What Is the Graphic Design Salary? The 2024 Guide

Camren Browne, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

Starting a career in a creative field can be wonderfully fulfilling to those with an artistic nature. But many worry that creative professions don’t provide decent salaries. If you’ve found yourself looking at becoming a graphic designer, you may have similar concerns. 

The graphic design salary you can expect to earn will vary depending on factors like your experience level, location, and the company you work for.

This article breaks down those differences and the averages, highs, and lows of the graphic design salary.

We’ll also take a look at paths to becoming a graphic designer and important considerations when taking your first steps.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Now, let’s get started!

The graphic design salary

Many things can impact your salary as a graphic designer. For instance, where you work, how long you’ve been in the field, and the specific company you are employed by can all affect your yearly wages.  Below you can find what you can expect to be paid on average and for specific experience levels, locations, and companies. 

1. Graphic design salary overview

We’ve compiled data from Payscale to share the average graphic design salary without considering location or level of experience. Here’s what we found:

  • Average salary: $50,531
  • 10th percentile salary: $36,000
  • 90th percentile salary: $68,000
  • Average hourly rate: $25.66

As you can see from the data above, graphic designers stand to make a decent living even with just an average salary. Designers in the 10th percentile salary range are often new to the field, part-time, or working in a location where overall pay is lower. Conversely, graphic designers in the 90th percentile often have more years in the field or working for a company or location that warrants higher pay. 

2. Graphic design salary by experience

With the help of Glassdoor, we’ve gathered info on what you can expect to receive as a salary, depending on your level of experience as a graphic designer.

  • 0–1 years experience (entry-level):
    • Base pay: $42,110
    • Additional pay: $1,564
    • Total earnings: $43,674
  • 1–3 years experience (early career):
    • Base pay: $44,394
    • Additional pay: $1,741
    • Total earnings: $46,134
  • 4–6 years experience (mid-career):
    • Base pay: $47,957
    • Additional pay: $2,020
    • Total earnings: $49,977
  • 7–9 years experience (experienced):
    • Base pay: $50,985
    • Additional pay: $2,338
    • Total earnings: $53,323
  • 10–15+ years experience (senior):
    • Base pay: $62,033
    • Additional pay: $3,380
    • Total earnings: $65,413

The additional pay rates listed above typically consist of compensation outside of the base salary. These may include commission, cash bonuses, profit sharing, and tips. 

As with most positions, the pay you can expect from a career in graphic design is dependent upon years in the field and experience level. As you become more accustomed to graphic design processes and accumulate more advanced skills, your yearly wages will increase. 

3. Graphic design salary by location

Salaries vary from city to city mostly because of the varying costs of living that exist across the globe as well as the level of demand for graphic designers.

We’ve listed a few of the major cities around the world and what the average salary is in each one.

  • New York, NY 
    • Average salary: $60,000 
    • 10th percentile: $44,000
    • 90th percentile: $80,000
  • San Francisco, CA 
    • Average salary: $71,000 
    • 10th percentile: $50,000
    • 90th percentile: $91,000
  • Berlin, Germany
    • Average salary: €41,000
    • 10th percentile: €31,000
    • 90th percentile: €60,000
  • Lagos, Nigeria
    • Average salary: NGN 500,000
    • 10th percentile: NGN 140,000
    • 90th percentile: NGN 802,000
  • London, England
    • Average salary: £34,934
    • 10th percentile:  £28,000
    • 90th percentile:  £43,000
  • Tokyo, Japan
    • Average salary: ¥5,000,000
    • 10th percentile:  ¥4,000,000
    • 90th percentile:  ¥7,000,000
  • Melbourne, Australia
    • Average salary: A$66,600
    • 10th percentile:  A$58,000
    • 90th percentile:  A$78,000

4. Graphic designer salary by company

As a graphic designer, you have the opportunity to be employed by many different companies in various types of work environments.

However, the company you work for may determine the kind of compensation you will receive. Larger organizations, popular brands, design agencies, mom-and-pop shops, and start-ups will all have different graphic design budgets. 

Here are a few examples of the salary you can expect at different organizations:

  • Nike
    • Average salary: $65,696
    • 10th percentile: $53,000
    • 90th percentile: $82,000
  • Google
    • Average salary: $91,343
    • 10th percentile: $71,000
    • 90th percentile: $119,000
  • Walt Disney Company
    • Average salary: $64,756
    • 10th percentile: $53,000
    • 90th percentile: $80,000
  • Apple
    • Average salary: $74,285
    • 10th percentile: $59,000
    • 90th percentile: $95,000
  • McDonald’s
    • Average salary: $49,966
    • 10th percentile: $40,000
    • 90th percentile: $63,000
  • IBM
    • Average salary: $66,929
    • 10th percentile: $53,000
    • 90th percentile: $85,000
  • Electronic Arts Video Games
    • Average salary: $73,349
    • 10th percentile: $59,000
    • 90th percentile: $92,000
  • Freelance (via SelfEmployed.com)
    • Average salary: $55,309
    • 10th percentile: $44,000
    • 90th percentile: $77,000

How to become a graphic designer

Creating impressive designs doesn’t necessarily require a degree or any education for that matter.

However, to expertly hone your artistic skills and stay competitive when looking for work as a graphic designer, there are a few things to remember. Here are some steps to consider when looking to enter the field. 

1. Understand the basics

Before making a big commitment to a graphic design career, try to learn the basics of the profession.

This includes what a graphic designer does, where they can work, what a typical workday looks like, the tools and processes they use, the graphic design salary, and what will be expected of you in the field. 

Not only will this judge your level of interest in the profession, but you can also get a head start on learning the rudimentary skills and techniques expected of most graphic designers. 

2. Choose your form of education

Once you’ve set your sights on a graphic design career, it’s time to determine how you’ll receive the knowledge needed to enter the field. There are three main options to choose from: formal education, boot camp, and self-taught.

  • Formal education: Many designers choose to receive a university or college degree in graphic design. This is a surefire way to be sure you’re learning all the necessary info needed for the job and looks great on a resume. However, formal programs are usually expensive and time-consuming. 
  • Bootcamp: Whether online or in-person, bootcamps are a more accessible way to learn essential graphic design knowledge. The courses are often shorter in length than college degrees, have a flexible pace, and offer mentorship programs and job guarantees. Yet, bootcamps are relatively new and their certificates may not be as respected by more old-school designers. 
  • Self-taught: Now that we are in the “age of information” teaching yourself graphic design essentials is easier than ever. Online blogs, books, YouTube courses, as well as short certification programs, are all exceptional tools to utilize. Just be sure to gain some real-life experience to add to your portfolio so your level of expertise is adequately showcased to employers.

When choosing which education path to take, be sure to assess your budget, available time, level of discipline, and preferred learning methods. This will help your learning experience be more enjoyable and easier to stick with. 

3. Develop your skills

Once your essential education is taken care of, be sure to put your skills to the test and expand your design expertise. Familiarize yourself with the popular softwares used in the field (ie. Adobe Suite, Figma, Affinity Designer, InDesign, etc.) as well as current design trends and accepted best practices.  

You’ll also want to begin acquiring real work or projects that can be added to your portfolio. Online design challenges, coming up with your own designs, or designing for a friend’s business are all awesome ways to practice your skills, evolve your style, and start acquiring solid examples of your work. 

Don’t forget to develop your soft skills as well, as these are just as important when looking for work. Communication, time management, teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking are all important abilities to possess for success in the field.

4. Build your resume and portfolio

Now that you have sufficient knowledge and expertise under your belt, it’s time to put together your graphic design resume and portfolio. Make sure to look at examples of resumes and portfolios of other designers in the field to gain insight into what employers expect and what skills are imperative to showcase. 

It’s normal to have many revisions of your portfolio or even for your resume and portfolio to change depending on the job you are applying for. However, showcasing sample projects, volunteer work, or freelance design jobs are always vital to an impressive and memorable portfolio.

5. Network within the community

It can feel overwhelming to enter such an established field as graphic design. As a new designer, it’s common to feel like a small fish in a big ocean. One way to combat this is to start networking within different graphic design communities. 

LinkedIn, Slack, online job boards, conferences, and meet-ups are great places to start when looking to connect with other graphic designers and even professionals in adjacent fields. Networking in these spaces can help you feel supported, familiarize yourself with the field, and keep you in the know for potential job availabilities. 

6. Apply for jobs

Applying for a job as a novice graphic designer can sometimes feel intimidating. The best way to combat this feeling is to stay organized, stay focused, and do your research. 

Try to keep track of the jobs you’ve already applied to and when is best to follow up. It may take weeks or even months of filling out applications to find a position that works well for you- attempt to set a goal of applications completed each week and use tools to stay motivated

Be sure to customize your resume and portfolio to each job you apply for and do adequate research on the position and the company. It can be tempting to take the first position you’re offered but try to ensure you are comfortable with the pay, hours, location, and responsibilities to make your work experience enjoyable and long-lasting. 

Closing thoughts

The graphic design field provides many opportunities for both novice and experienced designers and offers attractive salaries for each. With much potential for growth in the field, you can expect your earnings to increase as your skills advance or if you move to more competitive companies. 

But if you’re already considering other possibilities, try out our free UX design short course to see whether you’d prefer it and its higher salary as a career path.

If you’d like to learn more about graphic design or the salaries for other design professions, check out these links below:

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