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Graphic Designers

At a Glance

  • Create logos, ads, brochures, layouts, and other designs
  • May work overtime to meet deadlines
  • Are creative and artistic
  • Usually have a bachelor's degree
  • Use specific graphic design computer software

Career summary

Graphic designers create designs using print, electronic, and film media.

Graphic designers may also be called graphic, commercial, or technical artists.

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Graphic designers create brochures and ads to promote products or services. They produce logos for products or businesses. They create visual designs for company reports and other print materials. Some graphic designers work on design and layout for magazines or other publications. Others work on website design. They choose the colors and images, and design the layout of the website.

Graphic designers usually use computers to do their work. They begin a design project by talking to the client or supervisor. They prepare sketches or images according to the client's needs. Graphic designers draw a sample of the proposed layout, or create the layout on a computer. They present sketches and layout to the art director or client for approval.

Once approved, graphic designers proceed with the project. They select the style and size of the font. Sometimes they take photos of the layout for approval by the client or supervisor. They collect all the materials and present the finished design or product to the client. In some cases, they give detailed instructions to other workers who will help with the project.

Some graphic designers work in television or film. They may design the credits that appear at the beginning or end of a television show or movie. They may create storyboards for film production. Storyboards are drawings that show the sequence of the story to be developed on film.

Related careers

This career is part of the Arts, Audio/Visual Technology, and Communications cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to graphic designers.

Common work activities

Graphic designers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, graphic designers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Graphic designers frequently:

It is important for graphic designers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for graphic designers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Graphic designers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a graphic designer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Graphic designers almost always have a bachelor's degree in art or design. However, some graphic designers work their way up into the position after demonstrating significant creativity and artistic ability, as well as advanced skills using graphic design software. Because these skills are taught in an undergraduate program in graphic design, college graduates have an edge with employers.

Formal training helps you develop your talent and skills. Programs in art and design also provide training in the computer software used in the visual arts. Training programs may also offer internships, where you can gain work experience.

Work experience

During and after college, graphic designers prepare for this work by developing a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of your best work. It demonstrates your skills to clients or employers. A portfolio may include hand drawings, computer images, photos, and print samples.

Participating in an internship while in college is excellent preparation for this occupation. An internship helps you build your skills, demonstrate your talent, and make job contacts.

On-the-job training

Beginning designers usually receive on-the-job training. You can spend up to a year working with an experienced designer, but usually training lasts just a few months.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be graphic designers and illustrators. Training lasts up to 12 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many graphic designers are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire graphic designers who have excellent portfolios. They want to see work that demonstrates the talent and skills they require for the job. Employers also prefer applicants with strong computer skills. In addition, employers prefer graphic designers who can present their ideas clearly to clients. Most employers require that graphic designers have a bachelor's degree. Some may require a bachelors degree plus a few years of direct work experience.

At four-year institutions, the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is regarded as the professional undergraduate degree in art. Applicants must demonstrate skills in the specialty for which they are applying. Some employers hire workers on a trial basis to check their skill level, style compatibility, and knowledge of specific graphic design software.


Your portfolio should be revised before each interview to include work related to the employer's needs. Gain experience by working on publications put out by your school or other organizations. Freelance, volunteer, and temporary jobs offer beginners the chance to adapt talent and training to the business world. Entry-level jobs in larger design firms or departments often are limited to one aspect of the field, such as layout. Smaller firms may hire a beginner to do a variety of tasks.

Gain experience by volunteering to design a project. Keep current on computer hardware and software used in this field since digital design work is growing quickly.

Costs to workers

Workers who join professional associations may need to pay membership fees and annual dues. Workers who operate their own business have business start-up costs. They may also pay for health insurance and continuing education to keep up with changes in graphic design.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Graphic designers (SOC 27-1024)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $16.65 $21.56 $28.10 $35.30 $43.46
Monthly $2,885 $3,736 $4,870 $6,117 $7,532
Yearly $34,630 $44,850 $58,450 $73,420 $90,400
    Bellingham Hourly $13.60 $16.59 $20.08 $24.81 $30.40
Monthly $2,357 $2,875 $3,480 $4,300 $5,268
Yearly $28,299 $34,509 $41,766 $51,614 $63,239
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $13.83 $15.69 $31.19 $36.71 $39.96
Monthly $2,397 $2,719 $5,405 $6,362 $6,925
Yearly $28,752 $32,621 $64,884 $76,350 $83,125
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $12.48 $15.01 $17.95 $22.63 $30.29
Monthly $2,163 $2,601 $3,111 $3,922 $5,249
Yearly $25,967 $31,209 $37,323 $47,065 $62,999
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $15.99 $18.20 $22.90 $29.56 $38.17
Monthly $2,771 $3,154 $3,969 $5,123 $6,615
Yearly $33,271 $37,865 $47,640 $61,483 $79,395
    Longview Hourly $17.07 $19.32 $27.00 $43.07 $50.28
Monthly $2,958 $3,348 $4,679 $7,464 $8,714
Yearly $35,518 $40,190 $56,167 $89,574 $104,582
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $15.15 $18.05 $22.40 $31.97 $41.98
Monthly $2,625 $3,128 $3,882 $5,540 $7,275
Yearly $31,519 $37,552 $46,609 $66,498 $87,314
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $17.23 $20.90 $26.83 $31.72 $37.97
Monthly $2,986 $3,622 $4,650 $5,497 $6,580
Yearly $35,843 $43,474 $55,812 $65,988 $78,972
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $20.10 $25.60 $30.75 $37.77 $46.90
Monthly $3,483 $4,436 $5,329 $6,546 $8,128
Yearly $41,821 $53,242 $63,944 $78,555 $97,558
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $13.44 $15.85 $19.55 $24.14 $29.81
Monthly $2,329 $2,747 $3,388 $4,183 $5,166
Yearly $27,963 $32,964 $40,684 $50,226 $62,009
    Vancouver Hourly $17.52 $21.66 $27.94 $35.19 $44.00
Monthly $3,036 $3,754 $4,842 $6,098 $7,625
Yearly $36,432 $45,048 $58,101 $73,190 $91,525
    Walla Walla Hourly $20.94 $26.09 $29.34 $33.95 $37.71
Monthly $3,629 $4,521 $5,085 $5,884 $6,535
Yearly $43,561 $54,261 $61,041 $70,611 $78,433
    Wenatchee Hourly $13.20 $14.42 $16.71 $19.70 $24.00
Monthly $2,288 $2,499 $2,896 $3,414 $4,159
Yearly $27,443 $29,984 $34,749 $40,964 $49,922
    Yakima Hourly $16.89 $18.98 $22.15 $25.92 $30.04
Monthly $2,927 $3,289 $3,839 $4,492 $5,206
Yearly $35,120 $39,480 $46,080 $53,925 $62,493
United States Hourly $14.23 $18.06 $24.21 $31.87 $41.23
Monthly $2,466 $3,130 $4,196 $5,523 $7,145
Yearly $29,610 $37,550 $50,370 $66,300 $85,760

Wages vary by area of the country. Wages also vary based on the type of project and the skill of the graphic designer. Experienced, self-employed graphic designers can earn much more than those who earn salaries. However, when they are starting out, they can earn much less. Wages tend to be higher in some industries, such as advertising.

Full-time graphic designers usually earn benefits such as sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Self-employed designers must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Graphic Designers (SOC 27-1024)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 7,196 19.7% 16.1% 1,006
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 97 17.5% 13.4% 13
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 103 1.0% 8.6% 9
    Benton and Franklin Counties 135 8.1% 15.0% 15
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 196 -5.6% 11.9% 15
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 284 21.8% 15.2% 41
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 193 20.7% 14.1% 27
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 320 20.6% 14.6% 45
    King County 4,057 26.4% 19.6% 634
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 151 7.3% 13.8% 16
    Pierce County 363 -11.8% 15.2% 21
    Snohomish County 579 14.3% 12.4% 73
    Spokane County 589 18.0% 13.9% 80
United States 290,100 3.1% 5.2% 30,300

National employment

About 22% of graphic designers are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for graphic designers will slow due to decreased use of print media such as newspaper and magazines. However, demand will increase for those who work with various types of online media. The need for designs and media for mobile applications, Internet, and video entertainment will create most of the growth in this occupation.

Competition for jobs will be strong. Opportunities will be best for graphic designers with a bachelor's degree and knowledge of various types of media including print and Internet.

Other resources

Advertising Educational Foundation (external link)
708 Third Avenue, 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10017
American Institute of Graphic Arts (external link)
233 Broadway, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10279
Art Directors Club (external link)
Graphic Artists Guild (external link)
31 West 34th Street, 8th Fl
New York, NY 10001
NPES The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies (external link)
Printing Industries of America (external link)
301 Brush Creek Road
Warrrendale, PA 15086-7529
Society for Experiential Graphic Design (external link)
1900 L Street NW, Suite 710
Washington, DC 20036
Society for Technical Communication (external link)
3251 Old Lee Highway, Suite 406
Fairfax, VA 22030
US Small Business Administration (external link)
Seattle District Office
2401 Fourth Avenue, Suite 450
Seattle, WA 98121


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational clusters