Jobs in Art Direction: Education and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation it takes to become an art director. Get an overview of the requirements as well as job duties, degree programs and work experience to determine if this is the career for you.

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Preparation for a career as an art director can begin by taking drawing classes and courses using computer applications in high school. A bachelor of arts or fine arts degree is required to become an art director. Experience in the arts and working with computers is essential in this field.

Essential Information

Art directors are in charge of developing creative materials for companies or organizations. They create concepts and a visual identity for publications, ads and websites, and they oversee the process of having those ideas executed. Aspiring art directors typically pursue a bachelor's degree in a field such as graphic design and then accumulate the work experience needed in order to qualify for the director-level job.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other requirements Work experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2%
Average Salary (2015)* $101,990

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Opportunities and Duties

Depending on their background, art directors can work in several fields, including art, publishing or digital media. They may also take on different job titles, such as creative director or production manager.

Art directors are often in charge of planning the visual theme of a publishing, television or digital media project. They may also need to work with several different departments in order to produce the appropriate message or idea to customers. Art directors might manage a department or a group of developers or artists.

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Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that a bachelor's degree is needed to reach the art director level ( High school electives in drawing and computer applications, such as Photoshop, can help students gain acceptance to a college-level art program. A portfolio or a demonstration of a student's best artwork may also be required for admission.

An aspiring art director can choose from several different postsecondary degrees; Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees are the most common. A graphic design specialization or concentration can provide a good foundation for a career in publications or advertising. Typical courses include graphic design, drawing, photography and typography. Since many employers look for artists with website development skills, students can pursue courses that teach HTML and web design.

Training and Traits

The BLS states that employers seek art directors who have at least several years of work experience. In order to become entry-level designers and gain that experience, workers often are required to present a portfolio along with their job application in order to show clients their artistic abilities. Applicants with the best prospects display a strong foundation in the arts and computer skills.

Early in their careers, artists can gain experiences and develop professional traits that will be needed to advance to director-level jobs. For instance, employers value art directors who are comfortable working with upper management, who show exceptional people skills and who regularly demonstrate creativity in projects. Art directors must be flexible under pressure, and they also must be able to complete projects in a timely manner. Because they are often in charge of creative developments, art directors must also demonstrate strong leadership qualities.

Career Outlook

In 2015, the BLS stated that most art directors made $47,320 to $172,900 per year. The metropolitan areas reported to have the most of these professionals working in them that year included New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland. The BLS anticipates a slower-than-average two percent increase in art director jobs from 2014 to 2024.

When a company needs art work produced, art directors oversee that production. They may work on website content, advertisements or publications. Since they may oversee a group of artists or employees, they need strong leadership and organizational skills.

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