Advertising Degrees: Bachelors, Associates & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an advertising degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Advertising: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

If you have a creative mind and enjoy communicating with others through art, an associate's or bachelor's degree in advertising could be a good fit for you. Advertising combines elements of art, design and typography to create unique ads meant to promote a person, place, product or idea to a targeted audience. A degree could serve as the first step toward you beginning a career in this field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall job outlook advertising managers from 2010-2020 was expected to rise at an average rate of 13%. In May 2011 the BLS reported that advertising managers earned a median annual salary of about $88,000. The BLS predicted job opportunities for web advertising to continue rising, while the demand for newspaper and other forms of print advertising was expected to decline by 22% from 2010-2020.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level careers in advertising. People who want to work in management and coordinating careers in advertising.
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Advertising sales agent ($45,000)*
-Advertising clerk ($39,000)**
- Advertising manager ($88,000)*
- Advertising coordinator ($52,000)**
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credit hours in advertising and general studies coursework
- Capstone project
- Roughly 120 credit hours in advertising and general studies coursework
- Portfolio
- Internship
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Rare Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), ** (2012 figures).

Associate's Degrees in Advertising

Associate's degree programs in advertising may be available in combination with art or graphic design, or they may be available as concentration options within broader marketing programs. Through an art or graphic design program, you can learn to incorporate elements of 2-D and 3-D art with digital and computer technologies, you will learn how to analyze and critique existing advertisements, in addition to creating your own. Through a marketing program, you could study advertising alongside broader business concepts.

Pros and Cons


  • An associate's degree could give you a competitive edge when applying for entry-level advertising jobs that only require a high school diploma
  • An associate's program will give you the chance to learn valuable computer and artistic skills while working under experienced mentors
  • An associate's degree might be transferable to a 4-year school and count as the first half of your bachelor's credits if you decide to continue your education


  • A degree is not a hard requirement for some entry-level positions (advertising sales agents)
  • A limited number of careers are available to associate's degree holders in advertising
  • Associate's programs in advertising may be difficult to find

Courses and Requirements

Through an associate degree program combining advertising and art, you may complete coursework in areas like digital imaging, graphic design, computer graphics and typography, in addition to courses in subjects like media relations and client relations. In addition to coursework, you may need to complete a capstone project or portfolio review for graduation. Your portfolio will be a cumulative collection of advertisements you create throughout your schooling and will be reviewed and critiqued by faculty members.

Marketing programs may be offered in specific fields, such as fashion marketing, or may allow you to choose an area of emphasis, such as advertising. In addition to courses in advertising, you can take business courses in areas like management, business law, accounting, retailing and public relations.

Online Availability

Online associate's programs in advertising are not very common, but they do exist. An online program may offer more scheduling flexibility if you work full-time or have other commitments. If you decide to pursue your degree online, you can expect to take the same types of courses you would take through a campus-based program and graduate with the same skills and job prospects. An online program may also enable you to accelerate your education, with some associate's program allowing you to earn your degree in as little as 70 weeks.

Stand Out With This Degree

Some entry-level careers focus more on selling advertisements to media and publication companies than on creating ads. Taking elective courses in communications and speech could increase your interpersonal skills and make you a more effective sales person. Having experience in communications and speech might make you more desirable to potential employers.

Having sales experience could make your resume stand out when combined with your degree. Working a retail job or other sales-related job while attending school will give you valuable experience in selling products to consumers, which might help you when applying for jobs after graduation.

Degree Alternative

If you're interested in the artistic side of advertising, you might consider earning a degree in graphic arts or graphic design in order to work as a graphic designer. Typically, a bachelor's degree in the field is required for such a position, but an associate degree could help you earn credits that could be useful in completing a 4-year degree. This could include study in subjects like drawing, lighting, illustration and computer graphics.

Graphic designers work to design the typography, logos, fonts and colors that companies use in their advertisements. They typically use computer technology and design software to accomplish this. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers were expected to see an average job growth of 13% from 2010-2020, and they earned a median annual salary of about $44,000 in 2011.

Bachelor's Degrees in Advertising

Bachelor's programs in advertising are designed to prepare you for a variety of careers within the field of advertising. You will learn advanced art, design and computer skills and you will also learn how to analyze a target market and consumer behavior to create ads that will effectively appeal to them.

Pros and Cons


  • A wider variety of careers are available to bachelor's degree holders in the advertising field, including management positions
  • Bachelor's programs in advertising are more common than associate's programs, so you will have more schools to choose from
  • Courses in both creative and business concepts can be included in bachelor's degree programs and can prepare you for a wider variety of professional positions


  • Print-based advertising is predicted to continue declining according to the BLS, so your job prospects may be limited to web-based advertising
  • Advertising is always evolving with technology, so you may need to continue your education with non-degree courses in computers after graduation to keep up with the rapid changes in this field
  • If you prefer fine art mediums, such as drawing or painting, you may not succeed in this field as it is so technology-dependent

Courses and Requirements

During your time in a bachelor's-level advertising program you can expect to take a diverse set of courses designed to provide you with a well-rounded education in the fundamentals of advertising. You could take courses in subjects like advanced principles of consumer behavior patterns, consumer psychology and marketing. Some courses you might take in a bachelor's advertising program include layout and production, campaign design and innovative advertising

In addition to coursework, you may need to complete a portfolio and participate in an internship in order to earn your degree. Your portfolio will be a collection of professional-level advertisements you create throughout your schooling compiled together to showcase the skills and knowledge you have gained. This portfolio will likely be reviewed and critiqued by faculty members. An internship will be completed through an advertising firm, print publication or web-based company and will involve working alongside people who work in advertising. An internship will enable you to build upon concepts you learn in class while gaining valuable first-hand experience for your resume.

Online Availability

When pursuing you bachelor's degree in advertising you have the option to do so on campus or online. As with an associate's program, an online bachelor's degree program may provide you with the flexibility you need to work your education into your schedule.

Get Ahead With This Degree

As technological advances are made, advertising is becoming more dependent on computer technology. Familiarizing yourself with multiple operating systems and becoming proficient in the use of a variety of computer programs could increase your job prospects as you will have the ability to create and publish ads on more than one system and can adapt to whatever program/system preferences a company has.

When compiling your portfolio for graduation review, carefully select only your best pieces and put the portfolio together in a professional manner. This way your portfolio can be used not only for your in-school review but also as an example of your skills and capabilities to show to potential employers as you apply for jobs after graduation.

You can begin designing and selling your own ads before you graduate. Contact local businesses or websites and offer your services as an ad designer. Building a client list before you finish school will give you references and examples of where your work has been seen to add to your resume.

Degree Alternatives

While bachelor's degree programs in advertising are available, you may find that they are not as available as some alternative options. A Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Marketing program can qualify you to work in the field of advertising, both in an entry-level position and in a management position. These programs commonly begin with a core of business courses in subjects like finance, accounting and management, and then allow you to study marketing through a concentration option, including courses in advertising, promotion, consumer behavior, sales and market research.

According to the BLS, advertising, promotions and marketing managers are expected to see an employment growth of about 14% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as average. In 2011, the BLs reported that marketing managers earn a median annual salary of about $116,000. Additionally, with such a degree, you might become a market research analyst. In 2011, these professionals earned a median annual salary of about $60,000, according to the BLS, and from 2010-2020 they were expected to see a 41% growth in employment.

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