Advertising Workers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You can prepare for a career as an advertising worker by taking a variety of courses at the high-school level. General liberal arts courses, such as English, journalism, communications, economics, psychology, speech, business, social science, and mathematics are important for aspiring advertising employees. In addition, those interested in the creative side of the field should take such classes as art, drawing, graphic design, illustration, and art history. Finally, since computers play a vital role in the advertising field, you should become familiar with word processing and layout programs, as well as online advertising.

Postsecondary Training

The American Association of Advertising Agencies notes that most agencies employing entry-level personnel prefer college graduates. Copywriters are best prepared with a college degree in English, journalism, or communications; research workers need college training in statistics, market research, and social studies; and most account executives have business or related degrees. Media positions increasingly require a college degree in communications or a technology-related area. Media directors and research directors with a master's degree have a distinct advantage over those with only an undergraduate degree. Some research department heads even have doctorates.

While the requirements from agency to agency may vary somewhat, graduates of liberal arts colleges or those with majors in fields such as communications, journalism, business administration, or marketing research are preferred. Good language skills, as well as a broad liberal arts background, are necessary for advertising workers. College students interested in the field should therefore take such courses as English, writing, art, philosophy, foreign languages, social studies, sociology, psychology, economics, mathematics, statistics, advertising, and marketing. Some 900 degree-granting institutions throughout the United States offer specialized majors in advertising as part of their curriculum.

Other Education or Training

The American Association of Advertising Agencies offers the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in conjunction with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (a sister organization in the United Kingdom). The program awards several different certificates (Commercial, Foundation, Digital Performance, Advanced, and EFF Test) and the Excellence Diploma for professionals with different levels of experience.

The Graphic Artists Guild offers webinars and other continuing education opportunities that help graphic artists grow their businesses.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau offers in-depth classes in a variety of categories, including cross-platform video, digital fundamentals, digital media buying and planning, and digital media sales. Some classes are aimed at preparing students for certification exams.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Interactive Advertising Bureau offers certificates in digital media sales, digital media buying and planning, and ad operations to candidates who meet education and experience requirements and pass an examination. Contact the bureau for more information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Work experience in graphic design, writing, and social media will be useful for aspiring advertising workers.

In addition to the variety of educational and work experiences necessary for those aspiring to advertising careers, many personal characteristics are also important. Although you will perform many tasks of your job independently as an advertising worker, you will also interact with others as part of a team. In addition to working with other staff members, you may be responsible for initiating and maintaining client contact. You must therefore be able to get along well with people and communicate clearly.

Advertising is not a job that involves routine, and you must be able to meet and adjust to the challenges presented by each new client and product or service. The ability to think clearly and logically is important, because common sense approaches rather than gimmicks persuade people that something is worth buying. You must also be creative, flexible, and imaginative in order to anticipate consumer demand and trends, to develop effective concepts, and to sell the ideas, products, and services of your clients.

Finally, with technology evolving at breakneck speed, it's vital that you keep pace with technological advances and trends. In addition to being able to work with the most current software and hardware, you should be familiar with the Web, as well as with other emerging technologies that impact the industry and will continue to do so.