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Salary Levels and Industry Opportunities

In 2004, DesignMentor Training commissioned Eduventures, the leading information services company for the education market, to assess the salary levels and industry opportunities for graphic design careers.

We're happy to share with you the results of this study. We hope it gives you a better understanding of the field of study you are pursuing and how your work at DesignMentor Training will help you prepare for the best of the opportunities available.

We looked at several career paths within the design industry, the outlook for those jobs, and the current earnings of those positions. We also took a look at some regional differences in pay scales.

What types of career opportunities are available to Web and Graphic Design Professionals?

There are many career opportunities for skilled and talented design professionals. Take a look at the Career Descriptions page for a more definitive list and description. For this study, we looked at three rather broad professional categories:

Art Directors: Formulate design concepts and presentation approaches in art work, layout design, and copy writing for visual communications media, such as magazines, books, newspapers, and packaging

Graphic Designers: Design or create graphics to meet a client's specific commercial or promotional needs, such as packaging, displays, or logos

Multi-Media Artists and Animators: Create special effects, animation, or other visual images using film, video, computers, or other electronic tools and media for use in products or creations, such as computer games, movies, music videos, and commercials.

Who Gets the Jobs?

We found that design professionals with bachelor's and master's level designers account for about as 56% of open positions open to newly trained workers. Those degrees may not necessarily be in design but employers do seem to appreciate a sound educational background coupled with solid design skills and creative ability.

However, there's plenty of room for those with educational levels below the bachelor's level À in fact, a sizable percentage of newly positions are awarded to designers with as little as a high school education! This reinforces all the more strongly how important your professional portfolio can be in competing for positions!

See "Building a Strong Portfolio" for some real helpful tips on optimizing your design portfolio.

Art Directors and Multimedia Artists and Animators.
(Education Levels Ages 25 to 44)

Graphic Designers.
(Education Levels Ages 25 to 44)

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Show Me the Money!

What are typical salaries based on experience and location?

The HighestÄ.

Highest average median salaries for design related occupations are in New York City and San Francisco . The median salaries for the largest US based design markets are as such:

San Francisco $61, 901
New York City $61,377
Los Angeles $59,226
Chicago $57,180
Denver $55,082
Atlanta $52,721

Jobs with the highest average median salary differential reflect the significance of geography on compensation. For example, the highest and lowest median salary for a Web Designer with 3+ years experience varied by over 17% with Atlanta offering the lowest median salary ($69, 252) and San Francisco offering the highest median salary ($81,311).

And the LowestÄ

The lowest average median salaries for the US based design markets paid for positions that typically did not require any level of college education and less than 2 years of work experience in a related field. Here's a sampling of average median salaries for this type of position:

Painter/Illustrator $35,934
Industrial Designer $47,491
Videographer $50,385

Now, let's look at web designers and see how they fare when looking at both their years of experience and their geographic location.

Web Designers Annual Salaries
(2 years experience)


Web Designers Annual Salaries
(3 years experience)


Annual Salary Estimate for Web Designers (Experienced)

Source: and Eduventures analysis

What factors can affect my ability to obtain a great design job?

Being comfortable and productive in a business environment is a key component of how you are perceived by a prospective employer. DesignMentor provides the necessary skills to work with companies by providing real life creative assignments. Each lesson in a DesignMentor course replicates actual design job tasks, giving you not only valuable work experience, but also leading to the creation of strong, professional work for your portfolio.

And what if my entrepreneurial spirit is calling me?

Working as a freelance designer or digital artist can be an exciting and rewarding career path. As with any entrepreneurial initiative, it requires a high level of commitment since, as an independent worker, one is required to fill all of the roles typically represented by a company (HR, administration, marketing & advertising).

What kind of income can I expect as a freelance designer?

Income from freelance work varies considerably as project costs are dependent on different factors, including:

Hourly labor rate or fixed project cost

Duration, size, and scope of work

Intended use of work produced (e.g., logos, websites, labels)

Typical projects can range from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more, depending on pricing variables and specific details of project

Customers of freelance work can vary significantly, from large corporations outsourcing aspects of projects to small businesses and individuals contracting for entire sales and marketing materials


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