Product Design Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in product design. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and job outlook information. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Project Designer?

Product designers use their art, business and engineering skills to conceptualize and create everyday consumer products, such as cars, furniture and toys. They typically begin by meeting with clients to understand their needs for a particular design, as well as conduct research about the product. Product designers often use special computer software to help create prototype models and designs of the product. Then they select materials and begin making physical models of the product. They must also examine the product for safety and get the final approval of the client. Sometimes these professionals collaborate with engineers or other specialists to ensure that the product works properly or is affordable. Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a product designer is right for you.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Industrial design, architecture, engineering
Key Skills Analytical skills, artistic ability, computer and mechanical skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% for all industrial designers*
Median Salary (2015) $67,130 for all commercial and industrial designers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Duties Are Involved in Product Design Jobs?

Product designers, also called industrial and commercial designers, create the goods that people use on a daily basis. Product design jobs involve combining aspects of art, engineering and business to come up with various goods, from toys and furniture to medical equipment and automobiles. As a product designer, you would be responsible for the look and functionality of the product, as well as its quality and safety.

Creating new product designs typically requires a lot of research, and you may base your designs on existing products, client requirements or both. The research process can include reading design publications, visiting potential suppliers and manufacturers, conducting research on consumer trends and attending trade shows. After compiling research, you would create sketches or diagrams of your designs, either by hand or using a computer. More detailed final renderings may require the use of computer-aided design (CAD) tools. You might also be involved in the testing of your design before it goes into production.

Product designers often find work in design firms, large corporations, manufacturing establishments and smaller design consulting firms. You might also work as a freelance designer, acquiring product design contracts on your own. You may be required to work long hours as a product designer, especially when working under a deadline. You might also need to change your schedule to accommodate your clients' needs, potentially attending evening or weekend meetings.

What Type of Degree Do I Need?

A bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level product design jobs. Applicable majors include product design, industrial design, engineering and architecture. For example, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Product Design Engineering Technology or a B.S. in Computer Aided Product Design may prepare you for a job in this field. Such programs are likely to include courses in design (fundamentals to advanced), CAD, technical drawing, manufacturing processes, research methods, industrial materials, quality assurance and engineering economics. Art history, science and math courses are also common requirements. A bachelor's degree program typically takes four years to complete, and some programs may allow you to study abroad for a portion of that time.

If you're looking for an accredited design program, you might start with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), which has about 352 accredited institution members (www.nasad.arts-accredit.org). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an increasing number of product designers seek Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees in order to better understand how products fit into a business plan (www.bls.gov).

In addition to a degree, you typically need a design portfolio, which may be the deciding factor in whether or not you land a job. Some employers may also require work experience; this is sometimes built into bachelor's degree programs via internships. Product designers also need technical knowledge, creativity, sketching ability, problem-solving skills and the ability to work under pressure.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to the BLS, product design jobs could grow slower than the national average for all occupations from 2014-2024; keen competition is expected for available jobs in this field. As of May 2015, the BLS-reported median annual salary for commercial and industrial designers was $67,130. As of January 2017, Payscale.com also provided national salary data for product designer jobs; the annual salary for most individuals in this field was between $40,709 and $124,461.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Architects, art directors and interior designers are a few of the related occupations that require a bachelor's degree. Architects design various structures for individuals or organizations, such as houses and office buildings. Art directors create and maintain a particular visual style throughout a publication, like a magazine, or a production, like a movie. Interior designers design and decorate the insides of houses, offices, stores and more. They may make a space more functional, as well as add color and lighting to create the desired effect.

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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