The career objectives for graphic designers range from getting a directorship position in a company or developing their own successful freelance business. One of the top industry positions for graphic designers is to be a creative director. Graphic designers who develop specialized skills may charge higher wages for their specific technical and aesthetic talents. If you're considering a career in graphic design, first determine your strengths and weaknesses.
When starting out, most have received an advanced degree in graphic design from a university along with on-the-job training in an internship. When choosing your first position out of school, consider being an assistant to an established designer either in a firm or working independently. Develop your specialty within design such as print advertising design, retail website design, book design or packaging graphic designer. On your resume, state clearly your goal of building skills in this area and the top position you see yourself working toward.
Freelance Graphic Designer
The ultimate goal for some graphic designers is to have a successful freelance career that allows them flexibility, but requires a lot of self-discipline and ability to work independently. As a freelancer, you must build your reputation as well as develop an aesthetic style and technical savvy that your clients will easily identify. As a solo businesswoman specializing in one area and becoming the go-to-person-for that work, you can go far in developing good client relationships and steady work.
If you prefer to work a typical 9-to-5 job and move up within the traditional hierarchy of a business, the top position of creative director is a likely career objective for you. You would oversee the creative and design work of your staff and keep the team on target with your clients' desired results. A creative director must be a team player, with delegation and organization skills, and have a wide breadth of design knowledge.
Industrial designers often work in very large companies creating consumer products that we use every day, from cars to refrigerators. The field requires advanced skills in design, aesthetics, functionality and engineering. Beginning in this career usually involves moving through the typical hierarchy of the company, including assistantship to junior to senior to department director. If industrial design is your goal, highlight your engineering and practical functionality skills on your resume. Since not every graphic designer studied engineering, this can put you ahead of the crowd.
2016 Salary Information for Graphic Designers
Graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $47,640 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, graphic designers earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,560, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $63,340, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 266,300 people were employed in the U.S. as graphic designers.
- School of Visual Arts: Graphic Design Department
- AIGA: AIGA Design For Democracy
- AIGA: Standards For Professional Practice
- U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics: Graphic Designers
- Smashing Magazine: The Roadmap to Becoming a Professional Freelance Web Designer
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Graphic Designers
- Career Trend: Graphic Designers
Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.