Industrial Designer: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for an industrial designer. Get the facts about the job duties, education requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Industrial Designer?

Industrial designers may design vehicles, household appliances, toys and an array of other products. They draw on their knowledge of engineering, business and art to put together a product that is attractive to potential consumers and clientele. They must consider cost, practicality and functional efficiency as they develop and improve products.

The table below outlines the general requirements for a career as an industrial designer.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Fine arts, industrial design, architecture, engineering
Training Required On-the-job training for entry-level positions
Key Skills Ability to sketch or draw using computer tools, accounting, marketing, strategic planning
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%*
Median Salary (2015) $67,130*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Become an Industrial Designer?

As an industrial designer you will combine art, business and engineering to create and refine products for everyday use. Typically you will pick an industry to specialize in such as computers, automobiles, appliances or toys.

On the job, you will sketch ideas and detailed drawings using computer tools as well as traditional art supplies. After consulting with the engineering, marketing and sales departments, you will use models to determine product limitations and refine your designs. To see your product produced you will have to evaluate costs, safety, functionality, value and marketability, and then test the product through company presentations and market research. To complete this process, you will need to know computer-aided design (CAD) software as well as sketching and sculpting techniques.

To get a job as a product designer you will likely need a portfolio with examples of your work. Project management and business skills such as accounting, marketing and strategic planning are also important to have as more and more products integrate. Being able to follow customer demands and work with marketing and strategic planners can improve your job prospects. After you have gained enough experience you may decide to become a design professor or private consultant. Another alternative is to open your own firm.

What Kind of Education Will I Need?

As an entry-level product designer you will most likely be given on-the-job training. When you have experience you may be able to take a higher-level position. In either case, you will likely need an applicable bachelor's degree such as fine arts, industrial design, architecture or engineering. Regardless of your degree you should also take classes in all those fields, along with CAD, commercial art, advertising, drafting, graphic design, metal arts, painting, manufacturing methods, psychology, business and ceramic arts.

While in school, you may be able to gain experience through an internship. If you already have a bachelor's degree and want to move ahead in your career, a Master's of Business Administration should teach you the skills to see how products fit into a business's overall plan, as well as other necessary business skills like budgeting and marketing.

How Much Money Can I Make?

In 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the lowest 10% of designers made $37,630 or less annually, while the highest 10% made $104,730 or more annually. The median wage for industrial designers in 2015 was $32.28 an hour, or $67,130 a year. Though the industry is expected to continue growing thanks to consumer demand for new products and styles, a decline in the manufacturing industry will contribute to slower growth for industrial designers between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. Job prospects will be best for designers with experience in the latest computer-aided design software.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

An occupation similar to industrial designer that requires a bachelor's degree is industrial engineer. Industrial engineers are the troubleshooters and efficiency experts of the field. It's their responsibility to come up with a system that is a combination of information, materials, machines, energy and workers to provide a service or turn out a product in an efficient manner that minimizes overall wastefulness. All this is done with an eye toward maintaining quality control.

Another creative field is that of fashion design. Most fashion designers have earned a bachelor's degree in an area such as fashion merchandising or design. In the course of their training, they become familiar with the nature of colors, fabrics, textiles and other materials. In addition, they become proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) technology. Entry into the fashion industry is often accomplished by securing a position as an assistant designer or by serving an internship with an established fashion house or manufacturing firm.

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