Creative Director: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an art director. Learn about education requirements, job duties, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Creative Director?

Creative directors oversee designs and concepts for various media outlets that have a primary focus on visual presentation. These outlets may include broadcast and print media. The creative director plays a particularly prominent role in the advertising industry.

These professionals are responsible for the successful completion of the individual accounts or projects of a visual media organization, from budgeting to final presentation before a client. They will collaborate with various organization departments (such as copywriting and production) to organize scheduling, review needed materials and proofs and ensure work is completed in an efficient and timely manner

Providing the framework or general layout design for a project represents one of the creative director's most important duties. By giving clear direction on various project components (graphics, sound and type size, among others), the creative director fashions an essential guidebook for the entire creative team.

See the table below for information about education requirements, salary, and job outlook.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Communications, art, design, or related field
Key Traits Ability to lead a team in a high stress environment
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all art directors)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $89,760 (for all art directors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Creative Director?

Creative directors are senior-level members of a creative team who oversee production and implementation of projects. Depending on the industry, you could supervise the production of an advertising or marketing campaign, publication or Internet promotion. Your primary responsibilities would include conceptualizing creative themes, establishing deadlines, assigning duties and estimating budgets. You'd also manage the aesthetic consistency of the project. Mentoring of staff and client consultations are common duties. Some employers may want you to write and produce videos and direct social media updates. You'll likely manage staff such as production assistants, sales people, copy editors, designers, interns and freelancers.

What Kind of Training Do I Need?

Creative directors have often earned at least a bachelor's degree in communications, art, design or a similar subject. You would typically work in other creative roles for several years to gain experience before advancing to a creative director position. Some employers look for 5-10 years of experience. Working as an art director or graphic designer, in an advertising agency or in a senior position with supervisory experience can help you obtain experience to become a creative director.

What Are Useful Traits for This Field?

Creative directors need to be able to handle stress and work within a team. Advanced computer skills and knowledge of print production procedures are usually an important part of these jobs. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, motion graphics software and Microsoft Word are commonly used in the profession. You also need to be able to meet goals and deadlines, even as elements change. Creative directors should be creative, flexible and decisive. Since most projects entail writing and editing text, copywriting experience is beneficial. Familiarity with taking and selecting photographs is useful when working on an advertising or marketing campaign.

How Much Might I Earn?

According to, creative directors earned a median salary of $86,679 as of January 2017, though what you can expect to make varies greatly by your background and number of years in the field. More experienced professionals earned a median salary of $98,985, whereas entry level employees earned $55,371.

What Are Some Related Alternate Jobs?

Various bachelor's-level occupations are available that will enable you to fuse your creativity with design skills. Graphic designers, for instance, implement software tools in developing concepts for various print media, including brochures and magazines. If you also have an affinity for business, engineering and the manufacturing world, you might consider a career in industrial design, where you may help develop ideas for toys, cars or a host of other manufactured products.

Other design-focused professions include fashion designers, multimedia artists and animators and craft artist. Your chosen route will largely depend on which industries best fit your interests and capabilities. A potential route for those drawn to creative leadership roles might be found in producing or directing movies, television shows or similar visual media outlets.

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