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Media jobs are at a surplus. Whether it’s journalism, public relations, marketing or traditional advertising, the recovery of the United States economy indicates that media revenue is bouncing back stronger than ever, generating both jobs and interest for new grads.

In response, schools have rapidly evolved in order to suit the needs of the media field, increasing program sizes and, on occasion, centralizing classes to tailor the needs and interests of potential students.

One of the most popular media programs in schools across the U.S. in the recent years has been advertising. Sure, the salary isn’t bad, with a median pay of $108,000 a year according to the Department of Labor and Statistics. However, whether or not you get a job in the top-tier world of advertising has a lot to do what skills you learn in school.

Advertising in Schools

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If you research schools in the U.S., you’ll find that most advertising programs fall under communications, digital media or journalism; very seldom do we see actual degrees that completely revolve around advertising. Instead, most advertising programs are actually sub-degrees, or specializations (concentration or emphasis) in one of the aforementioned programs.

According to the Ad Club, the national organization that officially recognizes advertising programs, specializations, like the advertising emphasis, usually require a completion of 12-18 (4-6 classes) units of intensive course study in said field. However, most schools require students to complete a total of 120 units before graduation, which means that advertising education encompasses a bleak 10% of the total classes taken at 4-year universities.

The Need for Graphic Design

Twelve units of advertising-intensive study doesn’t inspire much confidence when you’re out looking for a job in advertising and, quite frankly, it’s not. Most advertising programs will only teach students how to create and execute campaigns through marketing and communication strategies, but most marketing, PR, business and integrated marketing majors already know how to do that, so what gives an advertising student the upper hand when looking for a position in an advertising agency? Graphic design.

Advertising agencies want their employees to know skills that can help generate creative strategies and campaigns. Graphic design gives advertising students that creative edge necessary to get that dream job. With graphic design, students are able to expand their minds outside the campaign norm and focus on creative materials and putting them to use in professional advertising practices. Employers want potential employees to wear multiple hats (mostly because of budgetary purposes).

The Paradox of Graphic Design and Advertising

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When it comes to the media industry, graphic design and advertising are definitely complementary. If a graphic designer wants to market a brand he/she’s created, he/she can’t do so without knowledge of basic, advertising principles. Likewise, advertising professionals can’t execute successful advertising campaigns without the use of creative marketing materials like logos, flyers, web designs, etc.

Because both graphic designers and advertisers depend on each other, many students are now seeing the needs for these two schools of training to merge and offer an equal education of graphic design and advertising. This way, dependability is diminished and education value is increased.

Post Grad Graphic Design Education

Many programs allow advertising students to take a minor (extra field of study), which can add value to their degrees. By combining a graphic design minor with an advertising major course of study (or vice versa), you’ll certainly be making the most of your education, especially if you plan on venturing into the media industry.

However, the majority of advertising majors understand the need for graphic design in the advertising field a little too late and begin to experience the struggle of getting a good job post graduation. Luckily, many online degree programs are available for students that have finished their studies and would like to grow within their fields via graphic design skills.

Many online degree programs are now making it easier for post grads to learn skills such as these by providing convenient Masters degrees or certificate programs in graphic design, some of which qualify for federal funding.

For example, Bryant & Stratton College provides its students with the basics of graphic design through the Interactive Media Design program. Students build an understanding of multimedia, software and PHP web design and development. Skills like these not only add value to your advertising education, but can also help you become a more independent contractor and, perhaps, an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs in Advertising 

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This generation seems to be rich in the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s not uncommon to see many post-grads start their own advertising businesses. Graphic design skills would be necessary here. Many post-grad education programs help students learn the basics in both management and graphic design, essential knowledge when managing a startup. There’s no doubt that furthering your education will also guide you in your advertising startup ventures.

A position in the advertising field is truly a coveted job, but in order to break into it you need to prove that you’re much more than just a post advertising grad. You need to demonstrate that you can wear different hats, both as a professional advertiser and as a creative graphic designer. If you’re not into working for a firm, there’s always that startup option for those interested in continuing their education past undergrad. Make sure you add value to an advertising education through creative skills like graphic design.

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Posted by Michelle Peterman

Michelle Peterman is a former marketing strategist who transitioned into her own freelance writing business. She enjoys sharing the knowledge accumulated from her journey with the business community.

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