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How to Become a Graphic Designer

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Graphic Designer

What graphic designers do

Graphic designers use art and technology to create visual images for printed and digital materials including websites, magazines, brochures, reports, presentations, advertisements and more. They determine how the visual elements of these materials will look. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov 2012) reports some of the following duties may be required of graphic designers: meet with clients and other professionals to discuss projects, create logos and images for product identification, create artwork using technology or by hand, select the best colors, layout, fonts and images for a specific project, and determine branding and how to convey specific messages for clients (BLS).

Graphic designers are expected to know how to use the most up-to-date graphic design software. Even though they use technology to create designs, they should also have some traditional artistic talent and creativity. Graphic designers should be able to listen to clients and other designers and translate their suggestions and requirements to their designs. They are often called upon to collaborate with other designers, writers, marketing analysts, programmers and other professionals, so they should have good communication skills and be able to work with a team (BLS).

How to become a graphic designer

According to the BLS, in most cases graphic designers are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a field related to it. The BLS suggests that those with a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field may be able to pursue additional education and training in graphic design to meet the requirements for employment (BLS).

Although steps may vary, the traditional method for becoming a graphic designer may include the following steps:

  • Earn a high-school diploma or equivalent, and take some basic art and design courses during this time
  • Enroll in and successfully complete an accredited degree program in graphic design or a closely related field such as web design or computer arts
  • Build a portfolio while you are in school and continue to add to it
  • Apply for employment

Additional certification, training or education may be required for employment and no guarantees for employment are implied by taking the above mentioned steps.

Career outlook for graphic designers

The BLS expects employment of graphic designers to increase by up to 13 percent from 2010 to 2020. This growth is considered to be about as fast as average for all occupations. While employment growth for graphic designers in the traditional publishing world is expected to decline by 4 percent, 61 percent growth is expected in computer systems design and related services. This is attributed to the increase in Internet usage and the need for designers who can create designs for websites, mobile devices, and more (BLS).

According to the BLS, graphic designers earned a national annual median wage of $44,010 in May 2011. The lowest 10-percent earned up to $26,210, and the highest 10 percent earned up to $77,370. Wages for graphic designers vary depending on several factors including geographical location, years of experience and industry. Industries that employed the most graphic designers in 2011 include specialized design services and advertising, public relations, and related services. States with the highest levels of employment for graphic designers include California, New York, Texas, Florida and Illinois (BLS).

Earnings are dependent on various factors such as geographical location, training, professional experience, career options and more.

Quick Facts: Graphic Designers
*All facts from BLS.gov*

2011 Median Pay

$44,010 per year; $21.41 per hour

Entry-Level Education

Bachelor’s degree

Work Experience in a Related Occupation


On-the-job Training


Number of Jobs, 2011


Job Outlook, 2010-20

13% nationally (About as fast as national average)

Employment Change, 2010-20




Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Graphic Designers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Arts-and-Design/Graphic-designers.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, 27-1024 Graphic Designers, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271024.htm



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