Graphic Illustration Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

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

What Do Graphic Illustrators Do?

Graphic illustrators are artists who analyze and interpret information to produce visual concepts. Their work is often meant to illustrate a company's principles, values, or mission in the form of a logo or other original image. They must have artistic talent, and they typically also use computer design software to produce or finalize their material. They will meet with a client to determine their intentions for the project and then develop proposals. Once the client approves, they will finalize the design.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree is most common; certificate in graphic arts
Education Field of Study Graphic design, communication, marketing
Key Responsibilities Create visual communication materials for print, design websites, produce interactive media
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1%*
Average Salary (2015) $51,640*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Graphic Illustrator?

Graphic illustrators, or graphic designers, design and create visual forms of communication. As a graphic illustrator, you might design logos or company brands, work on magazine page and cover layouts, create film or video game graphics, construct marketing brochures or design web pages. Because graphic illustrators also often work directly with others, such as clients or art directors, good communication skills are an asset, along with creativity.

How Do I Get Started?

In order to start a career as a graphic illustrator, you will likely need a bachelor's degree in graphic design. These programs tend to be selective and favor applicants with strong backgrounds in the visual arts and a solid portfolio. For this reason, it would be to your advantage to begin by taking art classes in high school or at a community college. Professional schools also offer associate degree or certificate programs, which can generally be completed in 2-3 years.

You can expect to encounter coursework in composition, logo design, typography, drawing, Web design and presentation. Additionally, you will probably be trained in several advanced software programs that are essential to a career in the graphic arts. Upon graduation, you will have a substantial portfolio and the foundational knowledge needed to begin your career, either in an entry-level position with a company or as a self-employed designer.

What Kinds of Jobs Could I Get?

Depending on your years of experience and choice of lifestyle, you can seek employment with a large or small design or advertising agency or work as a freelance graphic artist. Alternatively, you could find a job as an in-house graphic illustrator for a museum, magazine, television studio or in a wide variety of other environments.

How Much Could I Earn?

Your salary as a graphic illustrator will vary depending on your years of experience and your work environment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2015, the mean annual wage for graphic designers was $51,640. During that year, the highest paid individuals worked in the federal government, making an average of $78,200 annually. Those working in advertising, public relations and related fields made an average of $52,440 annually, while those who worked for publishers of books, newspapers, directories and periodicals made an average annual salary of $45,500.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Desktop publishers and multimedia artists and animators are professionals who perform some duties that are similar to the work of a graphic illustrator. All of these professionals need artistic skill and expertise in design software. Desktop publishers are responsible for the overall look of printed materials such as brochures, pamphlets and newspapers. They need to understand how color and design can influence an audience's opinion of the material. An associate's degree is the central academic requirement for the field. Multimedia artists and animators use their artistic and computer skills to develop two- and three-dimensional visual representations that may be used in a variety of mediums, such as films or games. They need a bachelor's degree to work in their field.

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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