I am interested in the editing and special effects aspects of commercial and film. I am currently learning after effects, and i work on with Avid quite often. Do you think I will be successful finding a job using these tools in either area? Would you recommend going to graduate school before job hunting? And if so what area of study should be my focus for grad school?
I'd have to say knowing those tools is compelling, but learn design before all else. I get demos sent to me often and the media artists who know design really stand out. The color theory, invisible grids, kerning, typography, all the elements that make visually appealing and well designed content is what I gravitate towards.
To answer your question, editing I think improves by doing more and more of it. Special effects usually entails going to the manuals. It may sound boring but go through the AE manual for example, there are so many features and elements, the more you know the better. And look at the whole marketplace, look to game development for example, a huge industry always looking for talented effects artists. School is beneficial of course but self teaching on current programs is key. Set aside an hour, maybe two, per day totally devoted to training. It adds up week to week.