Graphic design, which is also known as communication design, offers a creative outlet that could bring job seekers an average of $53,380 per year1. Graphic designers use digital or print visuals to communicate ideas by combining words, color, shapes, and other imagery. Graphic design may not be the fastest-growing field1, but it still offers a potentially lucrative career choice for those interested in a graphic arts career.
This guide explores what graphic design students can do with graphic design degrees, including an outline of some of the highest-paying graphic design jobs and how students can land those jobs.
Highest-paying Graphic Design Jobs
Graphic design work is needed in all types of fields since most companies and organizations need some type of well-designed training, marketing, in-house, or book materials. In fact, if graphic designers possess an interest in a particular field — whether it’s marketing or manufacturing — they can usually find a job that commands a decent salary that’s a close fit to what they’re looking for.
Graphic Designers for Federal Executive Branch Average Annual Salary: $88,090
Designing for the executive branch can bring in almost $90,000 per year2 for students who manage to land a position there. The federal branch needs a variety of outreach and inbound materials, website design, and other materials to make their job easier. The federal branch employs around 1,500 people per year2.
Graphic Designers in Software Publishing Average Annual Salary: $81,610
Graphic designers in this industry can make an average annual salary of just over $81,0002. Software publishing requires graphic designers for a variety of materials to offer clients, like designing training materials, technical document design, or package design. The field currently employs around 3,000 people2.
Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing Graphic Designers Average Annual Salary: $80,000
For $80,000 per year2, graphic designers can help the aerospace industry with packaging, marketing, and promotional materials as well as technical documents or eBooks. The field provides reliable employment for about 300 people per year2.
Legal Services Graphic Designers Average Annual Salary: $77,790
A position in legal services can net graphic designers almost $78,000 per year2. They’ll design all the materials lawyers need for marketing, onboarding clients, and other creative needs. Law offices employ about 400 graphic designers per year2.
Cable and Subscription Programming Graphic Designers Average Annual Salary: $77,090
Graphic designers working for cable and subscription companies can make almost $78,000 per year2. They design a variety of promotional materials, marketing materials and fulfill other types of design needs for a vast system of providers. The field employs around 400 people per year2.
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Graphic Designers Average Annual Salary: $62,180
Graphic designers in this field make an average of just over $62,000 per year2. The scientific field needs materials for grants and fundraising. Management services need onboarding materials, training documents, books, and other deliverables. The industry employs over 10,000 people per year2.
Advertising, Media, and Public Relations Graphic Designers Average Annual Salary: $60,330
Graphic designers and advertising make a great mix with an annual salary of over $60,0002. The industry currently employs 24,430 graphic designers2 — using their creative design skills for a variety of materials, like promotions, announcements, ads, social media, and other deliverables.
Specialized Design Services Average Annual Salary: $59,970
Graphic designers in more specialized design services earn an average of almost $60,000 per year2. This Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) category includes artists, interior designers, and self-employed or freelance graphic designers. Graphic designers may work for a wide range of specialized design initiatives, and the field employs nearly 25,000 people per year2.
Newspapers, Periodicals, and Book Graphic Designers Average Annual Salary: $50,010
This classic design field offers graphic designers a creative outlet and just over $50,000 per year2. It employs around 17,000 people annually2. Designers cover a range of tasks from setting up the periodical or book itself to advertising and social media design.
Graphic Designers in Printing Average Annual Salary: $45,770
Printing offers graphic designers an average salary of almost $46,000 per year and the chance at landing one of over 17,000 jobs annually2. Graphic designers in this industry work on various projects, setting up materials and deliverables for their ultimate destination: the print stage.
Popular Career Paths With a Graphic Design Degree
Graphic designers offer many services, but they typically fall into one of four categories:
Brand identity and logo design
These designers provide companies and organizations with vital branding guidance and bring their vision and mission to life.
This practical field leverages design skills to produce vital packaging design that draws in customers and increases or maintains sales.
Web and mobile design
Companies and organizations today must maintain an online presence. Graphic designers here ensure that the experience is smooth and vibrant while maintaining the company’s brand.
Graphic designers work in several industries and can offer creative services that align with that industry’s goals. These industries include:
Layout and print design
This niche offers layout design for a variety of materials in many different industries.
Graphic designers work on print and online media for companies that sell products and services. Whether it’s an advertising agency or an advertising department within a large company, the top 10% of earners in this industry make around $66,000 per year3.
Social media managers with graphic design skills can make an average of $45,813 per year4, with the top 10% of earners making closer to $70,0004.
Publication designers can make an average of $50,374 per year5 helping various publishing companies prepare materials for launch.
Graphic designers in this industry work on product packaging, marketing, and client materials, with some of the largest firms housing their own teams of graphic designers.
Because of its array of fields, including self-employed designers, specialized design offers plenty of job opportunities for many different interests and specialties.
Graphic designers offer the technology field dynamic websites, promotional materials, technical training materials, onboarding, and marketing materials.
Average Salary for Graphic Design Graduates
Graphic designers make an average of just over $53,000 per year nationwide1, but that salary changes based on location and experience. Designers could move to find positions in favorable states as one way to make the higher end of the salary scale. According to the BLS, these five states offer the highest salaries for graphic designers2:
- District of Columbia: $83,070 per year
- Washington State: $77,000 per year
- Massachusetts: $70,180 per year
- New York: $68,260
- Virginia: $66,850
Plus, designers working in specific fields can also make more based on the industry and their experience. Currently, BLS states that the Federal Executive Branch offers the highest paying positions to graphic designers2. Once designers master the skillset required of well-rounded members of the field, they can look forward to a higher earning potential.
How to Find a Job After You Graduate
Once a graduate finishes school, finding a job depends on a few different factors. These ideas can help job seekers land positions in their preferred industry.
Create a portfolio
Graphic design skills need visualization, so it’s important to collect the best designs in one place that employers can refer to when looking for a candidate. A portfolio showcases all the best talents and work of a potential candidate.
Take freelance jobs
Candidates with some experience always make more attractive potential employees. Finding smaller freelance jobs helps fill out a portfolio and teaches vital people skills that employers look for.
Complete an internship
Graphic design graduates can work with their schools to find internships in agencies, design firms, or other organizations. This imparts workplace skills and helps candidates build a portfolio of designs and projects.
Look for agencies
These organizations specialize in design and typically need a suite of freelancers or in-house designers to help complete client projects.
Network on social media
Visual social media platforms like Instagram offer excellent opportunities to showcase talent and personality within graphic design.
Graphic designers should also remember to continually upskill and learn new design methods. This allows them to offer companies a broad range of skills for working on projects.
Discover More About a Career With a Graphic Design Degree
Q. What qualifications do I need to be a graphic designer?
Graphic design doesn’t require formal education, but a bachelor’s degree can help students master design skills and understanding as well as people skills. Going to school can also offer vital networking opportunities for jobs seekers.
Q. How do I start a career in graphic design?
Typically, starting with a degree allows students to master skills and network into a good career position.
Q. What types of graphic design jobs can I get?
Graphic designers can work in many different industries and company types. Designers can pursue careers in a secondary area of interest, such as the medical field, manufacturing, or publishing, or designers can start their own small businesses and agencies.
Q. Is graphic design in demand?
BLS predicts slower job growth than average over the next 10 years1, but the field still needs to replace designers who move into other fields or take retirement.
Do graphic designers get paid well? BLS states that graphic designers make an average of around $53,000 per year, but highly skilled designers can make as much as $87,000 per year6.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Occupational Handbook: Graphic Designers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics: Graphic Designers. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271024.htm
 PayScale. (2021). Average Advertising Graphic Designer Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Advertising_Graphic_Designer/Salary
 PayScale. (2021). Average Social Media Manager with Graphic Design Skills Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Social_Media_Manager/Salary/23a4e789/Graphic-Design
 PayScale. (2021). Average Publication Designer Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Publication_Designer/Salary
 PayScale. (2021) Average Senior Graphic Designer Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Senior_Graphic_Designer/Salary