Advertising campaigns promote the interests, products and services of companies through a variety of methods. Advertisers write copy, create interesting and eye-catching artwork, and use media ranging from radio to billboards to catch a customer's eye - or ear.
For creative individuals with an interest in business, advertising can be the perfect career. Jobs in digital media - an area that is seeing an increasing share of advertising expenditures - are expected to rise sharply, but competition should be intense for jobs in the field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports and online business degrees can help students develop the technical and business skills to compete in the digital age.
Education for advertising careers
Advertising is a diverse field, covering everything from copywriters who craft advertising text to sales professionals who buy and sell advertising space. According to the BLS, a bachelor's degree is the standard credential for most jobs in the field, and management positions may require a master's degree. Entry-level positions in advertising are often on the business side of the field, while creative roles tend to go to applicants with some industry experience.
Individuals working in the art department at an advertising agency can qualify for entry-level positions with a two-year degree in graphic design, Web design or a related field. Account executives generally need a four-year degree in marketing, advertising or business, but a four-year degree in journalism or communications may also help students get their foot in the door.
Advertising managers, especially those working in larger firms, can benefit from a master's degree in advertising or an MBA with a specialization in marketing or advertising.
In addition to the technical and communication skills required to create effective ads, advertising degree programs cover business basics such as branding, understanding markets and consumer behavior. More specific courses, depending on the degree level and specialization, may include advertising writing, digital imaging, direct marketing and e-commerce.
While many courses in advertising can be taken online, industry experience is paramount when it comes to finding a job. Students pursuing both campus-based and online advertising degrees can benefit from an internship in the field; many schools help students find internship opportunities, either for-credit during the academic year or to gain experience over the summer.
Although the BLS predicts job growth in the advertising industry over the next several years, it also expects stiff competition for the jobs. New opportunities in digital media may generate many of the new jobs, and the BLS reports: "The best job opportunities will be for job seekers skilled in employing the increasing number and types of media outlets used to reach an increasingly diverse customer base."
Advertising professionals can earn lucrative salaries, but the highest wages go to those who have worked their way up to managerial roles. Entry-level positions and creative team jobs tend to pay lower--although still solid--wages. The following mean annual salaries were reported by the BLS in 2010:
- Advertising and promotions managers: $98,720
- Marketing managers: $122,720
- Market research analysts: $66,850
- Writers and authors: $65,960
- Graphic designers:$48,140
The competitive advertising job market makes degrees in advertising and industry experience essential for helping applicants set themselves apart from the competition. The Advertising Educational Foundation also recommends students develop a portfolio; even non-published visuals or marketing copy can help express a point of view to potential employers, and expressing a point of view is what advertising is all about.
Advertising at a glance
- Job growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 8 percent growth in advertising from 2008 to 2018 and expects competition for jobs to be stiff.
- Salaries: Average salaries range from about $50,000 for creative professionals to over $100,000 for marketing managers, according to the BLS.
- Education: A bachelor's degree is necessary for most business positions within advertising, but an associate degree can get you started on the creative team.