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Director Career Guide

If you’re looking for a creative career that has glitz and glamour, but you don’t want to be under the spotlight, then look no further!

A director is responsible for overseeing the making of a production. This can include films, television programs, music videos, theatre productions, and more. They play a vital role in selecting cast members, having an input on the script and ensures that the vision is being executed by all actors and performers involved.

To become a director you will need a bachelors degree in film or cinema. Alternatively, degrees in business, arts management or journalism are also acceptable.

 

I love that the job changes constantly. Pre-pro, production, post. They’re such incredibly different jobs with different crews, different temperaments, different paces and skill sets. The only real constant is the project itself. And that looks incredibly different from one week to the next. It’s a job that never stays the same.

John Dowdle

Director Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Director Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Director field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33678 Owner Female 45 $25,000 tacoma, WA 01/01/2010
33668 Director Of Public Relations/Environmental Communications Female 35 $25,000 gary, IN 01/01/2010
33601 Area Director Of Revenue Management Female 47 $100,000 wilkins township, PA 01/01/2010
33585 Store Director Female 30 $51,000 Oconomowoc, WI 01/01/2010
33406 Music Director Female 30 $25,000 long beach, CA 01/01/2010

Overview

What a director does

Steven Spielberg. Alfred Hitchcock. Quentin Tarantino. These three individuals are all famous directors that you have likely heard of. But what exactly do they do?

A director oversees the making of a production. This can include films, television programs, music videos, theatre productions, and more. The job of the director begins well before the cameras even turn on. In preproduction, this individual plays a vital role in selecting the cast members and making sure that everyone has what they need in order for filming to begin. During the filming process or creation of a production, the director puts on his or her creative hat and provides guidance to ensure that the vision is being executed by all of the actors and performers involved. Directors can work on small theaters shows, to TV shows to large broadway shows. Regardless of what type of productions they work on, directors can expect to carry out tasks such as:

  • Selecting the right cast and crew
  • Selecting locations (if a film director)
  • Writing and/or editing the script
  • Directing rehearsals and performances
  • Managing technical aspects of filming (e.g., camera, sound, lighting and design)
  • Motivating the team to produce the best possible results

Why they are needed

Directors play a key role in the entertainment industry, which has a revenue of over $100bn. Without directors, the daily entertainment that we love and enjoy would not be possible. Films, television programs, theater shows and reality shows would all be poorly conducted and edited. Directors are needed to keep the entertainment industry booming and to meet the coming demands for high quality entertainment.

Pros and cons of a career as a director

Pros:

  • There are lots of travel opportunities as directors have to travel to find locations that are suits for certain scenes
  • Directors get to be creative every day
  • Directors will always be learning and improving their skills
  • Directors work in a diverse environment where they get to meet lots of people from different walks of life
  • It is a very sociable environment, and you get to work with lots of like minded people
  • It is a very personally rewarding job when directors get to see the finished product that they have such a big input in

Cons:

  • It can be a highly pressured role with lots of responsibility
  • It is a very competitive field
  • The work can be inconsistent and unstable
  • Directors may find themselves wearing multiple hats and may find themselves spreading themselves thin
  • It is a hard career to enter – a lot of experience and recognition is needed to become successful
  • Directors will face a lot of criticism – its hard to please everyone!

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of directors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This employment growth is expected because the demand from the public for high quality movies and televisions shows is expected to increase over the coming decades. Similarly, demand for reality TV shows and TV shows that are available on internet-only platforms (e.g., Netflix) is expected to grow, creating a demand for directors.

Those who want to become theater directors in small- and medium-sized theaters may see a slower job growth because many of these small to medium sized theaters have difficulty funding their shows. In large cities, such as New York, there will be more opportunities.

Career paths

To become a director, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree. Normally, this degree is in film or cinema, where you will learn about film history, screenwriting, editing, the filmmaking process and cinematography. Alternatively, directors may kickstart their career path with a degree in writing, acting, journalism, communications, art management or business.

If you want to become a director in a theater, it is highly preferable to have a Master of Fine Arts Degree. During this degree, you will learn about directing, playwriting, set design and acting.

The key to becoming a successful director is to gain as much work experience as possible. Ofter, directors will start out as assistant directors or in other low-profile studio jobs (e.g., film and video editors).

Example Job Titles for Director

Below is a list of common job titles in the Director field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a director was $74,420 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $173,680. The top paying industry was advertising, public relations and related services, where the median annual salary was $93,100 in 2019. The second highest paying industry was the motion picture and video industry ($87,790), followed by radio and television broadcasting ($64,030) and performing arts, spectator sports and related industries ($61,340).

A directors salary may be a percentage of ticket sales. Contrary to popular belief, only a few successful producers will earn extraordinarily high salaries.

Autonomy and Flexibility

As a whole, directors will have a lot of control over their decisions, and any decisions regarding the creative side production. Directors have autonomy over casting, editing, scriptwriting and much more. However, this autonomy is slightly diminished as directors do have to answer to producers, who have the final say in all decisions.

The autonomy and flexibility in producers who are successful and experienced is high. Producers have the final say in the production they work for, whether is be staffing, budget or promotions. As the media industry is manic, however, flexibility is lower. Often, producers will find themselves working long hours and will have little flexibility or control over this.

Locations and commute

Opportunities for directors will vary because in larger cities, where theater and film production is high, there is likely to be more employment opportunities. According to Zippia, the best states to be a production director, based on average salary and number of jobs available, are:

  1. Alaska, where the average annual salary was $160,036
  2. New York, where the average annual salary was $122,534
  3. Rhode Island, where the average annual salary was $106,197
  4. California, where the average annual salary was $108,363
  5. Connecticut, where the average annual salary was $104,807

According to Zippia, the worst states to be a producer were Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Hawaii.

Work environment

The largest employer of directors in the United States was the motion pictures and video industry, which employed 28% of all producers. The was followed by radio and television broadcasting (20%), self-employed workers (17%), performing arts, spectator sports and related industries (8%) and advertising and public relations (5%).

Directors will work in a highly pressured environment. It is a sociable career, where directors will work closely with set designers, costume designers, location scouts, art directors, film editors, music supervisors and, of course, producers. Assignments can last anywhere from 1 day to a few months, and the whole process can be intense. Directors may have to work in unpleasant conditions (e.g., bad weather) and they may have to travel across the country.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Director careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Director career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Director.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

Directors are likely to be the ISFP personality type. ISTPs, other otherwise known as the ‘creator’ are quirky, eccentric and creative. They bring new ideas to the table and have the desire to turn their observations into art and to inspire others – these are key skills for directors, who must be creative in order to thrive.

Accomplishment and mastery

It takes years of hard work, dedication and experience to gain the reputation and knowledge to be a successful director. Therefore, when a director makes it and finally has the responsibility to create their own production, the sense of accomplishment and mastery is likely to be very high.

Meaning and contribution

There is a lot of meaning behind the work of a director. Often, directors are working to create beautiful films or programs. Their work is art, and it inspires, engages and unites the world.

To have a role with even more meaning and contribution, you may become a director of films with great history or significance. For example, those that talk about natural disasters, human rights or give factual accounts of wars.

Life fit

Work hours for directors tend to be long and irregular. Evening, weekend, and holiday work is common. Some work more than 40 hours per week. Many directors will not work a standard workweek, because their schedules may change with each assignment or project.

Who will thrive in this career?

Directors need to be able to both lead others and delegate tasks (e.g., film editors, camera men, script writers) and work as part of a team with producers in order to thrive. It is crucial that a directors knows both how to work alone and with others. Similarly, in order to thrive, a director, you must be able to communicate well with everyone involved in the project.

Additionally, to truly thrive as a director, you must have thick skin and  be able to accept criticism – not everyone has the same taste in films, TV programs or shows. You must also be able to work well under pressure and meet deadlines. Flexibility and adaptability is also imperative, as directors will face a wide range of different situations each day. Finally, a knowledge of media/film and the desire to progress this knowledge is essential.

Who will struggle in this career?

Obviously, those who aren’t creative will struggle in this career, as a key part of a directors job is to use their creativity to create a vision. Similarly, those who have no real passion for entertainment are likely to struggle to become successful, especially in such a competitive market. Those who prefer to work a stable 9-5 might struggle with the varied and often long hours a directors works.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as relevant work experience, directors will need skills such as:

  • Time management skills, as directors will be wearing lots of hats and must juggle many things
  • Attention to detail, as directors will need to keep an eye on the smallest details to ensure they produce the best possible final product
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, as directors will work with lots of different people and must be able to communicate and build relationships with them
  • Leadership skills, as directors instruct others (e.g., editors, camera men etc)
  • Teamwork skills, as directors will need to work in a team with producers
  • Creativity, because a key part of the role is the ability to envision the final product and add their ideas and input

Education

Directors will typically need a bachelor’s degree in film or cinema, where they learn about film history, editing, the filmmaking process and cinematography. Alternatively, directors may achieve a degree in writing, acting, journalism, communications, art management or business. Directors wanting to work in theater may achieve a Masters degree in fine art. Regardless of what degree is achieved, to become a successful director, extensive work experience is required.

Certifications

There are not specific certifications or licensure needed to become a director in the United States.

How to Become

Summary

A director is responsible for overseeing the making of a production. This can include films, television programs, music videos, theatre productions, and more. A director plays a vital role in selecting cast members, having an input on the script and ensures that the vision is being executed by all actors and performers involved.

There is a huge variety of industries where directors can work. For example, they can work for small theaters, TV shows, films or huge broadway productions. Due to this, it is a career that is set to offer many exciting employment opportunities over the coming years.

Immediate action

If becoming a director sounds like the right career for you, then we recommend starting to gather some experience. You could become an assistant, work in helping costume designers or even serve ice cream at your local theater!

Education and learning

To become a director you will need a bachelors degree in film or cinema. Alternatively, degrees in business, arts management or journalism are also acceptable. To truly become successful, director will need work experience and a masters degree.

Skill development

Generally, directors constantly improve their skills through practice. As they get further into their career, a producers reputation will bring them more work and more success.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Director careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33678 Owner Female 45 $25,000 tacoma, WA 01/01/2010
33668 Director Of Public Relations/Environmental Communications Female 35 $25,000 gary, IN 01/01/2010
33601 Area Director Of Revenue Management Female 47 $100,000 wilkins township, PA 01/01/2010
33585 Store Director Female 30 $51,000 Oconomowoc, WI 01/01/2010
33406 Music Director Female 30 $25,000 long beach, CA 01/01/2010

Resources