Are you looking for a graphic design job? In addition to thorough internet sleuthing, finding the right graphic design job also depends largely on the strength of your portfolio. Your online and hard-copy portfolio should show off your best, most creative work.
We’ve gathered information on everything you’ll need to know about graphic design jobs, from education needed and expected salary to the best way to get a job.
Main Takeaways: Getting a Graphic Design Job
- Graphic design is a very expansive field. To get a better understanding of where you belong in this career, taking time to learn what jobs involve graphic design will benefit you in the long run. We explore these below.
- As this career is very creative, having a portfolio is a must. This allows you to culminate your best work to showcase to future employers.
- There are certain skills that allow people to excel in graphic design. These include communication, being a visionary, being technically minded, and more.
What is Graphic Design?
Graphic designers create visual communications using illustration, photography
Graphic designers can be part of a larger corporate communications department or a smaller firm, tasked with crafting designs such as company logos, letterhead, brochures
What Does a Graphic Designer Do?
Graphic designers create sales and marketing materials using software programs such as InDesign, Adobe Illustrator
On a day-to-day basis, a graphic designer will work on various projects based on direction and feedback from colleagues, leaders and corporate partners. In some cases, they may collaborate with internal and external ad agencies to create marketing collateral that aligns with a company’s vision and mission.
Do I Need a Graphic Design Degree to Work in this Field?
A college degree is preferred for a job in graphic design, but not required in some cases.
For example, you can probably get an entry-level graphic design job if you apply for an internship as a student. Typical majors for graphic design jobs include computer science, graphic design, visual arts, fine arts and web design.
Though some companies hire graphic designers without a degree, you should have certifications in various graphics software and computer programs and/or several years of experience. One of the most important things you’ll need is an expansive hard copy and online portfolio, which should demonstrate your skills and expertise across many different types of visual materials.
Types of Graphic Design Jobs and Titles
Graphic design encompasses a broad category of job titles and functions.
Some graphic design jobs involve crafting pieces by hand, while others create materials solely using online software programs. Here’s a breakdown of some common types of graphic design jobs and sample job functions.
Entry-Level Graphic Designer
An entry-level graphic design job involves less complex projects working at either an ad agency or as a company’s in-house graphic designer. These jobs titles, which could also be called visual designer or designer, are more suitable for students or recent college graduates and don’t require as much experience and education as more specialized designers.
One of the most common ways to land an entry-level graphic design job is to take an internship at a company.
Typical job functions of an entry-level graphic designer include:
- Creating company logos and brand designs
- Editing or creating illustrations
- Developing images for advertising
A flash designer uses Adobe Flash to create interactive web content, animations and videos for companies and organizations. He or she may also use ActionScript to create internet-rich applications with streaming audio and video.
Sample job functions of a flash designer:
- Collaborating with creative teams to develop customized animation solutions
- Improve a company’s website by adding interactive graphics, animation and sound
- Create an animated film or video game
A photo editor uses photo editing programs such as Photoshop and PhotoScape to review, collect and edit images and photographs for businesses such as newspapers, magazines and corporations.
A photo editor may be tasked with:
- Searching for images on sites such as Flickr and Shutterfly for web pages and other marketing materials
- Scheduling and assigning company photo shoots
- Ensuring that photo equipment is working properly
Web design encompasses anything to do with the production and maintenance of websites. Web designers, also called interactive web designers and digital designers, don’t have to be computer programmers but they do need to have basic programming skills.
Education required for this job could be a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in graphic design or web design and/or a certification in web design. Various subcategories within web design include user experience design, web graphic design and interface design.
Common job functions of a web designer include:
- Updating websites
- Designing web page layouts
- Basic computer programming
Freelance or Remote Graphic Designer
Freelance or remote graphic designers are independent contractors who work remotely or on a freelance basis for a company and are also called contract designers, contract graphic designers and telecommute designers.
They often charge an hourly rate and usually don’t receive benefits.
Education needed for this job is an associate or bachelor’s degree in graphic design. A certification in computer programming or other design program is also beneficial. Smaller companies on a budget hire freelance graphic designers, but larger firms can employ remote designers to help round out their in-house design team.
Typical job functions include:
- Creating brand materials
- Creating print and online documents
- Contributing to large graphic design projects as part of a team
Multimedia Graphic Designer
A multimedia graphic designer, also called a new media designer, senior digital web specialist or marketing multimedia designer, creates interactive content using graphics, audio, video, special effects and other tools.
An associate or bachelor’s degree in multimedia graphic design is required, as well as certificates in programs such as Premier Pro, Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. Typical job functions include:
- Creating multimedia pieces or animation for websites
- Crafting materials for interactive displays and exhibits
- Creating multimedia presentations
An animator, also called an online 2D animator, lead animator or 3D generalist, is similar to a multimedia graphic designer but you’ll specialize in designing movie special effects, animated films and video games.
Animators need an associate or bachelor’s degree in animation or a related field and must be proficient in software programs such as Autodesk 3ds Max, Adobe After Effects, Blender, Cinema 4D and Autodesk Maya.
Common job functions for animators include:
- Creating 2D and 3D models of characters
- Editing animation sequencing
- Creating storyboards for television shows and video games
Salary Ranges and Expectations for Graphic Design Jobs
The average annual pay for a graphic designer is $50,370, but there are several factors that can impact that number.
One in 5 graphic designers are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Self-employed designers are independent contractors who can set their own hourly rate.
Animators generally earn $72,520 on average and web designers earn $69,430 a year, so there is a lot of room for growth, depending on your area of expertise.
Projected Growth Rate of the Graphic Design Field
Employment of graphic designers is expected to grow 4% by 2026, slower than average for most occupations.
The growth rate varies depending on the type of graphic design job. Graphic design jobs in the newspaper or publication industry are projected to decline 22% during that same time period and graphic design jobs focused on computer design and digital services are expected to grow 20%.
Companies have increasingly highlighted their online presence and require a larger graphic design workforce which specializes in creating visually-appealing digital content and website layouts.
How to Get a Job in Graphic Design
So, you have creative chops and a degree or certification in graphic design. How do you find a job? Here are our best tips for finding a job that’s a great fit fo you:
- Build your portfolio. If you don’t already have a portfolio, you can create one for free using sites such as Adobe Portfolio, Dribbble and Behance. Include your best pieces and be sure to demonstrate your versatility as a graphic designer. Search online for “sample graphic design portfolios” for inspiration.
- Freelance. Get graphic design gigs from family members and friends to gain experience and add to your portfolio.
- Apply for an internship. Look for internships at large companies while you’re in school. An internship will give you the much-needed experience to add to your resume.
- Share your work. Post some of your best artwork via social media and other sites.
- Tweak your resume. Craft a resume that showcases your experience and is also visually engaging.
- Create a website. Consider creating a website if you’re a freelance graphic designer. Sites like Wix and Weebly will walk you through the process and aren’t pricey.
- Network. Order a networking book or search for online networking tips to learn how to network. Connect with colleagues and friends on LinkedIn, join professional organizations related to graphic design and attend community networking events.
- Keep learning. Be sure to keep current with all the latest graphic design software and computer programming terms.
- Volunteer. Just starting your career? Consider volunteering your graphic design services to organizations such as churches or non-profit companies. This type of experience will make you a more competitive candidate in the workforce.
- Apply. Ask friends and colleagues if they know of any companies hiring and look for jobs online using reputable job search engines.
Top 5 Skills to Be Successful in Graphic Design
Being artsy isn’t enough to land a job as a graphic designer. There are certain skills you’ll need to be successful in the field. We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 skills you’ll need.
Good verbal and written communication skills are a must. Graphic designers need to be able to communicate with clients and employers about concepts and ideas in order to produce a successful product.
You must be tech savvy to be a graphic designer. You should be well-versed on software such as InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator because you’ll use it on a daily basis. You should also understand basic HTML and UI/UX (user experience design) programming languages.
Typography, the art of arranging type to make words legible and visually appealing, separates a good graphic designer from a great one. You’ll need to know how to creatively arrange and manipulate point size, typeface, line spacing, line length and kerning. (Kerning means adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font.)
With little or no direction, you need to be able to take a kernel of an idea and turn it into an appealing visual image. You should have no shortage of original ideas at the ready when you collaborate.
5. Able to Take Criticism
Not everyone will love every design you create, so you have to be able to handle constructive criticism. Keep a positive attitude and if you receive negative feedback, don’t complain. Instead, ask how you can make it better.
Find the Best Graphic Design Fit
If you think you have what it takes to be a successful graphic designer, give it a go. There are times when the job might be tedious (think creating 40 charts in InDesign), but for the most part, you’ll be getting paid for doing something you enjoy. If you’re not sure this is the right career path for you, test the waters by creating designs for family and friends.
If you're looking to improve complementary skills to your graphic design career, check out our top picks for the best UX courses.