Art Directors Overview

About 60 percent of workers in the field of art are self-employed. Art directors can expect tough competition for both full time and freelance work because the position attracts a large number of creative and talented candidates. A bachelor’s degree in art or design is common.

Nature of the Work for Art Directors

Art Directors

In the field of art, workers create artwork to communicate feelings, thoughts or ideas using a variety of methods such as illustration and a wide range of materials such as computers, watercolors and pencils. Art directors make up one of the largest categories of artists. They come up with design concepts and new ways to present visual communications.

Art directors work on magazines, newspapers, web sites and other printed and digital media. They review material and develop design concepts for these publications. Often working fields such as publishing and advertising, art directors are in charge of the overall visual direction of a project or publication. They decide the best way to present a visual concept, ensuring it is appealing, eye catching and organized. The design, layout, production, artwork and photographs are all fall under the responsibilities of art directors, so in turn they may be in charge of other working on copywriting, design, artwork and layout.

Many art directors work in offices of publishing companies, design firms and advertising agencies. In these capacities they typically work a standard workweek. That said, deadlines are part of the business so overtime hours may be required occasionally. A few art directors are self-employed and make their own hours.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Art Directors

Recommended Education Level

A bachelor’s degree is usually required for art directors. Some enroll in arts administration or arts management programs, which give the added benefit of skills in finance and project management. Some enroll in a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts, studying everything from English and natural science to studio art and art history.

Many degree programs also include computer requirements because knowledge of visual display software and computer graphics programs will be essential to many art directors in their careers.

Art directors usually start their careers at the entry-level as either designers or artists in publishing, advertising, motion picture production or design firms. After demonstrating both artistic and leadership skill, they may be promoted through the ranks, eventually to art director.

At the entry-level, prospective art directors should have an impressive portfolio ready to take on job interviews because it’s an important factor in the hiring process to assess talent and skill. This portfolio of samples can come from both postsecondary training or from internships that allow artists to develop and build their portfolios.

Top 10 Most Popular Fine/Studio Arts Schools

1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
2. California State University, Fullerton (Fullerton, California)
3. University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, Colorado)
4. School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, Massachusetts)
5. California State University, Long Beach (Long Beach, California)
6. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (Edinboro, Pennsylvania)
7. Colorado State University (Fort Collins, Colorado)
8. Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida)
9. Northern Illinois University (Dekalb, Illinois)
10. University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona)

See All Fine/Studio Arts Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Art Directors

Number of People in Profession

31,660

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).

Of the 221,900 workers in the field of art, 84,200 are art directors. While 60 percent of artists are self-employed, many of the others worked in motion picture and video industries; advertising and related services; specialized design services; computer systems design and related services and newspaper, periodical, book and software publishers. Of the self-employed group, some offer services to the same types of businesses including publishing houses, design firms and advertising agencies.

Overall, job prospects for art directors are expected to grow about as fast as average. Advertising jobs will see a spur in growth due as firms require their expertise for creating an overall vision for a project. In publishing though, there will be a decrease in opportunities and so this factor will hold down job growth. This is in part due to the fact that many magazines are moving toward an online format and fewer art directors are required.

Competition for jobs in the field is tough because there are more qualified and talented artists than there are available jobs. So, employers have their pick of the most qualified candidates. This is true even though there are a growing number of opportunities for art directors.

Earnings and Salary for Art Directors

Art directors earn median annual wages of $78,580. The highest 10 percent earned above $160,060, the lowest 10 percent earned under $56,250 and the middle 50 percent earned between $54,490 and $111,300. In advertising, public relations and related services median annual wages were $80,170.

Annual Salary for Art Directors

On average, Art Directors earn $78,580 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $41,670/yr $56,250/yr $111,300/yr $160,060/yr

Hourly Wage for Art Directors

On average, Art Directors earn $37.78 per hour.

10% 25% 75% 90% $20.03 $27.04 $53.51 $76.95

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook