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Graphic Designer

Career Information


Man looking at computer graphic in computer screen, rear view
Kim Steele/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Job Description

A graphic designer uses visual elements to communicate messages through print and electronic media. He or she may design magazines and newspapers, websites, packaging, video games, promotional displays and marketing materials. Graphic designers work for advertising, publishing and design firms. Some freelance, which means they work on a job-by-job basis, usually for different clients.

Employment Facts

There were almost 260,000 graphic designers in 2012. Approximately a quarter of them were self-employed. Graphic designers work for manufacturers, design firms, publishers and advertising agencies. Jobs were typically full time but overtime may be required when deadlines are approaching.

Educational Requirements

Graphic designers who are applying for entry-level and advanced positions should have a bachelor's degree in graphic design. Those who have a degree in another major can take technical training in graphic design.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements

Other Requirements

A graphic designer must keep abreast of new trends in design and changes in consumer tastes. He or she must also stay up-to-date on new software. Many software vendors offer certification to designers who have been trained to use those programs.

In addition to formal education and technical skills, one also needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation. A graphic designer must be a good communicator and therefore needs strong listening, writing and speaking skills. He or she must have good critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as the ability to make decisions. Because a graphic designer is often a member of a team, he or she must be able to coordinate well with others.


With experience, a graphic designer can advance to a supervisory position as a chief designer or art director.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook

Job growth for graphic designers is expected to be slower than the average for all occupations through 2022. There will be keen competition for jobs.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


Graphic designers earned a median annual salary of $44,150 and median hourly wages of $21.22 in 2012.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a graphic designer currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Graphic Designer's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for graphic designer positions found on Indeed.com:

  • Prepare all production art files for manufacturing.
  • Take direction from creative services manager and senior graphic designer to complete design briefs as instructed.
  • Layout newspaper using Adobe InDesign while following company’s design guidelines.
  • Create accurate graphics, charts and maps that visually support and supplement editorial stories.
  • Manage and traffic large complex projects from start to ship.
  • Demonstrate outstanding attention to detail and quality under challenging deadlines.
  • Participate in and contribute to an interdisciplinary team that includes other designers, developers, and managers throughout all phases of the development cycle with a focus on refining the visual style of projects.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Graphic Designers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm (visited April 18, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Graphic Designers, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/27-1024.00 (visited April 18, 2014).

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