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Art Director Career Information and Degree Programs

Higher Education Articles April 5, 2013

Art directors are responsible for designing and creating the visuals, which appear in books, newspapers, magazines, and several online publications. Aspiring art directors can enroll in an undergraduate or graduate degree programs in art management or graphic design to the education and train themselves in this field.

Graphic Design Bachelor Degree Program

Usually considered a requirement to pursue this career field, individuals who are interested in a career as an art director generally start their educations by pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in graphic design. Since these interdisciplinary programs emphasize advanced and basic art skills, such as color and drawing theory, as well as digital design, media programs and web development, they are typically suited to emphasize the skills essential for art directors.

Students acquire skills in publication designs, brand designs, web pages, development and history of posters, and conceptualization. Also, individuals will actively develop professional portfolios throughout their undergraduate careers. The majority of graphic design bachelor degree program require the submission of work samples or portfolios for program acceptance; several may require the completion of a senior project or an internship for degree completion.

Program Coursework

Typically, students who have earned an undergraduate degree in graphic design are required to complete sixty-five hours of coursework. Program coursework in graphic design usually include:

•Production and electronic media
•Web graphics and digital page
•Production design
•Letterform design
•History of graphic design
•Color theory
•Art history

Career Options

Along with art directors, students who have graduated from a bachelor degree program in graphic design may pursue other career fields. Popular career options include:

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

Art Administration Master Degree Program

Typically, students will earn a Master of Art (M.A.) in Art Administration or a Master of Science (M.S.) in Art Administration, if they want to pursue a graduate degree in art administration. These programs emphasize on exploration of social and political factors, technology, and arts policy issues. Students acquire skills in areas such as legal issues, economic problem solving, management practice that affect the fundraising and arts. Additionally, a majority of programs require the completion of a master’s project or master’s thesis, in addition to degree coursework. A majority of programs require students to have earned an undergraduate degree in design, art, or a related field for acceptance, although several will accept applicants who do not have a background in art, provided additional program-specific criteria is met.


Typically, programs in art administration require around forty-five hours of coursework, along with the completion of a master’s project and thesis. Graduate degree programs also include courses in areas such as finance and business management. Typical courses in art administration degree programs include:

•Financial management
•Writing for the arts
•Evaluation and strategic planning
•Arts promotion
•Financial accounting
•Grant writing and fundraising
•Arts administration

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

It has been reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( during 2008 that art director jobs are expected to increase by twelve percent from 2008 to 2018. The majority of growth will probably be in the advertising field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while jobs in publishing will decline rapidly as more media moves to online formats. During 2008, the annual median salary of art directors was approximately $77,000, although the median salary in the public relations and advertising industries were higher, with art directors averaging approximately $80,000 annually.

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