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Advertising copywriter: Entry requirements

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This area of work is open to all graduates, although a degree or HND is not essential for a career as an advertising copywriter.

Creativity and the ability to write well are key requirements for a copywriter, and so a qualification in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • advertising;
  • communication or media studies;
  • English;
  • journalism;
  • public relations.

The advertising industry is extremely competitive with very few creative advertising graduates getting a job straight after graduating. Occasionally, students from relevant courses are offered a work placement after exhibiting their work at their university or college end-of-year degree show.

The most common entry route into advertising copywriting is by compiling a good 'book' (portfolio) and getting it critiqued by advertising agencies. This can often entail cold-calling, emailing and physically taking your book to the agencies.

In the early stages, it is better to get it reviewed by junior creative teams rather than the creative director. Be prepared to have your ideas criticised, which can be disheartening but is part of the learning process. Try to get the same body of work viewed by different teams to obtain varied points of view. If an agency likes your book they may offer you a placement.

Your book needs to be of a high quality and well presented, as some potential employers often view this as being more important than qualifications. Agencies look for fresh ideas, so make sure your examples are innovative.

Candidates also need to show evidence of the following:

  • the ability to write good, clear copy in a variety of styles with accurate spelling and grammar;
  • excellent teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills;
  • logic, creativity and imagination;
  • ability to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines;
  • strong organisational skills;
  • self-motivation, flexibility, stamina and the ability to adapt;
  • confidence, enthusiasm and determination;
  • accuracy and attention to detail;
  • the resilience to accept criticism of your work;
  • commercial awareness with the ability to understand the target audience;
  • an interest in popular culture, new trends and styles;
  • good research skills;
  • administrative, IT and proofreading skills.

Entry-level jobs are seldom advertised and there are very few formal graduate training schemes. When such schemes do run, they are likely to have a closing date in the autumn before graduation. Some employers may contact selected universities directly or attend certain graduate shows. They may seek out talent at showcases, such as the D&AD student awards, and through other competitions.

Other routes into copywriting are possible via recruitment and business-to-business (B2B) advertising. Some copywriters move from the account-handling side of the industry. They can come from art direction posts or merge the two job functions as an art director and copywriter. This can be more common in smaller or regional agencies where some degree of multi-tasking may be required.

Creatives are often recruited and hired in pairs (a creative partnership of a copywriter and art director), although many agencies are prepared to consider lone copywriters.

Creative partnerships are often formed on advertising or design courses, but there are several organisations that offer help in finding a creative partner.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

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Written by AGCAS editors
July 2015

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