If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in the arts, you might be wondering, “how much do graphic designers make?”
It’s not an easy question to answer since the average salary for a graphic designer can vary widely depending on a myriad of factors, including where you live, what kind of education you have, and what sorts of tasks you do at your job.
However, looking at average graphic designer salaries can be helpful, especially when you’re trying to figure out whether this might be a wise career path for you.
In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about how much graphic designers earn so that you can decide for yourself!
What Does a Graphic Designer Do?
Before we take a deep dive into the average graphic designer salary, let’s first describe what the work of a graphic designer consists of.
As a graphic designer, you will work with clients and other design professionals to create and plan images, web pages, layouts, and/or typography that meets the specific needs of a project.
Depending on your specialty and the specific design services you and your company offer, you could find yourself working on book covers, logos, websites, brochures, and more.
Often, you’ll use design programs like Canva or Adobe Creative Cloud to create and edit images, page layouts, colors, fonts, and more.
You’ll have to be extremely creative and have strong analytical skills (along with a keen eye for design) in order to succeed in this competitive job market. While there are plenty of self-taught designer professionals out there, pursuing a formal education in graphic design can be beneficial in helping you to develop the professional network and communication skills you need to be successful.
How Much Do Graphic Designers Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a graphic designer earns an average base salary of $53,380 per year, or around $25.66 per hour. This is based on data from 2020 and prior.
The highest-paid workers could be found in industries such as advertising, public relations, and specialized design services. At the lower end of the spectrum, you’ll find graphic designers who work in printing, newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers.
While the lowest 10% of earners brought in less than $31,720, the highest 10% earned well over $93,440.
As you can see, there’s quite a bit of variability in how much (or how little) you can earn as a graphic designer.
Wages vary based on where you live, too. You’ll find the highest overall wages in heavily populated areas like Washington, D.C., where graphic designers bring in an average of $71,180. Move to South Dakota, and you’ll earn much less – an average of $36,300.
How Much Do Graphic Designers Make Starting Out?
As with most fields, the more experience you have as a graphic designer, the more money you will make. Your career will likely start with an entry-level job and progress as you gain more experience.
A top-level graphic designer will earn an average of $65,670 per year, while a senior-level earner will receive a wage of around $51,198. Some starting-level graphic designers, however, may earn as little s $22,957 per year. As a creative director or art director, you could earn more than $126,637 per year!
Of course, those are approximate values.
As you gain more experience, you’ll be able to command a higher yearly income. You may be able to pursue a promotion at your design company too, going from an entry-level graphic designer to a chief designer or art director.
Is Graphic Designing a Good Career?
Graphic design is a great career to consider – not just for the average base salary, but for all the other benefits it offers, too.
As mentioned early, nearly a fifth of all graphic designers are self-employed. That means they are the masters of their own schedules. While you certainly need to hustle as a freelance graphic designer, the reality is that a freelancer can have some of the best work-life balance, especially compared to other careers.
You’ll Gain Transferable Skills
If you’re considering a career as a graphic designer, you probably are already incredibly artistic and creative.
However, this kind of career will also provide you with a number of transferable skills. These skills may come in handy if you decide to change careers later in your life.
You’ll likely build analytical, communication, research, and time management skills as a result of your work as a graphic designer.
You Can Work in a Wide Variety of Industries
Graphic design is a great career to pursue if you aren’t 100% sure which industry you’d like to work in.
Common industries that employ graphic designers include advertising agencies, publishers, computer systems design companies, printing shops, and more.
Not only that, but you can also work as a freelance designer. As a freelancer, you’ll be able to work as little or as much as you’d like – you can hustle for a higher salary or take it easy and freelance as a complement to your full-time job.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 19% of all graphic designers are self-employed.
Depending on the industry in which you work, you’ll find that your graphic designer salary varies, too. The best-paying industries for graphic design include:
- Energy and utilities
- Biotech and pharmaceuticals
- Internet and technology
- Aerospace and defense
- Architecture and civil engineering
- Banking and financial services
- Marketing and advertising
The Expected Job Growth is Excellent
As a graphic designer, you’ll enjoy an average job growth of around 3% from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although this growth rate is a bit slower than the national average, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the availability of jobs for workers who identify as freelancers who complete graphic design work on an independent or part-time basis.
It is important to note that the graphic designer who chooses to work as a web designer will have access to a better job market than the one who works in traditional print media.
This is due primarily to an increase in online publishing. If you’re technologically savvy along with artistically talented, you’ll have a competitive advantage for sure.
How to Make More as a Graphic Designer: Helpful Tips
Not all graphic designers earn the highest salaries – if you want to maximize your earnings, follow these tips.
Building and Practicing Your Skills
While a formal education is helpful, one of the best things you can do as a graphic designer is to become a lifelong learner. Be self-taught or take free classes on platforms like Udemy – whatever you do, never stop learning.
Some of the most beneficial skills graphic designers earn to build their salaries include those in:
- The Adobe Creative Suite
- Social media
- Digital and website design
- Marketing materials
- Project management
- Art direction
Specialize in a Specific Area of Graphic Design
While there is certainly something to be said about being a generalist, you’ll make a higher average salary as a graphic designer if you specialize in an in-demand area.
Some good specializations to consider for high graphic designer salaries include:
- Product design
- User experience design
- User interface design
- Animation design
- Web design
Go Back to School
Higher education isn’t necessary if you want to be a graphic designer, but the graphic designers that make the most money do tend to have higher pay than those who pursue no training at all.
Typically, a bachelor’s degree is all you need to make a respectable yearly salary. In a B.A., (or occasionally a B.F.A.) you will cover topics like design theory, computer design software, digital media production illustration, web design, and more.
This kind of training will prepare you for the vast majority of entry-level careers.
The more education you get, the better. While a bachelor’s degree holder brings in an average salary of around $53,257, someone with a master’s degree can earn more than $1,000 a year more, on average.
Complete an Internship
A tried-and-true technique for job seekers in all industries is to complete an internship. An internship in graphic design will show employers that you’re serious and that you know how to handle yourself in a professional environment.
Don’t forget about all the professional connections you’ll gain in an internship either!
Build Your Portfolio
An internship is helpful for one other reason – it can help you build your portfolio. However, even if you don’t have the opportunity to participate in an internship, you can still build your portfolio.
Take on small projects and jobs to learn more about graphic design and build up a solid collection of work samples. Don’t be afraid to take on projects of many different types, too – versatility is key here.
Do Graphic Designers Make Good Money?
As a graphic designer, you probably won’t be making millions any time soon. However, you can earn a reasonable, respectable salary that will easily allow you to pay your bills – and you can increase your earning potential by following the tips above.
So if you are a creative person who is passionate about artistic design – and you want to put your skills to good use! – consider becoming a graphic designer.