How to Become a Magazine Designer

Career Path Guide

If you want to become a magazine designer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests, career ambitions, and personality traits.


If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably going to do well in this field:


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

• You're able to delegate work to others

• 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 solving complicated publication layout issues, such as balancing advertisements with content

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


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



Required Education

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


Some employers may hire magazine designers with little or no formal post-secondary education, provided they have many years of relevant work experience. 


Such experience may include working for a magazine publication in positions of progressive levels of responsibility, or working in related careers, such as Layout Designer, or Graphic Designer.


Success Tip: Generally speaking, the more formal post-secondary education you have in a related field, the more marketable you will be to employers. 





General Job Description

A magazine designer is someone who is responsible for the visual layout of a magazine. The magazine designer uses photos, graphics and other forms of artwork to create the covers and inside pages of a magazine.


A thorough understanding of the magazine’s target audience and analysis of market trends are necessary to make a magazine more visually appealing than that of the competition.



Typical Job Duties

• Meet with editors, circulation directors and advertising managers in order to discuss the appearance of the upcoming issue

• May confer with photographers to generate ideas as to the best way to present their work

• Decide on things such as typeface and fonts for magazine’s cover and headlines

• Decide how visuals and articles will be tied together

• Decide which type of artwork and other visuals will be used for each story

• May be involved with designing layout of company website

• Use of publication related software such as Photoshop or Illustrator



Where Do They Work?

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


Work for magazine designers who apply as permanent employees is found wherever there are magazines being published. Many freelance designers 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 are 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

• Marketing skills are necessary to find work


Types of Publications 


There are many types of publications that magazine designers can find work for on a permanent or freelance basis; some popular types include:


• Fashion magazines

• Sports magazines

• Business magazines

• Education magazines

• Computer magazines

• Music magazines

• News magazines

• Online magazines





How To Gain Relevant Career Experience

Many magazine designers begin their career by directly applying for open positions with magazine publishing companies after graduation. They may apply in the areas of layout design, copywriting, artwork and others.


If there are no available positions in the organization that you wish to work for, it is worth considering applying for an entry level job with them. This will allow you to get your foot in the door and impress them with your work ethic. When an open position becomes available in a role you desire, you will have a much better chance of being considered than an outside applicant.


Arranging an internship opportunity while you’re still a student is a great way to get a head start on your career, as this will help you gain valuable industry experience and make important contacts. Speak with your instructors and your school’s career services office, as they may be able to help you identify and apply for such opportunities. 



Required Skills for This Profession

In order to become effective in a career as a magazine 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

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

• Able to balance the various needs of a publication’s visual layout, such as aesthetic appeal, advertisements, and captivating content



Helpful Personal Traits For Working as a Magazine Designer

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a magazine designer, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.


• Enjoy working with computers

• Interest in a career that allows you to apply creativity to technical work

• Interest in a career that has the possibility of working from home, and/or being self-employed

• Enjoy the idea of working with professionals such as graphic designers, writers and editors



Typical Work Environment

Working Conditions: Whether working as a freelancer or as a permanent employee, a magazine 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 magazine employees, as well as freelancers.


Hours: Magazine 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 magazine designer, so it’s in their best interest to do quality work.


Setting: These designers may work out of a home office if employed as a freelancer. If working as a permanent employee of a publication, they may work in that organization’s head office, with occasional work being done from home.


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



Current Job Postings

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



Typical Salary Level

The actual wages and salaries of magazine 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 they are self-employed

• Whether they work part-time or full-time hours

• The structure of their financial benefits package, if they have one

• The region in which they work

• Their salary negotiating abilities

• Many other factors


Magazine Designer Salary in Alberta: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the “Graphic Designer” occupational group is $56,601 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.



Similar Occupations in Our Database

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


Creative Director

Graphic Designer

Layout Designer

User Interface Designer

Art Director



Career Guide References

Please consult the following resources to find out more about what magazine designers do, how to become one, and other details of the profession:



Foges, Chris. (1999). Magazine Design, Watson-Guptill. ISBN-10: 2880464501

Moser, Horst. (2011). The Art Director’s Handbook of Professional Magazine Design, Thames and Hudson. ISBN: 9789599515730

Aynsley, Jeremy. (2007). Design and the Modern Magazine, Manchester University Press. ISBN: 9780719075490



Occupations in Alberta:Graphic Designer.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 23, 2020.

Arts and Design:Graphic Designers.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved February 23, 2020.

Explore Careers:Graphic designers and illustrators.” (December 11, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved February 23, 2020.


Please Note: Much of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming a Magazine Designer

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant for becoming a magazine 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 for this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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