The world of advertising has grown increasingly sophisticated. Multimillion-dollar images are flashed in a matter of seconds, and marketers want the message to reach its intended target. As a result, the demand for educated professionals in the field is on the rise.
Advertising degrees are offered by various major state and private colleges and universities, as well as by specialized technical schools offering career-focused programs. Specialty schools offer two-year degree or certificate programs as well as traditional four-year college and university bachelors programs, typically within a larger communications, business or art program. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits 200-plus institutions with programs in art and design and also is an excellent resource for students interested in advertising art as a career.
Advertising-specific departments are often found at art or business-specific institutions of higher learning, such the Art Institute schools, where 4-year degree advertising graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in advertising, marketing and communications. "We have a unique flavor to the program as we instill creative along with the business," says Gil Mejia, the assistant academic director for Advertising & Graphic Design at the Art Institute of Phoenix-Arizona. AI graduates could become graphic designers, art directors, account executives, sales reps, branders, marketing managers, public relation directors, researchers, buyers or copywriters. The chief difference in the programs? "The degree will most likely get the interview call," Mejia says.
The pay scale for advertising careers varies by region and by specialty, but on average, degree-holders will earn more than those without higher education. Those with undergraduate degrees could start out at $30,000 a year, educators report. Advertising job seekers with post-graduate educations can command starting salaries towards the upper $40,000s, depending on experience, notes Amy Falkner, chair of the advertising department at Syracuse University, New York.
Syracuse offers two tracks for advertising students, as a department in the Public Communications College and as advertising design at the College of Visual and Performing Arts' School of Art and Design. Coursework for advertising majors is heavily project-oriented. "We believe the best way to learn advertising is to do advertising," notes the Syracuse Newhouse Advertising Department website.
At Syracuse, that might mean developing and refining concepts in a portfolio class, or putting together a sales presentation in the media course or contact with professional clients. "You'll move from writing strategies to coming up with the ads to communicate that strategy to your target audience," the site notes.
Prospects are looking up for those seeking advertising careers, Falkner notes the job market "is so much better than it was." For example, of the 15 Syracuse advertising graduate students who completed studies in June, 13 have already landed employment.
Many Syracuse advertising students have landed jobs working for major radio, magazine and television media, such as CNN, Falkner says. "Most everyone ends up at an ad agency (at some point), and some students end up on the sales side," Falkner says. At the advertising agency level, for instance, key creative positions include copywriters and art directors, while management positions include account management (sales), account planners and media specialists (both planners and buyers), explains Falkner. No matter what the track, ability to meet deadlines is critical, she says. "It's very deadline driven. You have to be someone highly organized and have goals."
Long-term advertising professionals remain in the industry because they enjoy the business, Falkner says, noting advertising can be very rewarding and come with both financial and job satisfaction perks. "If you like interaction with folks, then advertising is the place to be."
Jennifer Chiariello contributed to this report.