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Graphic Designers
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Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers. They develop the overall layout and production design for various applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for graphic designers are expected to grow by 4%, and should have about 27,100 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Graphic designers are less likely to be automated than 77% of other careers.
Workforce size
Graphic designers, with 266,300 workers, form a larger workforce than 83% of careers.
About 61% of designers have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by designers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More designers have bachelor's degrees than 75% of other careeers.
The median (middle) salary for graphic designers is higher than 53% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most graphic designers.
This job's median $50KAll jobs' median $39K$49K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Context: Median Salary
Women account for 48% of designers -- that's a larger percentage than 62% of other jobs.
Gender of designers
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For designers, the median men's salary was 27% more the median woman's salary.
About 17% of designers are minority, and 16% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of designers
Pacific Islander
American Indian
Context: Foreign-born workers (16%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Graphic Designers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 37% of designers, and 56% have company-sponsored health insurance (18% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for designers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 59% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of graphic designers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (100%)
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do designers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group designers, which combines the data for 8 careers, including graphic designers. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for graphic designers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for graphic designers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for graphic designers (BLS Salary Data)
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all designers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for designers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for designers (ACS Salary Data)
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where graphic designers work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Designers (ACS)
Private for-profit (75.2%)
Private not-for-profit (3.7%)
Local government (0.8%)
State government (1.3%)
Federal government (0.7%)
Self-employed incorporated (7.3%)
Self-employed not incorporated (10.8%)
Working without pay (0.2%)
Distribution: Salaries of designers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of designers, which combines the 8 specialties for this career.
$51K$52K$37K$73K$50K$52K$52K$51K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of graphic designers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty graphic designers, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$50K$81K$54K$50K$50K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for designers

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$60K$51K$43K$54K$58K$56K$54K$54K$30K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
020K40K60K80K100K120KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Designers and gender

With 48% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 62% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
Gender of Designers
Men (52%)
Women (48%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%, and the difference for designers tops that, with the median salary for men 27% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Designers have one of the higher percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job even higher than that for 74% of other jobs.


Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race and origin of designers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority designers than for 60% of other careers. Although this career does not include a large percentage of minorities, it does hire more foreign-born people that most other careers.

Race/origin of designers
White (80% )
Asian (9% )
Black (5% )
Other (3% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
Distribution: Salaries for designers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$39K$41K$43K$44K$47K$50K$61K$0$50K$100K$150KAmerican IndianOtherHispanicBlackMultiracialWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for designers by nativity
$50K$53K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by graphic designers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as designers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for designers.

Education attained by designers
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Details: Education and training recommended for graphic designers

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related field is usually required. However, individuals with a bachelor’s degree in another field may pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits about 350 postsecondary colleges, universities, and independent institutes with programs in art and design. Most programs include courses in studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and website design. In addition, students should consider courses in writing, marketing, and business, all of which are useful in helping designers work effectively on project teams.

High school students interested in graphic design should take basic art and design courses in high school, if the courses are available. Many bachelor’s degree programs require students to complete a year of basic art and design courses before being admitted to a formal degree program. Some schools require applicants to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Many programs provide students with the opportunity to build a professional portfolio of their designs. For many artists, including graphic designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of completed works that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential because employers rely heavily on a designer’s portfolio in deciding whether to hire the individual.

Graphic designers must keep up with new and updated computer graphics and design software, either on their own or through formal software training programs. Professional associations that specialize in graphic design, such as AIGA, offer courses intended to keep the skills of their members up to date.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for graphic designers

Certification programs are generally available through software product vendors. Certification in graphic design software can demonstrate a level of competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for designers? Below we see the distribution of designers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as designers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$31K$37K$43K$48K$52K$63K$57K$82K$0$50K$100K$150KNone (2%)High School (9%)Some College (15%)Associate's Degree (13%)Bachelor's Degree (51%)Master's Degree (9%)Professional Deg/Doct (1%)Doctorate (1%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by designers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as designers. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Designers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as designers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by designers given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
DesignersManagers (specialized areas)Artists and related workersFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersElementary and middle school teachersRetail salespersonsMarketing and sales managersWeb developersCustomer service representativesSecretaries and administrative assistantsPostsecondary teachersSecondary school teachersArchitectsConstruction managersDraftersChief executives and legislatorsUrban and regional plannersReal estate brokers and sales agentsWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesHuman resources workersLawyers, judges, and magistratesApplications and systems software developersElectrical and electronics engineersEngineers (specialized areas)Architectural and engineering managersComputer and information systems managersComputer programmersCivil engineersAccountants and auditorsFinancial managersFirst-line supervisors of non-retail sales workersMarket research analysts and marketing specialistsService sales representativesMechanical engineersIndustrial engineersAerospace engineersEducation administratorsEditorsWriters and authorsCommercial Art andGraphic DesignFine ArtsArchitectureCommunicationsElectrical EngineeringGeneral BusinessBusiness Management andAdministrationMarketingMechanical EngineeringEnglish Language andLiteratureAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for designers

What jobs will most designers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of designers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

DesignersManagers (specialized areas)First-line supervisors of retail sales workersArtists and related workersDraftersRetail salespersonsArchitects
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for designers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 6 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as designers as well as 1% of respondents after working as designers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for designers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as designers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of designers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Read about graphic designers
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Graphic designers typically do the following:

  • Meet with clients or the art director to determine the scope of a project
  • Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create designs
  • Create visual elements such as logos, original images, and illustrations that help deliver a desired message
  • Design layouts and select colors, images, and typefaces to use
  • Present design concepts to clients or art directors
  • Incorporate changes recommended by clients or art directors into final designs
  • Review designs for errors before printing or publishing them

Graphic designers combine art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of websites and printed pages. They may use a variety of design elements to achieve artistic or decorative effects.

Graphic designers work with both text and images. They often select the type, font, size, color, and line length of headlines, headings, and text. Graphic designers also decide how images and text will go together on a print or webpage, including how much space each will have. When using text in layouts, graphic designers collaborate closely with writers, who choose the words and decide whether the words will be put into paragraphs, lists, or tables. Through the use of images, text, and color, graphic designers can transform statistical data into visual graphics and diagrams, which can make complex ideas more accessible.

Graphic design is important to marketing and selling products, and is a critical component of brochures and logos. Therefore, graphic designers, also referred to as graphic artists or communication designers, often work closely with people in advertising and promotions, public relations, and marketing.

Frequently, designers specialize in a particular category or type of client. For example, some create the graphics used on retail products packaging, and others may work on the visual designs used on book jackets.

Graphic designers need to keep up to date with the latest software and computer technologies in order to remain competitive.

Some individuals with a background in graphic design become postsecondary teachers and teach in design schools, colleges, and universities.

Some graphic designers may specialize in the field of experiential graphic design. These designers work with architects, industrial designers, landscape architects, and interior designers to create interactive design environments, such as museum exhibitions, public arts exhibits, and retail spaces.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of graphic designers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Analytical skills
Graphic designers must be able to look at their work from the point of view of their consumers and examine how the designs they develop will be perceived by consumers to ensure they convey the client’s desired message.
Artistic ability
Graphic designers must be able to create designs that are artistically interesting and appealing to clients and consumers. They produce rough illustrations of design ideas, either by hand sketching or by using computer programs.
Communication skills
Graphic designers must communicate with clients, customers, and other designers to ensure that their designs accurately reflect the desired message and effectively express information.
Computer skills
Most graphic designers use specialized graphic design software to prepare their designs.
Graphic designers must be able to think of new approaches to communicating ideas to consumers. They develop unique designs that convey a certain message on behalf of their clients.
Time-management skills
Graphic designers often work on multiple projects at the same time, each with a different deadline.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for graphic designers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for graphic designers was higher than 53% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $50KAll jobs' median $39K$50K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for graphic designers are anticipated to grow by 4% over the next decade; 67% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for graphic designers is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most graphic designers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as graphic designers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all designers, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Graphic Designers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where graphic designers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for designers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for designers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all designers, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Median salary ratio: Graphic Designers to all workers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which graphic designers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Designers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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