Graphic Designer: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a graphic designer. Learn about degree requirements, salary and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Graphic Designer?

Graphic designers communicate ideas or messages through visual imagery. As a designer, you will select, manipulate and assemble audio tracks, shapes, color, photographs, text and animation into a finished image or layout. In order to become a graphic designer, you must have strong communication skills, a good design esthetic and the ability to think outside the box. Tools you might use on the job include computer illustration software programs, paints, pencils and other art supplies. Your final work may be displayed on websites or in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, corporate publications and brochures.

Graphic designers work at advertising agencies, design firms, publishing houses or in corporate marketing departments. After gaining career experience, you may want to start your own business as a freelance designer and work from home or at a client's place of business.

The following chart provides more information on a career as a graphic designer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Graphic design
Key Skills Computer literacy, creativity, communication, time management
Certification Certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1%*
Median Salary (2015) $46,900*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Graphic Designer Do?

The first step in a project as a graphic designer is to meet with your client to determine the scope of the project and their needs and goals. You will then create the design using any combination of digital drawing, photo-editing, and layout software. As a graphic designer, you often have a lot of responsibility in the creation of visual elements, down to the selection of things like font, color, and images. When finished designing the different visual elements, you will create the overall layout of the product.

Because graphic design is crucial to advertising and marketing, you will almost certainly work closely with your client throughout each step of this process, listening to their opinions and incorporating changes accordingly. Carefully reviewing a final product for errors is the last step of a project, so it is important for any graphic designer to be thorough and pay close attention to detail.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

A bachelor's degree in graphic design is required by most employers. Because earning a degree from an accredited school is crucial, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) provides a list of 315 institutions that offer approved curriculum. Before you are accepted into a graphic design degree program, you may have to demonstrate existing artistic knowledge and skills. Basic art courses taken in high school or at the college level will help you build a portfolio of your creative works to present.

While working on your bachelor's degree in graphic design, you might take classes in art history, computer-generated graphics, design principals, painting and drawing. The artwork you create in school will help you develop a portfolio potential employers will want to see after graduation. You can complete this bachelor's degree program in four years, and many schools offer online education options.

What Is the Job Outlook and How Much Can I Earn?

Based on estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for graphic designers was projected to increase by 1% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Designers with strong skills in Web design and computer animation will have more opportunities for employment. The BLS states that the median annual salary for a graphic designer in 2015 was $46,900.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Working as an art director is similar in some ways to being a graphic designer, and typically requires at least a bachelor's degree. Art directors are responsible for the overall design of any visual product, such as a magazine, video production, or packaging label. This often involves managing others to create layouts and artwork. You might also consider a career in Web development. This type of work requires both creativity and technical know-how, as you could be responsible for managing a website's performance, capacity, and content.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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