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What Are Some Popular Entry-Level Industrial Design Jobs?

Combining the eye of an artist, the skill of a technician and the curiosity of a keen observer, industrial designers are responsible for creating innovative new product designs or ways to improve a variety of products, ranging from writing pens to the next bestselling toy. Keep reading to learn more about this career and what you can expect as an entry-level designer.

Beginning Your Career

Industrial designers develop designs for new products and improvements in existing products. Most focus on a special area of interest, such as electronics, appliances, toys, automobiles, medical equipment or furniture. Opportunities exist with both product manufacturers and small design firms.

An internship in the area in which you want to work can also help your job prospects. Examples of entry-level positions open to recent graduates include design assistant, finisher, package designer or display designer. Several years of experience are needed before you can expect to advance to higher-level positions, including supervisory roles like chief or senior designer.

Important Facts About Industrial Designers

Required Education Bachelor's degree (engineering, architecture or industrial design); a portfolio is also necessary.
Professional Certification Specific certification/licensing does not exist, but the Industrial Designer's Society of America offers membership and professional development programs.
Work Environment Office setting, at a drafting table or with a computer
Similar Occupations Graphic designer, drafter, art director, industrial engineer

Duties and Responsibilities

Whether you work for a manufacturer or as a consultant, one of the first steps in this process is to identify product specifications by conducting research to determine the needs of the client or end user. You'll then prepare sketches or a model of the new design and present these to the client. Throughout the process, industrial designers often work closely with engineers, graphic artists and marketing staff. As you begin your career, you may find yourself actively participating in the entire design process or focusing on just one or two areas, depending on your position and employer.

Some other job duties might include the following:

  • Making prototypes
  • Assessing the practicality of your design, including its safety and functionality
  • Using computer-aided design software
  • Helping marketing professionals create effective marketing plans for new products
  • Determining how much a product's materials and manufacturing would cost

Important Skills

Working as an industrial designer requires more than just a degree and talent in art. Some professionals in this field pursue a master's degree in business to better understand the field. In addition, industrial designers need to have a good background in product engineering and be proficient in the use of computer-aided design software. Strong analytical skills, creativity and strong problem-solving skills are also needed. You also have to be able to cooperate with others.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for industrial designers were projected to increase by four percent during the 2016-2026 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS attributes this increase, in part, to the demand for new and innovative products by both business and consumer entities. Despite the slight increase, keen competition for available positions is expected, partly due to the rising use of overseas manufacturers. Landing that dream job may depend heavily on the quality of your portfolio. You might also improve your job prospects if you're skilled in both computer-aided industrial design and computer-aided design.

The BLS reported that as of May 2018, commercial and industrial designers earned a median annual salary of $66,590. The bottom-paid ten percent earned $38,630 or below, while the top-paid ten percent earned $108,040 or more. In 2018, the highest-paid industrial designers worked in footwear manufacturing and earned an average wage of $103,570. Specialized design services - the top employer - paid an average wage of $69,670, while architectural, engineering and related services offered a higher average salary of $84,690.