Art directors held about 121,500 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of art directors were as follows:
|Advertising, public relations, and related services||11|
|Motion picture and video industries||3|
|Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers||2|
|Specialized design services||2|
Even though most art directors are self-employed, they must still collaborate with designers or other staff on visual effects or marketing teams. Art directors usually work in a fast-paced office environment, and they often work under pressure to meet strict deadlines.
Art directors need at least a bachelor’s degree in an art or design subject and previous work experience. Depending on the industry, they may have worked as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, or photographers, or in another art or design occupation before becoming art directors.
Art directors typically need a bachelor's degree in fine arts, a design subject, or a related field, such as communications technology.
Many art directors start out in another art-related occupation, such as fine artists or photographers. Work experience in art or design occupations develops an art director’s ability to visually communicate to a specific audience creatively and effectively. Workers gain the appropriate education for that occupation, usually by earning a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degree.
Some art directors earn a master of fine arts (MFA) degree to supplement their work experience and show their creative or managerial ability.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Most art directors have 5 or more years of work experience in another occupation before becoming art directors. Depending on the industry in which they previously worked, art directors may have had jobs as graphic designers, fine artists, editors, photographers, or in another art or design occupation.
For many artists, including art directors, developing a portfolio—a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities—is essential. Managers, clients, and others look at artists’ portfolios when they are deciding whether to hire an employee or contract for an art project.
Art directors typically have an interest in the Creating and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as an art director, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Art directors should also possess the following specific qualities:
Communication skills. Art directors must be able to listen to and speak with staff and clients to ensure that they understand employees’ ideas and clients’ desires for advertisements, publications, or movie sets.
Creativity. Art directors must be able to come up with interesting and innovative ideas to develop advertising campaigns, set designs, or layout options.
Leadership skills. Art directors must be able to organize, direct, and motivate other artists. They need to articulate their visions to artists and oversee production.
Time-management skills. Balancing competing priorities and multiple projects while meeting strict deadlines is critical for art directors.
The median annual wage for art directors was $100,890 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $194,130.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for art directors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Motion picture and video industries||$137,380|
|Advertising, public relations, and related services||102,630|
|Specialized design services||99,640|
|Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers||78,790|
Employment of art directors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 13,400 openings for art directors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
As traditional print publications lose ground to other media forms, art directors are shifting their focus to the design of websites and mobile platforms. This shift in focus is expected to increase demand for art directors.