Graphic Designer Salary

Graphic Designer Salaries

Graphic Designer Job Description

Graphic designers are responsible for planning, analyzing, and creating electronic and print media in order to convey a desired message. They use type, color, animation, photography, illustrations, and different layout and print techniques available from computer software packages. In addition to developing the layout and design of newspapers, magazines, journals, and corporate reports, they create product packaging, marketing brochures, promotional displays, and signage. Many are now being asked to develop material for multimedia and interactive projects as well as Web pages.

Graphic Designer Salary Statistics

Range in Annual Graphic Designer Wages

As of May 2010, graphic designers earned a mean annual wage of $48,140, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those representing the lowest ten percent of earners made $26,200 annually, while the middle 50 percent earned $43,500 per year and the top ten percent had an annual salary of $76,910. The specialized design services industry had the highest level of employment, employing 25,360 graphic designers. Other industries that employed a large number of graphic designers were public relations and advertising, printing, computer systems design, and newspaper, book, directory, and periodical publishing.

The federal executive branch was the top paying industry in May 2010. Other industries in the top five payers included amusement parks and arcades, computer and peripheral equipment manufacturers, natural gas distributors, and central banks.

Graphic Designer Salaries by State

Click on the image below and learn the average salary by state…

The District of Columbia offered the highest pay, with a mean annual wage of $66,020. New York, California, and Connecticut each had a mean annual wage of over $57,000 for this occupation. Maryland came in fifth highest with a $52,920 annual mean wage. The lowest paying states included Oklahoma, Idaho, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota, each offering a mean annual wage of between $25,690 and $36,770.

Graphic Designer Salaries Average

When looking at the average graphic design salary, the numbers can often be skewed by the fact that a large part of the graphic design workforce is employed in urban areas, particularly the NYC, Philadelphia, and D.C. markets on the East Coast, Chicago in the Midwest and of course Los Angeles in the West. However, there are a number of up and coming design hubs like Tampa, Pittsburgh and the greater Phoenix area. A truly accurate view of the current median wage for a graphic designer hovers around $35 to $40 thousand, with most of those practicing earning from $25 thousand to $60 thousand. Bear in mind that the graphic design workforce is made up of those who are full-time and salaried, but also those who are free-lancers or contract employees.

An area of average graphic design salaries that is often over-looked is that of Graphic Design Educators. A somewhat surprising number of well-established designers have great satisfaction in moving into the education area after having proven themselves in the field. The great thing about this field is the fact that it is entirely possible for design professionals to blend the satisfaction of teaching an instructing with lucrative free lance jobs.

Full-time design instructors without tenured type positions garner an average graphic design salary of $57 thousand. Those who achieve the rank of full professor can expect compensation in the range of $70,000. Associate and Assistant professors make about $60 thousand and $50 thousand respectively.

As with just about any other industry, the average salary of this market is dictated by many things. Experience and type of niche that is being worked in are going to play a huge part in determining the earnings that can be expected. There is of course the current economy to factor in. While this field is experiencing success overall, there may be companies that are using graphic designers in-house that have been laid off. When this happens en masse, people will often take positions for less than they were just to have a job. The effect of this is that it can drive the salaries down in certain areas. It is just something else to consider when trying to figure out how much you can make in this particular industry

States with the Highest Wages

As the graph indicates, the District of Columbia clearly pays a higher annual mean wage at $66,560, but that is only part of the story. The U.S. Department of Labor reports the District of Columbia had employment of 1,540 graphic designers as of May 2008 compared to 30,340 in California and 20,830 in New York. Though the District of Columbia pays $10,890 or 19.5% more in annual mean wages compared to California, the district has a small number of graphic designers.

On the other hand, California reports 30,340 employed graphic designers and New York reports 20,830. The annual mean wage difference between these two cities is only $750 or approximately 1%. The hourly wage rate difference is small with California paying $26.77 per hour and New York paying $26.40 per hour.

In fact, looking at Connecticut and Maryland, the annual mean wage is above $50,000 also. Except for the District of Columbia, 4 out of the top 5 paying states paid between $51,000 and $56,000 for graphic designer positions in 2008.

What does all this mean? When looking for employment as a graphic designer, it’s important to consider more than just the wage figures. Though the District of Columbia pays more, there are not many jobs available for graphic designers. Instead, you can seek employment in other states and maximize your wages in ways besides geographical location choice. For example, expanding your technology skills, getting more education, and learning new graphic related techniques can increase your value as an employee.

States with the Highest Employment Levels

The number of graphic designer jobs varies considerably from state to state as does the hourly mean wages. For example, New York had 20,830 graphic designers employed in 2008 and paid an average hourly mean wage of $26.40. The next highest employer is Minnesota at 5,380 graphic designers paying an average hourly mean wage of $22.06. So Minnesota had far fewer jobs and paid an average of $4.34 less per hour compared to New York. Utah employed 2,560 graphic artists at an average hourly rate of $19.67, while Vermont employed 730 graphic artists at a $20.63 average hourly rate. Though the District of Columbia paid an average rate of $32.00 an hour for graphic designers, there were only 1,540 positions in 2008.

When seeking employment, it is important to consider the average hourly rates in states with the highest employment levels, but you must also look at the actual number of jobs that are available to get a better picture of the job market. The graphic design job market offers much potential because the types of jobs are so varied and growing due to expanding technology. For example, graphic designers include web designers, print designers, computer graphics designers, animators, multi-media specialists, and many others. The other good news for job seekers is that graphic designers are employed in virtually all industries which also increases job opportunities.

Cities with the Highest Wages

The highest annual mean wage for graphic artists is in San Francisco, California. In fact, three of the top paying metropolitan areas for graphic artists are in California which reflects the state’s large government and high-tech employment base. The pay spread between San Francisco (highest mean wage) and Vallejo-Fairfield (lowest mean wage among top five) is $13,970 or approximately 24%. The differences in wages reflect the impact geographical location has on graphic designer pay. It is important to bear in the mind that pay differences must be considered in view of differences in cost of living rates for various cities. For those graphic designers who do not want to live in California, many other cities pay good wages and those wages increase significantly with years of experience.

The factors influencing the amount of pay include years of experience, education and technical skills. Graphic designers with solid portfolios containing samples of successful creative projects can often demand the highest salaries. The graphic design profession is becoming increasingly technology based with even traditional print industries being in the early stages of electronic publishing. Graphic artists who have extensive creative and computer skills in areas of web design, animation, and interactive media are commanding some of the highest salaries. Many graphic artists are freelance designers and have great opportunities to work with a variety of customers and industries.

Cities with the Highest Employment Levels

San Francisco, California has the highest employment level and the highest annual mean wage among the top five metropolitan areas that have the highest employment levels for graphic designers. In fact, the city pays significantly more than the fifth city appearing on the chart, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The difference in the annual mean wage between San Francisco and Champaign-Urbana is $34,210 or 88%. When comparing San Francisco wage rates to the second highest paying metropolitan area, New York area, there is still a sizable difference of $16,090 or 28%.

The differences between the metropolitan areas hiring the most graphic designers are due to factors like cost of living rates and types of industries present. In addition, cities like San Francisco have attracted graphic designers with years of experience and highly developed technical skills. In general, the more years of experience a graphic designer has, the higher the salary that can be commanded.

Businesses and the government hire graphic designers to do a variety of jobs including visual designs, multimedia development and publishing. Increasingly the type of work is getting more technical though as computers, specialized software, and digital photographic and video equipment is used. Those who wish to be paid the higher salaries will need to keep technologically current because the available jobs are become more reliant on computerization.

Graphic Designer Job Outlook

2008 – 2018 Projecte Employment Changes

36,900 new graphic design jobs 13% increase in employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that graphic designer employment growth will be on pace with the average for all careers between 2008 and 2018, at a rate of 13 percent. There will be keen competition for positions and graphic designers with animation and Web site design experience will find the most opportunities. Internet advertising growth is anticipated to lead to an increase in graphic design careers. As of May 2010, California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois had the highest employment levels for graphic designers.

Graphic Designer Education & Training

Graphic Designer Education Chart

A bachelor’s degree in the field of graphic design or fine arts is the most common requirement for employment. Of the graphic designers responding to an O*Net occupational survey, 81 percent held a bachelor’s degree, 11 percent had an associate’s degree, and four percent had taken some college courses but did not have a degree. Private design schools, colleges, and universities throughout the country offer relevant bachelor degree programs. Students learn principles of design, printing techniques, studio art, Web site design, computerized design, and commercial graphics productions.

Certificates and associate’s degrees are offered by two and three-year professional schools, qualifying graduates for assistant positions. Approximately 300 postsecondary educational institutions are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and most of them offer a graphic design degree program. At least one year of basic art and design education is required to gain acceptance to many schools. There are no certification requirements for this occupation.

Related Occupations

Other occupations that fall within the fields of art and design include commercial and industrial designers and interior designers. Commercial and industrial designers use engineering, business, and art to design consumer products. Interior designers enhance the aesthetics, safety, and functionality of interior spaces.

Computer-aided design careers include desktop publishers who combine and format text, photographs, charts, data, and other graphical art into printed prototypes using computer software. Drafters prepare technical plans and drawings used by construction and production workers to create everything from computer components to buildings. Prepress technicians format jobs to be printed and correct errors in layout.

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