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Graphic Designer

Career Highlights

  • Creatively rewarding occupation
  • High-demand role involved in a variety of industries
  • Work with other artists and creative people
  • Dynamic, versatile field

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Career Summary

Graphic designers are an integral part of visual media whose role changes and grows every day. Their primary function is to create a visual means of getting a message across, whether in print, film or electronic media. They may work alone or in conjunction with writers, editors and producers to create backgrounds, animation, templates, graphics and other media elements. Graphic designers play a part in print, television, movies, advertising, packaging, the Web, and a variety of other media.

Graphic Designers' Work

Graphic designers can be self-employed, or work with a company or firm. Those who are self-employed work by contract, completing a single assignment for each client before finding their next customer. Good designers may develop a favorable reputation with a client and may therefore be given other assignments, but typically self-employed designers need to focus on finding new clients in addition to working on their current tasks. This means they often work longer and more irregular hours than full-time designers. Contract graphic designers may work in their client's office or from home.

Graphic designers who are part of a firm, on the other hand, can devote more time and energy to their projects and their trade, and tend to work more regular hours. They typically work in an office setting, though the work environment varies with the size of the company.

Whether self-employed or working with a company, the tasks given to designers vary greatly. Some of the items graphic designers may produce are:

  • Magazine or newspaper layouts
  • Advertisements and brochures
  • Promotional displays and packaging
  • Company logos
  • Web pages or templates
  • Web multimedia
  • Movie credits and on-screen text
  • Animated sequences

Graphic Design Training

Graphic designer training usually involves two to four years of school, resulting in an associate or bachelor degree in fine art or graphic design. Bachelor degrees are required for most entry-level positions, though some positions may only require an associate degree. The curriculum usually involves courses such as studio art, design principles, commercial graphics production, printing techniques and Web design. Artistic creativity, communication and problem-solving skills, and computer familiarity also play an important role, as does a continued awareness of new design programs and techniques.

Additionally, employers usually expect graphic designers to have a portfolio of their past work, whether from school or from previous jobs. A good portfolio can be a deciding factor in a designer being hired. Advice on creating a simple online portfolio can be found in the additional info links below.

Graphic Design Job Outlook

The US Labor Bureau predicts employment for graphic designers to grow about 11% in the next decade, though the job market will continue to be competitive. Designers with bachelor degrees, up-to-date software knowledge, and Web and animation experience will have the best opportunities.

With formal training and experience, graphic design can be an exciting and rewarding career path. Graphic designers regularly earn between $30,600 and $53,300 annually, and many move on to own their own companies, form partnerships or teach other graphic designers. Info on graphic design training nationwide can be found by clicking the "find a school in your area" button at the top of this page, and schools can be searched by zip code.




  • Bachelor or associate degree in fine art or graphic design
  • Previous experience helpful
  • Portfolio helpful

Career Skills

  • Artistic ability
  • Communication skills
  • Software and computer knowledge
  • Self-motivation
  • Problem solving
  • Awareness of trends
  • Adaptability

Additional Information

You the Designer - The One Page Graphic Design Portfolio Guide

Wikipedia - Graphic Design

American Institute for Graphic Arts

Graphic Design Forum


US Dept of Labor Occupational Handbook


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*Salary ranges based on location, experience, and demand. This number represents a rough nation-wide average.