What’s the Best Degree Path to Becoming an Art Director?

When you make the major decision to study art and design in college, you want to be sure that you are not only enhancing your natural creativity, but also developing the knowledge and skills you will need to succeed in your desired career. While most professionals are in the art and design field because of a personal passion, there’s no need for them to be “starving artists.” One of the top paying jobs for art and design majors is art director. A senior art director in the field of graphic design earns a median salary of $72,500 per year. Art directors develop the style of visual elements in a work, forming the vision of what the work should look like and supervising the artists involved designing and crafting those images. Many types of projects require art directors, from movies to magazines to packaging of commercial products. The first step toward a career as an art director is to earn a degree from a college or university.

An Art Director’s Education

Art director is a high-level position. Unsurprisingly, candidates for art director jobs need to have a formal education for the purposes of both building their skills and showing that they have the skills and knowledge to succeed. A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) is typically required, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you already know that you are interested in graphic design specifically, then it might make sense for you to major in graphic design from the start. However, any art or design major could prepare a student for a career as an art director. You could also choose to major in fine art, photography, industrial design, or any other relevant area of study. During your education, you should focus on building your professional portfolio of work.

Experience Required

Art directors aren’t hired for their positions right out of college. Instead, they need to spend some time gaining professional experience and further developing and proving their skills. Aspiring art directors can start out as fine artists, interior designers, set designers, photographers or publication editors. They often work in roles such as these for at least five years before advancing to the role of art director, the BLS reported. To further improve their job marketability, aspiring art directors can earn an advanced college degree, like the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.).

For a creative person, there’s plenty to be excited about in the career of art director. Aside from the generous pay at the senior level, art directors have a direct opportunity to influence the look and visual style of a movie, magazine or product packaging. They get paid to exercise their creativity and develop stylistic ideas. They can also enjoy the challenges of leading a team of talented artists. While education and experience are required to attain this high-level job, the rewards of this position are well worth the investment.

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