Graphic designers communicate ideas through images. They must take everything a client says about his product or service and create a distinct piece of art that best represents the brand. But graphic designers don’t just come up with graphics; they must also choose the font, size and color of any text to appear on the visual image. As with any job, entry-level designers make much less than their midlevel counterparts — unless, of course, they specialize in a certain sector of design.
For 2011, graphic designers earned an average of $48,690 per year, or $23.41 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this figure accounts for all graphic designers, regardless of experience. The Creative Group, a national recruitment agency for interactive, design and marketing talent, estimates that entry-level graphic designers make closer to $36,500, or $17.55 per hour, on the low end,to as much as $50,750, or $24.40 per hour, on the high end.
The entry-level salaries are a national average, and your market likely pays more or less based on cost of living. For example, graphic designers in Hartford, Connecticut, earn more per year. In this city, entry-level graphic designers likely make $42,523 starting out. Those working in Washington, D.C., also fare better than most, where salaries are 30 percent more than average. Now, an entry-level graphic designer can expect to earn a starting salary of at least $47,450 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 13 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for graphic designers. This is just slightly slower than the anticipated 14 percent growth rate for all occupations. But those designers specializing in design for websites, wireless applications and other computer-related systems can expect a better job growth rate, estimated at 61 percent from 2010 to 2020. In fact, website designers with just one to five years of experience can earn $50,750 to $74,750, according to The Creative Group.
Graphic designers typically need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Unlike other disciplines, graduates of design programs often walk away with a portfolio of their work. This can make it much easier to secure employment, especially when you have a solid book.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Graphic Designers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Graphic Designers
- The Creative Group 2012 Salary Guide
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.