How to Become a Layout Designer

Career Path Guide

If you want to become a layout designer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for this profession:


• You have excellent abilities with graphic design software such as Adobe InDesign and Photoshop

• You enjoy combining creativity with technical work

• You are able to schedule and prioritize tasks, and you have excellent attention to detail

• You are interested in working with computers as well as collaborating with others

• You are interested in a career that allows you to potentially work from home or be self-employed


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a layout designer. We've also included helpful occupational information, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, required skills, educational requirements, a list of employer types, and much more!



What Education is Required to Become a Layout Designer?

Although the specific education requirements of becoming a layout designer may vary from employer to employer, many publications seek candidates with a diploma, or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in graphic design, marketing, communications or similar fields of study.


Coursework that is relevant to this profession includes:


• Graphic Design

• Communications

• Marketing

• Printing Techniques of Layout Design


Success Tip: Try to look for a diploma or degree program that offers an internship or work placement opportunity as part of its curriculum, as these are great ways for getting relevant career experience while you are still a student.





General Job Description for a Layout Designer

Layout designers, also known as visual concept designers, are responsible for creating the overall look and design for print and Internet publications, such as magazines, blogs, advertisements, books and newspapers.


Creating fresh-looking pages while maintaining the publication’s unique style is an important goal to achieve for layout designers. They may be employed in the publishing, advertising, editorial, education, manufacturing and scientific industries.



Typical Job Duties

The day-to-day duties of a layout designer can vary greatly depending on the size and type of their employer. In general however, layout designers are responsible for the following:


• Use of computer assisted design programs and software that allow users to view the layout as it would appear in print

• May work with a printer to create a prototype for the client's approval

• Balancing the publication's elements in scale and placing text

• May be required to deliver finished product to printer

• Transferring material to the internet using web publishing software

• May also be asked to perform various editorial tasks such as creating captions, writing articles and copyediting content

• Manipulate design properties such as font, spacing, type size, column width and placement



Work Environment

Working Conditions: Whether working as a freelancer or as a permanent employee, a layout designer typically faces very stringent deadlines, as publications dates are not flexible by nature. They must be willing to make compromises to their creative vision as per the directions of the editor. They must be able to work collaboratively with other employees of the publication, as well as freelancers.


Hours: Layout designers must work long hours in order to ensure they are executing the collective vision of the editors of the publication. Producing a quality design translates into job security for a layout designer, so it’s in their best interest to do quality work.


Setting: A layout designer may work out of a home office if employed as a freelancer, or they may work in an office setting if working directly for a publication.


Personnel: Layout designers must meet with editors, sales and marketing directors and advertising managers in order to properly coordinate the appearance of their upcoming issue





Skills Needed to Be Effective

To be effective as a layout designer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• Advanced computer skills, including graphic design software such as Adobe InDesign and Photoshop

• Able to apply creativity to technical work

• Marketing skills (are necessary to find work, if working as a freelancer)

• Able to schedule and prioritize tasks

• Excellent attention to detail

• Must know how to address the clients' goals, such as online sales or improved reputation

• Able to work effectively with other professionals, such as writers, editors, and graphic designers



How to Get Relevant Career Experience Before Entering the Workforce

A great way to break into a career as a layout designer is to obtain an internship while you’re still a student. This will give you valuable experience and may even directly lead to employment upon graduation.


You might also want to consider speaking with your instructors and express your interest in obtaining a job as a layout designer; they may be able to provide you with a job lead or a person to contact who can point you in the right direction.


If you are, or were, unable to obtain an internship or placement position as a student, try contacting publishing, advertising, public relations and similar companies to see if they are hiring layout designers. They may open up a position for you, even if it’s a few weeks or months down the road; this is a great way to connect with the hidden job market.


A great way to supplement your job hunting efforts is by performing an online job search for layout designer jobs and other related jobs. Make sure that you sign up for e-mail alerts and other automatic notifications for jobs you are interested in.



Who Employs Layout Designers?

Layout designers typically either work as permanent employees of a publication, or as a freelancer that is hired for a specific project, or for a specific period of time. Each form of employment has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.


Work for layout designers who apply as permanent employees is found wherever book, magazine and other publishers operate. Many freelance designers may work remotely from their home office across the country from the headquarters of the publication that has contracted them to do work.


Working for a Publication – Pros and cons


• Job security is typically the highest in these settings, as well as health and retirement benefits

• Little control over the projects that are worked on


Working as a freelancer – Pros and cons


• Freedom to select projects and set rate of pay

• Job security is typically the lowest in this form of employment


Either on a full-time or freelance basis there are many types of publications that employ layout designers, including:


• Fashion, sports, business, education and news magazines

• Book publishers

• Newspaper publishers

• Advertising agencies and marketing companies

• Public relations firms and consultancies

• Graphic design companies

• Online businesses and blogs

• Small, medium and large business and not-for-profit organizations (for their newsletters or websites)



Current Job Postings

Our job board below has "layout designer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Typical Salary Level

The actual wages and salaries of layout designers can vary greatly, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education and experience

• The amount of responsibility inherent in their job

• The size and type of their employer, or whether or not they're self-employed

• The region in which they work

• Their salary negotiating abilities

• The general state of their industry, and economic factors

• Many other factors


Unfortunately, there is no salary data available from government sources for the profession of ‘layout designer’. We can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the earnings of workers in closely related occupations.


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the “Graphic Designers” occupational group is $56,061 per year.


Salary - British Columbia: According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia), those working in the “Graphic Designers and Illustrators” occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $50,960.


Salary - United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the “Graphic Designers” occupational group is $50,370 per year.


Please Note: The final earnings of a freelance layout designer can be calculated by subtracting their expenses from their hourly or project fees. Typical expenses may include advertising, software subscriptions or purchases, professional services (such as legal and accounting) as well as other expenses.



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "layout designer", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Billboard Designer

Creative Director

Graphic Designer

Magazine Designer 

User Interface Designer




To find out more about what a layout designer does, how much they make, and other details of the career, please consult the following resources:


Occupations in Alberta:Graphic Designer.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 30, 2019.

Arts & Design:Graphic Designers.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved December 30, 2019.

Explore Careers:Graphic designers and illustrators.” (December 11, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved February 17, 2020.

Careers:Layout Artist.” (n.d.). The Art Careers Project website. Retrieved December 30, 2019.


• Tufte, Edward R. (2001). The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphic Press. ISBN-10: 0961392142

• Lupton, Ellen. (2004). Thinking with Type: A Primer for Designers: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students. Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN-10: 1568984480



Scholarships for Becoming a Layout Designer

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Layout Designer can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


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 University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a layout designer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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