How Much Does a Graphic Designer Make?

Graphic DesignIf you love art and you’re interested in earning an income from your natural eye for design, you may be wondering how much a graphic designer makes? While it’s true that some of the top designers earn six-figure salaries working for the best-known brands, pop stars and design firms, most graphic designers take home somewhat less than that amount. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for graphic designers in 2012 was $44,150.

The most important asset a designer has when looking for work is a portfolio. While a four-year degree isn’t absolutely necessary to find work as a designer, the education separates professional designers from amateurs. A degree isn’t important because you can list it on your resume; it’s important because the training you receive gives you a professional-level understanding of design concepts, such as color, lighting, form and balance. If you’re a good self-teacher, you can learn these concepts by reading text books.

How Do Graphic Designers Make Money?

Designers show their portfolios to prospective clients and employers, who may also want to see a resume. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-fourth of all graphic designers worked as freelance contractors in 2012. Designers who work for a design firm or other employer and who receive a W-2 tax form at the end of the year earn a salary with taxes already taken out. Freelance designers are paid by clients when a contract is completed, and they must set aside 30 to 40 percent of each payment for taxes.

You can promote yourself by posting your portfolio to a graphic design website such as Behance. When assembling your portfolio, include all the pieces that show your particular strength, whether it’s your inventive imagination, your precise attention to detail or your unique eye for color. Competition for design jobs is strong, and many designers are very good at what they do. Moreover, graphic design job growth is only expected to be 7 percent for the next ten years, which is slower than average.

What Skills Are Related to Graphic Design?

To make yourself more competitive in the changing job market, you can learn Web design skills, such as HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript programming. These skills are some of the simplest programming abilities to learn, and your current design skills will put you ahead of many Web programmers who only know programming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation of Web design is expected to grow about 20 percent over the next ten years, which is faster than average. Web designers earn a median annual income of $62,500.

Multimedia designers work for video game, film and television companies to create 3-D graphics for broadcast media and gaming. While the job growth for this occupation is expected to be slower than that of graphic designers, more multimedia artists and animators do freelance work than do graphic artists. If you learn the concepts of 3-D lighting, rendering and animation, you can add a new skill set to your portfolio and look for jobs in multimedia design.

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For anyone with a creative flair and a love of design, graphic arts occupations can be extremely fulfilling. Consider your range of skills and depth of knowledge when asking “how much does a graphic designer make?”