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3 Above-Average Graphic Design Salaries for Creative Professionals

graphic design salaries

If you’re considering pursuing your dream of working in the graphic design field, then it’s normal to have some questions or concerns. Being in the workforce has taught you to always have a plan, which is why you want to do a little research before making the career change you might be contemplating.

One of your biggest concerns is likely whether a typical graphic design salary can support your financial needs. You may be asking yourself these questions:How much do graphic designers make, anyway?” “Will I be able to support myself on this new salary?” and “Is this career change worth making?”

As much as you’d like to blindly chase your dreams, the practical side of you is a bit more cautious. Take comfort in knowing high-paying graphic design jobs do exist, and they could be yours with the right planning and preparation. Keep reading for a closer look at graphic designer salaries and some particular positions that may peak your interest.

A closer look at graphic designer salaries

The term, “graphic designer,” is used somewhat loosely these days. There are a lot of individual, specialized roles that fall under this umbrella. Generally speaking, designers who specialize in a niche area are qualified to earn higher salaries than those who identify as generalists.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) classifies most of these positions under two main occupations: graphic designer and web developer. The graphic designer bucket holds job titles such as production artist, publications designer, graphic artist and online producer. The web developer umbrella covers positions like web designer, web architect, webmaster and more—that said, most design-related web developer jobs center around front-end development.

Before we get into specific positions, let’s take a look at the average earning potential for these two groups, according to the DOL. This will help you get a better idea of the overall landscape of graphic design salaries in general.

Keep in mind that the national average for all occupations in 2017 was $37,690.* This means that both occupational groups in this field have above-average earning potential. This, in itself, should be enough to debunk your misconception that graphic designers aren’t compensated highly.

3 Graphic design jobs with above-average earning potential

Now that you have a better understanding of a graphic designer salary, let’s zoom in a bit closer on three particular positions that typically offer an impressive income. Keep in mind that factoring in your education level, years of experience and geographic location will also influence your earning potential.

But these averages can still give you a good idea of what you can expect in these positions. Get a taste of the responsibilities of each and learn what it takes to land these esteemed graphic design jobs.

1. Multimedia artist and animator

Multimedia artists and animators create animation and special effects for movies, television, video games and other forms of media. They breathe life into ideas by writing code and using computer software to set images to motion. Sometimes called motion graphics designers or digital designers, these workers often have the option of being self-employed, or they may work for an agency, television or film studio.

Median annual salary (2017): $70,530*

Education: Employers typically require a Bachelor’s degree, a good portfolio of work and strong technical skills. Many multimedia artists and animators earn some form of Graphic Design degree.

Training: Some employers provide on-the-job training for workers who need to learn a specific software and computer applications. Luckily, with the proper knowledge and skills, you can enter this field relatively quickly.

Top skills employers seek

Technical skills needed Transferrable skills needed
Adobe Creative Suite Creativity
UX wireframes Research
User interface (UI) design Collaboration

2. Art director

Art directors work for magazines, newspapers, large organizations or agencies to manage the overall aesthetic direction of a project or campaign. They generally supervise teams of design specialists to ensure budgets are kept, deadlines are met and the artistic vision of the client is achieved. Art directors are also responsible for reviewing and approving all creative materials before they are presented to a client.

Median annual salary (2017): $92,500*

Education: Most employers require candidates to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. In an advanced leadership position like this, many individuals also have a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Training: Most individuals work five or more years as graphic designers, illustrators or copy editors before climbing the corporate ladder to the role of art director.

Top skills employers seek

Technical skills needed Transferrable skills needed
Adobe Creative Suite Collaboration
Budgeting Communication
Project management Attention to detail

3. Applications developer

Applications developers are the brains behind the beloved apps and games on our favorite tech devices. They develop, create and modify computer applications using various programming languages. Many of these positions lean heavily on the technical side, but still require a healthy dose of creativity and design skills to ensure applications are user-friendly and meet the needs of the client. App development covers a range of roles, but design-minded professionals can find their niche in areas like user experience / user interface (UX/UI) design, as well as front-end mobile app development.

Median annual salary (2017): $101,790*

Education: Most applications developers have at least a Bachelor’s degree. In this highly technical position, a degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering or the like is common.

Training: Although writing code isn’t always their biggest responsibility, it’s important to have somewhat extensive experience in computer programming. It’s also extremely important for applications developers to keep a pulse on new industry trends and technologies, adding new skills to their arsenal throughout the years.

Top skills employers seek

Technical skills needed Transferrable skills needed
JAVA Communication
SQL Writing
JavaScript Problem solving

Start earning your graphic design salary

You likely noticed that the three positions outlined above are quite different from one another. This goes to show that designers of all kinds can have exciting earning potential. Now that you can let down your guard about how much graphic designers make, you can decide which career path best fits your unique skills and interests.

The good news is that graphic designer salaries are typically higher than the average occupation. Knowing this, you can confidently explore your options and pursue your desired profession. The next step is acquiring the necessary training and education to qualify yourself for these positions. Learn more about how you can become a competitive candidate in our article, “7 Tech Skills & Certifications for Graphic Designers.”

* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [salary and career data accessed April 4, 2018] www.bls.gov/oes/. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in December 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2018.

Callie Malvik

Callie is the Content Manager at Collegis Education, overseeing blog content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about creating quality resources that empower others to improve their lives through education.

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