This article explores the many different career opportunities in the graphic design field for those who enjoy art, technology, and communication. Learn more about being a graphic designer, including the salary and job outlook for graphic design jobs.
The graphic design field offers many job opportunities in a variety of settings. You can work as a web designer, illustrator, animator, or product developer and use your graphic design skills to be a creative director, production artist, art director, marketing specialist, or brand designer.
Take a look at five types of jobs you can pursue in graphic design, the salary and job outlook, and the skills and software knowledge you need to work in graphic design.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary for graphic designers in the US is $50,710 . The job outlook is projected to grow 3 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than the 8 percent growth average for all occupations . BLS also reports, however, that there will be an average of 23,900 openings for graphic designers annually.
Within the field of graphic design, you might choose to work in web and mobile design or maybe in print design and publication instead. Consider these and several other job options to pursue as a graphic designer.
As a user interface (UI) designer for web and mobile, you’ll create designs for websites and apps. You may work on projects such as app and website design, game interfaces, and landing pages. You’ll also:
Use technologies to create functional websites.
Ensure sites are easy to navigate.
Incorporate the needs of users and clients.
Translate a brand's image into colors, fonts, graphics, and layouts.
Present content to clients or other stakeholders.
Update websites as needed.
Web and mobile designers can work for large or small companies, and some work remotely as freelancers.
As a graphic designer specializing in print, publication, and layout design, you’ll need good typography and photo editing skills and a good grasp of color theory. You’ll need to know what images work best in print-ready copy.
Some of the material you may work on includes:
Newspaper and magazine layouts
Museum exhibit catalogs
Ad designs and layouts
Newspapers and magazines need graphic designers to layout pages, create ads, and typeset. Job opportunities are also available with advertising and public relations agencies.
As a logo designer, you'll create logos to match the personality of businesses or organizations. The goal of the logo is to have instant brand recognition. Nike, FedEx, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Apple are examples of recognizable logo designs.
Brand identity designers create the entire look and feel of a company’s visual presence by designing color palettes, typography, and other design elements. You would also typically define a brand's strategy and guidelines.
In this field of graphic design, you’ll work with large data sets to make information understandable and accessible to the general public through infographics or data visualizations.
Infographics are visual representations of facts, stats, and other information that tell a story and draw conclusions or show relationships among items. For example, you might create infographics for marketing content, blog posts, case studies, or resumes.
Data visualizations are visual representations of data organized to make it easier to understand and analyze. Common places you may create data visualizations include user dashboards on apps, reports, newsletters, and editorials.
Data visualization and infographic designers can benefit from background knowledge and experience with data science.
If you enjoy behavioral psychology and consumer behavior, marketing and advertising design offer careers focused on understanding consumer purchasing habits. You’ll work with ad campaigns that can involve print and digital advertising, social media graphics, posters, banners, marketing emails, and brochures.
As a marketing and advertising designer, you'll work with a team of other professionals and clients to create effective ad campaigns. You'll research current trends and your target market's characteristics and needs to know how best to influence them. You may work directly for a company or organization, an ad agency, or as a freelancer.
Graphic design requires creativity, an artistic eye, and strong technical skills. A graphic designer will use programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Canva.
A career in graphic design also requires good communication skills to articulate ideas to clients. Brainstorming is important for creating mood boards and generating creative solutions for clients. Knowledge of typography, leading, kerning, and tracking is especially important for branding and advertising. The ability to pair fonts and understand color theory are skills that graphic designers also need.
As a graphic designer, it helps to be familiar with programs like Keynote or Milanote for creating mood boards.
TIP: A mood board is a collage that shows photographs or illustrations, type pairs, textures and designs, and color schemes and pallets. This helps to inspire the end design, and it gives the client an idea of the direction you’re taking and the opportunity to make changes or suggestions.
As a graphic designer, you'll use software programs to create your designs and projects. Graphic designers often work with the following programs:
Adobe Photoshop is among the most popular programs used in graphic design. It's used for photo editing, digital art, animation, and web design. It has a variety of tools and is compatible with Windows or macOS.
Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based graphic design software program used to create business cards, logos, and posters and is compatible with Photoshop.
Adobe InDesign is used for layout and page design by newspapers and magazines for print and digital media. InDesign is compatible with Photoshop and Illustrator.
Canva is an online program with templates for creating Facebook and Instagram graphics and stories, banners, posters, and brochures. Canva offers hundreds of templates and tools.
WordPress is a popular web building program that professional web and mobile designers use because it offers many free and customizable templates.
The type of work you’ll do as a graphic designer determines the program you’ll use, and some designers will use multiple programs, depending on the project.
The qualifications and requirements needed to begin a career in graphic design depend on the type of design and the employer’s needs.
When you seek a graphic design position, you’ll want a strong portfolio showcasing your best work. Because so much of your work might be internet-based, you’ll want a website so prospective employers can view your portfolio. Be sure to add a link to your resume or LinkedIn profile.
Employers often look for candidates with experience. If you’re just starting out, consider using volunteer work and internships as credentials. Volunteering to create a logo or poster for local businesses or organizations is an avenue for gaining experience.
Graphic designers need to have a good command of color theory and typography for selecting aesthetically pleasing serif and sans-serif font combinations. You’ll want to be comfortable using design software and all its available tools and command shortcuts.
Educational requirements for graphic designers vary by position. A degree isn’t always necessary if you are creative, have good knowledge of design principles and programs, and a strong portfolio. A degree in graphic design can put you ahead of the competition and offers the chance to start building a strong portfolio. You’ll also learn color and design fundamentals, animated graphics, color theory, typography, and web design.
Some educational programs available include:
Micro certification. This certification provides you with the skills necessary to work in graphic design. The programs are generally taught at colleges and universities and require completing a set number of credit hours.
Associate degree. You can sometimes complete an associate degree online, and it typically takes two years to complete.
Bachelor of Arts degree. This liberal arts degree program helps you learn theory, technique, and application. This will typically take four years.
Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. This degree program focuses on graphic design fundamentals and often offers opportunities for internships and work-study programs. This option will typically take four years.
Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume
With a career in graphic design, you can unleash your creativity and imagination while helping clients with their design needs. Learn more about this diverse career choice in the Graphic Design Specialization offered by the California Institute of Arts.
Make Compelling Design. Learn and apply the principles of graphic design towards a comprehensive branding project.
281,582 already enrolled
Average time: 6 month(s)
Learn at your own pace
Skills you'll build:
Visual Communication, Branding Communication, Graphic Design, Art History, Typography, Creativity, Graphics, Design Theory, Color Theory, Adobe Illustrator, History, Adobe Indesign, Art, Graphic Arts, Adobe Photoshop
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Graphic Designers: Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm#tab-5." Accessed May 18, 2022.
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Graphic Designers: Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm#tab-6." Accessed May 18, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.