The 7 Best Graphic Design Careers for Beginners and Seasoned Professionals in 2021
If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us the value of working remotely and developing skills from home through online courses. These are excellent ways to diversify our skill sets and our potential job opportunities. You may be looking for work at a company or agency right in your hometown. Or you may be looking for a graphic design job that lets you work remotely anywhere in the world. Either way, 2021 looks poised to be the year of the designer!
Last Updated October 2019
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Do you love creating visually appealing graphics? Do you enjoy helping companies and individuals tell their stories and sell their products with stunning visual style? Then you are in the right place! There are dozens of graphic design career options that will allow you to put your passions and skills to use. All that while making a dependable income.
We will dive into some of the best graphic design careers out there. First, let’s take a look at what the requirements for a design position might include. Then let’s talk about how much you might expect to make based on your skills and experience.
Graphic design skills and proficiencies
Beyond just pushing pixels around, most jobs demand a broad skill set. Having a varied understanding of programs and tools will help you get a leg up against the competition. This does not mean you should run out and try to become a jack-of-all-trades. But you may want to explore broadening your current knowledge base. Try sprinkling in a few related skills to make your resume that much more attractive.
Here is a brief list of skills that are incredibly attractive to employers:
- General design
- Website design
- UI/UX (User interface/user experience)
- Print layout
- Social media graphics
- Ad design
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Content creation
- Apparel design
- Packaging design
- Motion graphic design
- Hand lettering
- Project management
- Presentation design
- Back-end coding
- Web development
- Industrial design
Don’t neglect the development of soft skills either. Build skills in things like communication, conflict management, and business strategy. Work on public speaking and leadership. These skills can go a long way toward helping you land the creative career of your dreams.
Average graphic design jobs salaries
According to the most recent data from Salary.com, most designers can expect to pull in between $40,000 and $100,000 per year. This shakes out to approximately $20 to $48 per hour, which is a pretty great going rate! Most of this data comes from North America. Even if you live elsewhere, you can expect to see a high return on your educational investment if you choose to pursue a career in graphic design. If you want to dial in your potential income rate even further, check out this salary calculator (scroll to the bottom of the page) from Robert Half — a leading source on creative salaries and jobs worldwide.
Top graphic design careers
Now for the good stuff. What types of job listings and career paths are available to you if you have a graphic design background? The short answer is: Many! Here is a list of the top graphic design careers, along with general job descriptions and salary ranges for 2021:
This broad-spectrum career encompasses myriad design elements. It often includes both digital and print skills. These positions are available at agencies, small businesses, and large corporations. Entry-level designers can expect to make between $25,000 and $45,000 per year, with more senior designers commanding annual salaries of $35,000 to $65,000. Those with a wealth of experience can, depending on the area or company they choose to work in, find jobs offering $75,000 or more per year.
Illustrator or infographic designers
This job often entails hand-drawn art elements and a firm command of layout and text-based design. These positions are available at agencies and large corporations. On average, experienced designers can expect to make between $50,000 and $80,000 per year.
Packaging or apparel designers
This is a more focused design career path and calls for a detailed understanding of both design and print processes. This is especially true of apparel design, or fashion design. These positions are often available at small businesses and large corporations. They tend to come with salaries of $26,000 to $70,000 per year, depending on experience.
Art directors or creative directors
These senior-level positions call for a strong background in many design and management skills and experience. They need strategic thinking as well as the ability to roll up their sleeves and design when needed. These positions are available at agencies and large corporations. On average, salaries start at $60,000. Those with incredibly well-rounded backgrounds and years of experience can command annual salaries of $120,000 or more.
Much like the general graphic designer job listing, this is a very broad career path. It includes everything from page layout to banner image design to social media graphics. These positions are often available at agencies, small businesses, and large corporations. Entry-level web designers can expect to make between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. Senior designers rake in $65,000 or more per year.
This technical design career calls for the ability to create user-friendly online designs. These designs allow people to easily understand how to use complex products or navigate intensive websites and systems. UI/UX designer positions are available at agencies and large corporations. Entry-level UI/UX designers can expect to make between $40,000 and $85,000 per year. Very senior designers can ask for salaries soaring up to $170,000 per year.
Graphic design and marketing generalists
The role of a marketing generalist is up-and-coming, especially when tied in with a graphic design skill set. This career path calls for a broad understanding of design and creative production. It also calls for knowledge of marketing strategy and execution. If you are an analytical yet creative person, this may be the perfect fit. On average, those in this field can expect to make around $50,000 per year, depending on experience.
Moving forward with graphic design
No matter what career path you choose, make sure your resume and portfolio are up to date. They should accurately reflect your abilities and experience. Showcase the work you are most proud of, as well as the work that will relate most to the type of job you are applying for. It is also a great idea to sharpen your skills and develop new ones. Learning from seasoned pros on platforms like Udemy can help boost your confidence and can give you an edge over the competition as well – employers love to see candidates that place a high priority on ongoing education!
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