Degrees Needed for Advertising Jobs

Advertising jobs can be found with all levels of education. If you want to be a graphic artist, for example, an Associate’s degree is a good start for you. Ad sales jobs can also be obtained with an Associate’s degree. For other advertising jobs, you will need at least a Bachelor’s degree and possibly, advanced degrees.

You must decide what your career goals are and then earn the degree that allows you to embark on that career path. Some people start with an Associate's degree, enter the workforce, and later decide to advance to a higher degree. Some companies will reimburse you for costs related to an advanced degree, so that is a benefit to consider.

Another factor to think about is the amount of time required to receive the degree. Associate’s degrees can be earned in about two years, Bachelor’s degrees in about four, while the PhD can take up to six years.

Of course, another element of your decision will be the cost of earning the degree. You might decide to earn an Associate’s degree and start working so you can save money to later work on a Bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, you might like the work you do with the Associate’s degree and, instead of going back to school for more education, choose to work toward advancement in your career by gaining experience.

The choice of a degree is based on your career goals and desires, so the decision is up to you.

Bachelor’s Degree

Many people start out in advertising careers with a Bachelor’s degree, which is the basic requirement for most entry-level advertising jobs. The four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is offered at most colleges and universities. Within the basic advertising degree program, you can specialize in areas such as graphic design, advertising, or copywriting.

Prerequisites for the Bachelor’s degree include high school graduation or a GED. In addition, you will generally have to pass a college entrance exam with a high enough score to be admitted to a college, although a growing number of schools are dropping this requirement.

Courses taken will vary based on the advertising specialty. Here are some listings for different areas of concentration:

  • Advertising:
    • Introduction to Mass Communications
    • Principles of Advertising
    • Advertising Campaigns
    • Advertising Copywriting
    • Media Sales
    • International Advertising
    • Media Ethics
    • Persuasive Writing
    • Presentation Skills
    • Film Production
  • Graphic Design:
    • Color Theory
    • Fundamentals of Design
    • Perspective
    • Photography
    • Concept Development
    • Digital Image Manipulation
    • Computer-aided Design
    • Mixed Media
    • Advertising Design
    • Animation
  • Copywriter:
    • Mass Communications
    • Advertising
    • Writing for Media
    • Advertising Copywriting
    • Rhetoric, Culture and Persuasion
    • Research Methods
    • Linguistics
    • Business and technical writing

Students who pursue a Bachelor’s degree also take the basic college courses, including English, math, history, sociology, and science classes. For anyone in advertising, courses in communications, psychology, and sociology are invaluable. A graphic art or design student will want to take all the art courses possible, even if they don’t relate directly to graphic arts. Students will be well advised to take business courses, in case they decide to start their own business at a later date, and all students can benefit from computer courses.

Degrees needed for Advertising Jobs

An internship during your college years is a worthy goal to pursue. By working in a graphic design or advertising firm, you will gain valuable experience that adds to the knowledge from your classes. An internship will not only provide you with experience, but with samples for a portfolio of your work that you can use when you begin your job search. Some colleges count internships toward class credits, so that can also be helpful. References from your internship boss are crucial once you start looking for a job.

Most advertising, copywriting, and graphic design students will need to develop a portfolio before they begin a job search after graduation. Choose a professional looking portfolio case and then pick your best work for the portfolio.

Those in the graphic arts can find entry-level jobs with an Associate’s degree, but the added breadth and depth of a Bachelor’s degree will lead to a lot more job offers and higher salaries.

Master’s Degree

Some people working in advertising will decide to advance to the Master’s degree level. Many of them will start working at a job after receiving a Bachelor’s degree and realize that they would like to move up to a more advanced degree. Often, the company or agency where they work will reimburse them for school costs while they work on a Master’s degree.

Prerequisites for the Master’s degree include a Bachelor’s degree with acceptable grades. If the Bachelor’s degree is in an entirely unrleated field, basic communications and advertising courses may be required. You will probably have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) before acceptance to a Master’s program.

Those who earn a Master’s degree will earn more per year than someone with a Bachelor’s degree. A Master’s degree can lead to higher positions, such as advertising manager or art director.

One disadvantage of earning a Master’s degree is that there are fewer positions available for those with advanced degrees. If you like the position that you're able to obtain with a Bachelor’s degree, you might want to stay there for several years before deciding if it is worth it to go on to the Master’s degree.

Most universities have programs leading to a Master of Arts (MA) in advertising or graphic design. The degree may be designated as M.Adv (Masters of Advertising) or MFA (Master of Fine Arts) for graphic arts. You can also take online classes for these degrees.

Courses that you might take for a Master’s of Advertising degree are:

  • Media effects
  • Persuasion
  • Organizational communication
  • Communication theory
  • Using social and digital media
  • Media relations
  • Multimedia authoring
  • Web design and strategy
  • Research Applications for Advertising
  • Advanced advertising
  • Marketing communications
  • Understanding audiences and markets

For a MFA in graphic arts, you will like take:

  • Advanced graphic arts
  • Computer graphic design
  • Graphics in Journalism
  • Advanced art techniques

In addition to classes from this list, you will also be expected to take some other courses. Your choice of specialization will determine the exact mix of classes. As a Master’s degree student, you will probably prepare a portfolio for review by a judging committee. You may also conduct independent research and write a thesis.

Many who wish to add a Master’s degree to their resume will work on a MBA (Masters of Business Administration) rather than a Master's in advertising. This gives a firm business foundation that adds value to the Bachelor’s degree in advertising. (Some MBA programs allow a person to specialize in advertising.) Receiving a Master’s degree in any of these fields usually takes at least two years for a full time student and longer for someone who is still in the workforce and only taking a few classes at a time.

Advertising Jobs Schools

Choosing the right advertising school for you depends on the answers to many questions. What type of degree do you plan to work on—Associate’s, Bachelor’s, advanced degrees? Does class size or school prestige make a difference? Does location matter to you? How big of a factor is the cost?

Before searching for the right school, you need to set some parameters. For an Associate’s degree, research the school and its placement office to see if most graduates are able to find jobs after graduation. For a Bachelor’s degree, see if the school teaches the specialty you intend to study. Check the professor/student ratio. If you are heading for a graduate degree, check the number of graduate students in your concentration and research the professors on the school website. Do their portfolios of work match your goals? Have they achieved the types of jobs that you would like to have? For all levels of degrees, ensure that the school is accredited so that you will receive a degree that is accepted as valid in the workforce.

The other factors that you must consider, such as prestige, location, and cost are personal considerations. If prestige is important to you, choose a school that carries that honor, but be prepared to pay a considerably higher cost. If you want to stay near where you are currently living, then that location is important enough to put at the top of your criteria. Also, put location at the head of your list if there is a particular place where you want to attend college. Cost is nearly always at the top of a list of factors. In general, public colleges and universities will be cheaper than a private university. But you should carefully investigate the costs because sometimes the private schools will also have more financial aid.

You might decide to try an online school. There are several that offer advertising and graphic arts degrees at all levels. Be sure to choose one that is accredited and check out the reputation of the school before you begin classes.

You have to decide what is important to you and look for schools that match your preferences. Your entry into advertising jobs will depend on your educational foundation.

Choosing a School

When it is time to choose a school for your education leading to advertising jobs, you must consider several elements to find the school that will best fit you. If you know what degree and specialty you intend to pursue, start by researching schools that have programs designed for those careers. Check community colleges if you plan to work on an Associate’s degree. Some will have more advertising and graphic design courses than others. Most colleges and universities will have Bachelor’s degree programs for advertising; but some schools may specialize in the field of advertising. For example, if you want a career in graphic design or as an advertising art director, you need a school that offers that type of background. For a graduate degree, you want to attend the best program you can find. Research the work of professors and current students to see if the characteristics of the school fit with your goals.

Before you decide on a school, talk to professionals in the field to get their opinions of the school. Make a school visit and try to attend a few classes and talk to students to get a feel for the atmosphere. Talk to an advisor to determine whether your educational background matches the school’s requirements and to see what courses will be necessary for the degree you choose. Review any work of advertising students that might be posted.

Location can be an important part of your choice. You may want to stay close enough to live at home or you may want to attend college in a certain place. Research schools in the areas you would like.

The school’s accreditation is vital. Most colleges and universities have accreditation through national organizations. A program, such as graphic design, may have its own accreditation standards. The information will be available from the school’s administrative offices or on their website.

Of course, cost of the degree is always a big concern. Check with each school to determine basic costs, such as tuition, fees, and room and board for dormitory. Don’t forget to add living expenses and books. Also, you should realize that supplies and equipment for an advertising degree, especially in the art sections, can be expensive. Add those to your cost estimates. School admissions offices will have scholarship and grant information for you, so check into that.

Last Updated: 04/18/2014

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