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The Advertising Industry: Qualifications and Courses

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While many people enter these professions with an unrelated degree (some of the best advertising professionals started out as history graduates!), you may prefer to study for a more vocational qualification related to a career in marketing rather than an unrelated degree or Diploma course. This section lists some of the types of course and qualification available, and gives a brief description of them.

First Degrees

Polytechnics have all been accorded university status by the government and are now responsible for their own courses, like the older universities. If you want to study for a degree with marketing, advertising or other appropriate content, you are more likely to find what you want at one of the newer universities, as these are offering courses which are more closely allied to vocational needs. Many of the courses are made up of a range of options related to a central theme, and some are sandwich courses, where you spend at least one year of a four year course in employment related to the field of study. It has become more difficult in recent years to ensure that all students are allotted places in companies, and some students have found themselves in jobs which are not closely related to what they hope to do. Nevertheless, any period of work experience is useful, and you can find out about a company's marketing structure even if working there in another capacity.

An example of the above is the course incorporating communications at Bradford University, where you apply for a BA course in interdisciplinary human studies and choose to specialize in one of five subjects (communications, literature, philosophy, psychology, sociology) during the final year. Many graduates now seeking employment have a degree in business or management studies. These degrees cover a wide range of topics, from business law and accounting to human resource management and marketing, and while they offer you an excellent understanding of a broad range of business skills, it is important to be able to apply this to a real working environment. It is therefore well worth trying to gain some work experience either paid or voluntary to demonstrate that you can apply the techniques you are studying.

In Scotland, a broader based four year degree course is the normal pattern, and Scottish students usually begin their course after taking the Scottish Higher Certificate at the age of 17.

Diploma of Higher Education

The Dip HE is a qualification in its own right and an alternative route to a degree. If you have not made a firm decision about a career, two years of broad based study for a Dip HE give you time to work at various subjects and make up your mind later on.

You can usually decide towards the end of the second year whether to leave with a Diploma or to continue for another one or two years, to work for a first degree.

Art and Design Courses

These are suitable for those interested in working in the creative/art departments of advertising agencies, or the design department of a company. Packaging design, too, is a fascinating combination of engineering, design and advertising. Degrees and vocational courses are available in art and design, three dimensional design, textile and fashion design and fine art, and it is important that you consider a course with an element of graphic design. More colleges are now offering special options in media or communications design, and these are ideal for aspiring creative designers in advertising. ADAR (the Art and Design Admissions Registry) should be able to provide further information.

Art and Design Courses in Scotland

Degrees in art and design are offered by Scottish colleges such as Edinburgh College of Art whose degrees are validated by Heriot Watt University. Scottish first degree courses normally take four years, the first year being equivalent to a Foundation Course. Scottish art and design degree and SCOTVEC courses are not in the ADAR system, so information about these courses should be obtained directly from the institution concerned.

BTEC Courses in Art and Design

The Design Board of the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) supervises courses run by colleges and universities all over the country to ensure their vocational courses meet national standards. For art and design, these follow the basic pattern of two types of course and two levels: National Certificate/Higher National Certificate (HNC) and National Diploma/ Higher National Diploma (HND). The Certificate and Diploma courses are on the same academic level but the Diploma courses cover a wider range of topics and give more emphasis to management skills.

All courses can be taken on a full time, sandwich or day release basis and normally take two years of full time study, except for part time Diploma and Higher Diploma courses which take three years. BTEC courses emphasize the application of practical and professional skills that will make students useful to an employer.

Several colleges offer BTEC courses in graphic design for advertising and communications. You can, for example take a BTEC Higher National Diploma course at Newcastle College School of Art and Design, in Design (Advertising) which covers art direction, copy writing, visualizing, illustration and account handling, and is supported by work experience placements. The Graphic Design option covers design for packaging, press, advertising, editorial, publishing, retailing, TV and audiovisual markets. The University of North Umbria at Newcastle offers a three year HND in business and finance with an option in marketing. Other BTEC courses in communications may include subjects such as video production, electronic imagery, animation and film or audiovisual design.

All art and design courses, whether foundation, BTEC/SCOT VEC, first degree or higher level, are listed in the Design Council publication Design Courses, which now also includes a listing of colleges in the European Community. They also produce a free leaflet, Careers in Design.

The Art and Design Admissions Registry runs a registration scheme for applications to BA, BA (Hons), BSc and BTEC HND courses in art, craft and design. The ADAR Handbook lists all the available courses each year, except for colleges in Scotland.

BTEC Higher National Diploma in Graphic Design/ Multidisciplinary Design

These are normally two year full time courses in different aspects of design, including graphic communication. Many colleges offer specialisms in advertising or allied subjects.

Business Studies

BTEC Courses in Business and Finance

BTEC provides education and training both for people in work, and for those preparing for work. The Council offers awards in business and finance at three levels (First, National and Higher National) and two types (Certificates and Diplomas). Each provides vocational education, consisting of a common core of subjects, along with various subject options, which you choose according to your work and interests. These qualifications are nationally recognized and can lead to further education and training. BTEC also provide extensive Continuing Education programs.

The business and finance courses offer a wide range of options covering every aspect of business and office work, including advertising, marketing, and marketing with languages, communications and media studies. The Council emphasizes the importance of work experience, or simulated work experience in college, and prefers full time courses to include suitable provision for work experience, with a significant proportion of study time devoted to simulations of work situations, case studies and business games.

BTEC First Certificates and Diplomas in Business and Finance

These courses provide an introduction to business studies for people who want to work in commercial, financial, manufacturing or service organizations, or plan to do further business or computer studies. The courses aim to develop communication, numerical, information processing and problem solving skills, and include the core unit working in Organizations.

The Certificate has two additional units and takes one year part time; the Diploma has five additional options and takes one year full time, two years part time.

BTEC National Certificates and Diplomas in Business and Finance

The basic themes of these courses are the Organization in its Environment, Finance, and People in Organizations. For the Diploma course you have to choose seven options which can include marketing, and the course takes two years full time, three years sandwich or three years part time. For the Certificate course you choose three vocational options, and the course takes two years part time.

BTEC Higher National Certificates and Diplomas in Business and Finance

BTEC gives guidance to colleges about the structure of Higher National Award courses, and the colleges then devise their own courses. Each course consists of eight core units and a choice of option modules, and covers four main study areas: People, Communications, Money and Resources, and Analysis/Numeracy/Technology. To obtain the HNC you must complete 10 units, and 16 units for the HND. The Certificate course lasts two years part time; the Diploma course two years full time, three years on a sandwich basis.

BTEC stresses that, even for full time, and more particularly for part time students, some studies of specific day to day vocational relevance should begin in the first year.
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