as chief designer, art director, or creative director.

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