How to Become an Industrial Designer


Step-By-Step Guide

Although there are other paths to take, here is a brief overview of what it takes to become an industrial designer:


1. Excel in fine arts, visual arts, design studies and physics while in high school

2. Make sure you have the right personal traits for this work

3. Pursue an undergraduate industrial design degree

4. Get work experience as a student via internship and co-op opportunities 

5. Get an entry-level job after graduation

6. Advance into roles of greater responsibility and pay, or into roles in related fields


Reading on below will give you a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as an industrial designer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful occupational information for this field, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and actual job postings in your area!



What Education Will I Need?

The field of industrial design combines visual arts and technology, and requires knowledge and skills in a variety of fields. For this reason, industrial designers can come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Many have bachelor's degrees in industrial design, fine arts, engineering or architecture, or a background in graphic design.





What is an Industrial Designer?

Industrial designers use technical and design training, in combination with the collection and analysis of requirements from clients and manufacturers, to create models and drawings on how to make products easier to use, better to use, and better to look at. 


They aren’t usually tasked with coming up with an overall design; instead, they are concerned with impacting the technical aspects of the overall design by considering the usability and aesthetics of the design.


The designs they work on are a wide variety of products and systems, ranging from furniture, electronics and appliances, to automobiles, sporting goods, toys, and much more. 



What Do They Do?

Although their duties can vary from job to job, industrial designers are generally responsible for the following:


• Consulting with clients or manufacturers to establish requirements for the product or system to be designed

• Analyzing the intended function and aesthetics of the product or system in order to create product specifications

• Researching production specifications, costs of production materials and methods of manufacturing

• Preparing formal presentations and reports for client or management approval

• Preparing concepts, drafts, mockups and initial prototypes of product or system

• Working closely and consulting with other members of development team, such as engineers, marketers and managers



How Can I Gain Experience as a Student?

A great way to gain relevant and valuable experience for this career is to obtain an internship or co-op position while you are a student. Speak with your instructors and your school’s career resources office, as they will likely be able to help facilitate such a position.


Once you have graduated form your program, inquire with the organization that you had the internship with with to see if they have any vacancies and apply if they do (in all likelihood, you'll find out about these while you're interning with them). If they don’t, actively look for positions with other organizations.


Success Tip: Even with internship experience, it's common for industrial designers to start in entry-level positions so they can properly be groomed for the responsibilities of the profession, so don’t be alarmed if you are not being offered management or senior level positions right off the bat.



How Can I Prepare in High School?

Developing your skills in the areas of visual arts and technology while you’re still a high school student is a great way to get a head start in this profession. Excelling in coursework related to fine arts, visual arts, design studies and physics will serve as excellent preparation for this career, and help you qualify for post-secondary programs.





Should I Become an Industrial Designer? 

If you have the following personal traits you'll not only be well suited for work as an industrial designer, you’ll be a standout:


• You’re the kind of person who enjoys taking things apart and fixing them

• The shape and design of everyday items catches your eye

• Trying to figure out how a product goes from concept to store shelves intrigues you 

• You enjoy conceptualizing problems in new ways to find innovative and practical solutions

• A career that combines design and technology appeals to you

• Working well with others in a multidisciplinary environment won’t be a challenge for you

• You enjoy conducting product research and experimenting with different ways of doing things

• You’re not scared of working in a pioneering industry that’s still trying to carve out brand value (businesses looking to an industrial designer for help with a product is still a novel idea)



What is the Typical Salary Level in This Field?

The salary level you could earn as an industrial designer can vary, based on the following factors:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• If you get group benefits such as health, vision and dental

• Many other factors


Industrial Designer Salary - Alberta & B.C.: According to the 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Industrial Designer” occupational group is $69,264 per year. Meanwhile in B.C., WorkBC states that the Annual provincial median salary of industrial designers is $63,690.


Salary - Canada in General: According to ECO Canada, industrial designers in entry-level positions in Canada typically earn between $35,600 and $50,000 per year. Unfortunately, there was no salary data available at the time of writing for those in more senior-level roles.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Industrial Designers” occupational group is $66,590 per year (May, 2018 figures). 



What Kinds of Employers Hire Industrial Designers?

Industrial designers are often employed by the following types of organizations, either on a full-time or contractual basis: 


• Small, medium and large design firms

• Engineering and architecture firms

• Fashion and clothing design companies 

• Manufacturers of commercial, industrial or institutional goods

• Technology companies

• Recreational and not-for profit groups, such as sports teams and leagues 

• Media outlets

• Self-employment



What Industrial Designer Jobs Are Open?

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




What Career Advancement Opportunities Are Available?

If you demonstrate a strong work ethic, dedication and competence as you gain experience, you will have plenty of opportunities to advance into roles of greater responsibility, or move into roles in complimentary fields.


For example, you could move into supervisory roles such as design department head, chief designer, or other supervisory positions. You could also become a teacher in design schools or in colleges and universities.


You could also use industrial design experience and education as preparation for a career in architecture, design management, marketing or other areas of business.



What are Careers Similar to This One?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “industrial designer”:


• Design Engineer

• Drafting Technician

• Ergonomist

• Furniture Designer

• Graphic Designer

• Industrial Engineer

• Mechanical Engineer

• Sculptor

• Toy Designer

• Web Designer



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Industrial Designers? 

Scholarships in our system are organized by field of study. The fields that are relevant to this profession are listed below on our "Relevant Areas of Study" section below. Any scholarships found within those fields will be suitable, all of which can be found on our Scholarships page.


Success Tip: 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!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become an industrial designer:


• Occupational Profile: “Industrial Designer.” (March 31, 2019). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 23, 2019.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Industrial Designer.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 28, 2017.

• Career Profiles: “Industrial Designer.” (n.d.). ECO Canada. Retrieved February 28, 2017.

• Careers: “Industrial Designer.” (n.d.). Plotr Careers. Retrieved February 28, 2017.

• Explore Careers: “Industrial designers (NOC 2252).” (July 5, 2018). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved October 14, 2019.



Relevant Areas of Study

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below, we've outlined those that are most relevant for this profession. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: 
Top Banner Image Title: 
Industrial Designer