Art Director Job Description and Salary

Art directors are skilled professionals who create and implement the visual design elements associated with brand positioning, public relations and strategic marketing in order to convey an employer or client’s unique message.

As the chief liaison between clients and other design professionals, art directors must be able to understand a client’s vision and ensure its development by the design team. Good communication skills and the ability to express abstract ideas visually are vital to this profession.

Another essential duty is the creation and administration of project schedules and budgets. Art directors strive to maximize the financial resources and earnings of both client and employer.

On a daily basis, art directors may: design promotional, advertising and public relations materials and campaigns; review a design team’s performance and production; collaborate with other marketing and creative departments; and develop or refine project budgets.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that more than 76,000 art directors will be employed in 2024 – most of them in the advertising, specialized design and public relations sectors. Employment opportunities in traditional print media are expected to decline.

As online and digital media steadily eclipse traditional print media, art directors will need to be proficient in Internet design, branding and marketing.

The field is projected to be highly competitive, and art directors likely will need top-tier credentials and training to remain marketable.

Salary Ranges and Considerations

In May 2016, the median annual wage for art directors was $89,820, according to data collected by the BLS. The pay scale ranged from less than $48,660 to more than $166,400. Art directors in advertising, public relations and similar sectors earned above the median salary.

Positions may differ in title, responsibility and availability based on many factors, including state and regional variables in the employment sector. That can affect compensation levels, so it’s important to explore local markets and conditions.

Education and Training

Employers typically require a bachelor’s degree for consideration as an art director. A marketing degree can provide individuals with knowledge in core competencies including:

  • Sales management
  • Consumer behavior
  • Advertising and promotion
  • Marketing management
  • Internet marketing

Many degree programs also offer internship opportunities and hands-on professional experience.

Career Path

In addition to possessing a bachelor’s degree, art directors are usually employed in related capacities within their sector for three to five years before moving into a leadership position.

As technology continues to evolve and the information sector increasingly helps to fuel the national economy, design and marketing professionals with broad-based training and education may be positioned to thrive.

Applicable Military Occupational Specializations

The duties and responsibilities of numerous military occupational specializations correspond with those of civilian art directors, including:

U.S. Air Force

  • Public Affairs Specialist: Create and produce publications, presentations and other visual communications

U.S. Army

  • Multimedia Illustrator: Supervise and oversee production of multimedia imaging and visual information
  • Psychological Operations Specialist: Assess, create and distribute media and information to a target population

U.S. Navy

  • Mass Communication Specialist: Design, create and disseminate strategic visual media and information


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