Going back to school

Sometimes we discover after we finished our education that the job we pursuited doesn’t match our expectations. Sometimes it seems that we are forced to change our job and learn a new one. Is it worth the time and money or should we stick to what we’ve got? I was contacted by Brittany asking me if she (an account manager with a degree) should go back to school to become an art director. Here her mail and my thoughts.


[pullquote cite="Brittany"]I came across your blog online and it caught me because I have just decided to go back to school for art direction. I graduated with an undergrad degree: Bachelor of Science in Advertising in May 2008.

However, I focused on the business side of things and not the creative. I want to go into art direction but I would like to hear what you have to say about this. My concern: I am about to spend about $xxK on school to do this, as I attend The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago. I will finish with another bachelors, but in Fine Arts Visual Communications around Dec/Jan. 2011. Can I come out of school and move into the path of art direction right away? Such as assistant art director? What is the typical path people take for this?

I am just scared I won’t be able to pay back these loans. I see that the average starting salary for this path is somewhere around $xxK give or take. I have experience working in large agencies, as I interned during my schooling at Y&R NYC, and McCann Erickson NYC, both in Account Management. I appreciate all of your help and advice.[/pullquote]

First things first. It’s no big news that our generation and the future ones will not stick to their job for 40 years as might have our parents. Changes in toady’s business and our goals will make it much more likely that we will have different jobs in our lives. So the more knowledge and capabilities we can get the better. Me myself went to university at 25 changing completely my career to study graphic design – my passion as I discovered quite late since I was a small kid (I never thought that you can actually make a living out of designing newspaper and logos). So it is never to late to change the path and pursuit a new career.

In the specific case of Brittany the change is both radical and not radical at all at the same time. Let me explain. We can see from her email, that she is focused and structured (she has a plan, got the numbers, knows when she will get the second bachelor), this is fine project management, a typical strength of an account manager and something many creative people lack. But the ability of seeing the bigger picture and to organize is a capability an art director must have. I’m speaking of an art director in a medium to big agency – as usual ;-) Art directors in such agencies tend to not do much “hardcore” design work anymore but to lead the general direction of a project. But they still need to know what they are talking about.

The mix of the business side of graphic design/advertising and the creative part is teached graphic designers when they do a master degree in art direction – but I’m not sure if the bachelor degree if graphic design will do the same trick to Brittany (as she already knows the business side from her other degree). Maybe from the knowledge side, but I don’t think for the career.

A “freshman” from university will not likely start in a hiaboutgh position. Depending on the “real world” working experience the best I could imagine is junior art director, which in many cases is a nicer name for a graphic designer. This is in fact a waste of the capabilities, but understandable from the viewpoint of an agency.

I would choose a different approach. I would aim for a master degree in art direction directly. A bachelor in advertising should enable Brittany to be admitted and she could learn the more basic creative techniques and graphic design foundation by herself. It was never easier to obtain the basic knowledge for graphic design and the business part of an art director master course should not be much of an hassle, as she has already studied most of it. This will allow her to focus more on the creative part. In the end the master degree will enable her to enter the advertising career at an higher level using her capabilities at her best.

Foto by Avolore



One Response to “Going back to school”

  1. I agree with the more focused path. Starting fresh will only waste time and money. She knows what she wants and fulfilling general education requirements as a freshmen will not help.