How to Become a Graphic Designer


If you want to become a graphic designer, you first need to determine if this career path is well suited to your skills and interests. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for working in this field:


• Do you enjoy creating visual concepts?

• Are you interested in graphics and graphic design software?

• Are you interested in the idea of self-employment or working from home?


Becoming a graphic designer can be an excellent choice if you want a career that allows you to leverage your natural ability to create visual representations of ideas and your skills with graphic design software, into a career that offers scheduling flexibility, the ability to become self-employed, and the ability to work from home.


To be successful as a graphic designer, you must also be a customer service oriented individual who has the ability to listen thoroughly to your clients’ needs and objectives.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a graphic designer. We've also included helpful occupational information, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Graphic Designer

The level of education you'll require to become a graphic designer will vary from employer to employer, although you'll likely need a diploma, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, visual communication, or a closely related field.


Regardless of the level or type of degree you pursue, you will need to take courses such as studio art, principles of design, computerized design, commercial graphics production, printing techniques, and website design in order to become competent and technically qualified for work in this field.


It's also recommended that you pursue courses in writing, marketing, and business, as they are all useful in helping graphic designers work effectively on team-based and freelance projects.


Success Tip: If you have a degree in a different field, such as fine arts, you can pursue technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications





General Job Description

Graphic designers create visual concepts, by hand or using computer software, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. Their skills and abilities are utilized to develop the overall layout and production design for such applications as advertisements, brochures, magazines, websites, logos and corporate branding.



Typical Job Duties & Responsibilities

The job duties of a graphic designer can vary depending on their level of responsibility, the industry they work within, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors. In general however, they are responsible for the following:


• Consult with clients in order to gain a thorough understanding of their needs, objectives, target market, budget and schedule

• Analyze the project needs and problems, and develop visual solutions

• Prepare simple or full colour concept presentations for the client in order to gain their approval

• Utilize graphic design software and applications

• Prepare artwork or digital files for production

• Proofread any content related to the designs

• Direct the activities of photographers, illustrators or any other related professionals involved in the project



Experience You'll Need

When applying for graphic design jobs, you should be able demonstrate your creativity and originality through a professional portfolio that features your best designs. A portfolio can also demonstrate your ability to understand your client’s needs and objectives by displaying your work, as well as outlining what the communicated needs and objectives of the client were for each project. 



Skills and Characteristics You'll Need

To be effective in a career as a graphic designer, you must posses a certain set of hard skills, soft skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will allow you to perform your job duties with competence, as well as overcome the challenges of this career.


Soft Skills


• Be able to gain a full understanding of their client’s needs and objectives

• Able to work long hours and concentrate for long periods of time

• Able to do work that requires visual precision

• Good organization and time management skills


Personal Traits


• Be willing to stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and techniques in order to stay relevant

• Have a thick skin and be able to accept professional criticism

• Enjoy working hard towards a product you and your client are proud of

• Have a passion for design


Hard Skills


• For every aspect of a design, you should be able to explain how and why you did what you did

• Able to work within a budget and manage multiple clients simultaneously

• Self-promotion and marketing skills

• Well-versed in graphic design software, such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and others





How Much Do Graphic Designers Earn?

The salary level of graphic designers can vary depending on their personal qualifications, the size and type of their employer, the specific responsibilities of their job, and many other factors.


Graphic Designer Salary - Canada: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the "Graphic Designers and Illustrators" occupational group earn an average salary of $58,099, and according to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those in the same occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary $50,960.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Graphic Designers is $50,370 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries are below $29,610, and the top 10% are above $85,760 per year.



What Do Graphic Designers Produce?

Graphic designers may produce a wide variety of virtual and printed design products for individuals, businesses, non-profit organizations, sports teams, professional associations and virtually every other type of organization. These products include:


• Trademarks, corporate logos and brand logos

• Stationery and corporate identity materials

• Packaging and image design for consumer products

• Magazine advertisements

• Publication design for books and advertisements

• Promotional posters

• Sign and way-finding systems

• Website logos and graphics

• Film and video graphics

• Diagrams, maps and graphs

• Flyers, brochures and promotional materials



Who Employs Them?

Graphic designers are hired on a part-time, full-time and contractual basis by a wide variety of small, medium and large organizations, including:


• Corporate public relations departments

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments

• Graphic design studios

• Film and television studios

• Advertising agencies

• Multimedia companies

• Web service companies

• Hospitals and health care institutions

• Industrial design studios

• Book publishing firms

• Architectural firms

• Newspapers and magazines

• Printing companies

• Self-employment (as freelancers)

• Colleges and universities



Graphic Designer Jobs - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "graphic designer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Work Environment Typical to This Profession

Hours: Although there are traditional 9 - 5 jobs for graphic designers, many work outside of those hours. Many graphic designers also choose to work as freelancers, an employment option that allows them to work on their own time and in their own space. This is especially appealing to single parents hoping to work from home.


Conditions: The work of graphic designers can be rewarding at times, as it can be highly satisfying to ‘wow’ clients with the product or visual concept you’ve created. It can also be highly stressful however, such as when facing dissatisfied or difficult clients, or when facing tight deadlines. Graphic designers that work as freelancers may also find it exciting to watch their client base and business grow, although it can be quite stressful during times when paid projects are few and far between.


Setting: Some graphic designers work in an office setting, although many work from home. Since graphic design typically only requires a laptop and a set of verbal or written ideas from which to base their visual concepts, graphic designers can work from virtually anywhere. Even graphic designers who work from home may be required to do some traveling from time to time, in order to meet with clients, photographers and other professionals.




How to Become a Graphic Designer




Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are links to profiles for occupations in our database that are similar in nature to "graphic designer", as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


• Billboard Designer 

• Commercial Artist

• Creative Director

• Logo Designer 

• Web Designer 




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a graphic designer.


Occupations in Alberta:Graphic Designer.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 19, 2019.

Arts & Design:Graphic Designers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved December 19, 2019.

Explore Careers:Graphic designers and Illustrators.” (December 11, 2018) WorkBC website. Retrieved December 19, 2019.

Documents:What I Wish Someone Told Me BEFORE Becoming a Graphic Designer….” Brianna Flavin (July 29, 2019) Rasmussen College website. Retrieved December 19, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Graphic Designer

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant to this profession can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page, by finding the pages that correspond to the majors listed on our "Relevant Fields of Study" section below. Any scholarships found within those pages will be suitable.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

The majors listed below are highly relevant to this career, and can help set a great foundation for it. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors:


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