Art Director Degree Programs and Career Information

Read detailed information about undergraduate and graduate degree programs designed for aspiring art directors. Find out what courses are taken and what types of careers can be sought by graduates of these programs. Art director career outlook and salary information is also addressed in this article.

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Essential 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. Prospective art directors may enroll in bachelor's and master's degree programs in graphic design or art management to receive the necessary training for this field.

Undergraduate programs tend to focus on artistic topics, providing studies in color theory, typography, drawing and Web graphics; on the other hand, master's level programs emphasize administrative processes such as promotions, fundraising, planning and financial management. Internships and portfolio development could be included in some studies. An academic background in art could be required by some programs.


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 acquire skills in the conceptualization, history and development of posters, Web pages, brand designs and publication designs. They also actively develop professional portfolios throughout their undergraduate careers. 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.

Program Coursework

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
  • Art history
  • Color theory
  • History of graphic design
  • Typography
  • Letterform design
  • Production design
  • Digital page and Web graphics
  • Electronic media and production

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

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. These programs emphasize exploration of arts policy issues, technology and political and social factors that impact the arts. Students acquire skills in areas such as management practice, economic problem solving, legal issues that affect the arts and fundraising. In addition, many programs require the completion of a master's thesis or master's project in addition to degree coursework. 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.

Program Coursework

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
  • Financial management

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

For the years 2010-2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reported that art director jobs are expected to increase by 9%. The BLS also predicts that the most growth is likely to be in the advertising field, while jobs in publishing will decline swiftly as more media moves to online formats. In 2012, the median annual salary for art directors was around $80,880.

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Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BFA - Fine Art
        • BFA in Art Education
        • BFA in Undeclared
        • BFA in Art Education - Painting
        • BFA in Game Art
        • BFA in Game Art (Online)
    • Non-Degree
        • Certificate in 3D Animation - Character Animation
        • Certificate in 3D Animation - Pre-Production

    What is your highest level of education?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (8)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Kentucky (1)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (5)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (2)

    What is your classroom preference?

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Texas (1 campus)

    Classroom-Based Programs

    What is your highest level of education?

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
        • Art History
        • Arts Management
        • Painting
        • Sculpture
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Virginia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at George Mason University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
        • Art
        • Arts Management
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Florida State University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
        • Art History
        • Arts Management
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Oregon (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Oregon include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
        • Art
        • Art History
        • Arts Management
        • Ceramics
        • Metal and Jewelry Art
        • Multimedia Arts
        • Painting
        • Printmaking
        • Sculpture
        • Weaving and Textile Arts
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Kentucky (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Kentucky include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
        • Art History
        • Arts Management
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Illinois (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at DePaul University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
        • Art
        • Art History
        • Arts Management
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • South Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at College of Charleston include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
        • Art History
        • Arts Management
      • Musical Arts

Popular Schools

Avg. Wages For Related Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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