Are you getting paid correctly for the work you do, and the level of experience you have? It’s an important question, but one that too few working in graphic design ask themselves on a regular basis.
Yet there’s a lot of information out there to help you learn whether you’re being rewarded correctly. Or, if you’re about to enter the profession, what kind of entry-level graphic design salary you might expect.
At Shillington, we know a thing or two about getting graphic designers into their dream job, whether it’s their first role or they’re changing careers to follow a more creative path.
So in this article, we’ll offer you some insider advice, including some useful resources, to help you determine what the average salary of a graphic designer should be for your locality and level of experience.
There are a number of factors that influence this such as experience, job title, and location. That is what we’ll explore in this post, focusing on our campus cities in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The first point to make is that calculating a graphic designer salary is not an exact science.
In some professions controlled or influenced by government, such as the military, civil service, or teaching, pay bands are tightly regulated and you can be sure of what you’re going to get for a particular job.
Graphic design salaries, in contrast, are set almost entirely by the market so rates will depend on factors such as the current state of the economy, the current demand for graphic design skills, and the number of people entering the job market.
The good news, however, is that at the moment, demand for graphic designers is at an all-time high.
The increasing digitization of our society and culture means that every company is realizing it needs to be a design-led company to survive, and so the number of graphic design jobs that need filling is going up and up.
With more firms competing to hire the best graphic designers, salaries are looking generally healthy across the board, and we expect them to continue on an uphill trend. Starting salaries for first-timers compare well with other professions: for example, Payscale has the average graphic design salary for a junior in New York City as US$44,203. Indeed has the average graphic design salary for a junior in London as £21,961. And Payscale has the average graphic design salary for a junior in Melbourne as A$41,304. Plus, nowadays, even many interns are being paid proper money while they gain work experience.
In short, any job in graphic design, even your first one, should pay enough to afford you a relatively comfortable lifestyle. And there is a world of possibility out there, with exponential growth in salary as you progress through the ranks of mid-weight to senior designer, and impressive salaries for design directors once you’ve truly cemented yourself in the field.
But as you progress, how do you ensure that you’re not getting short-changed by your boss?
The simplest and most practical way to make sure you’re being paid the right amount for your level of experience is to compare your graphic design salary with that of other jobs being advertised. There are a huge number of job sites specializing in design on the web. Check out our list of 20 best online jobs boards for graphic designers. But to get you moving—a couple of good places to start are Behance Jobs and Dribble Jobs, which feature jobs right around the globe.
Once you start looking you’ll notice that even within your locality, the range of salaries varies widely.
And one of the main factors is the level of experience.
Graphic design jobs are normally categorized according to a few broad bands. The first, and least experienced, is a junior designer. This is a role normally filled by a designer who’s straight out of university, or a graphic design course like Shillington’s, and has no experience beyond freelancing, internships, college work, and possibly another job with a creative element, such as artworker.
A junior usually graduates to a straight ‘graphic designer’, either within the same company or by moving to a new one, within six months to two years, with a concurrent bump in salary. Also note that some of the best graduates sometimes move straight into a graphic designer role, especially if they have enhanced their training through an intensive, industry-focused course like Shillington’s.
The next rung up from graphic designer is ‘middleweight designer’. Again, it will take at least a couple of years to be considered for this position, but this level of advancement is much less about “time served” and more about what you’ve achieved.
You’ll be expected to have a killer portfolio by this stage, involving work you’ve contributed to larger campaigns, as well as responsibility for smaller campaigns of your own.
As a middleweight, you’ll still be overseen by a senior designer or art director, but you’ll operate with a large degree of autonomy and expect to interpret briefs, originate ideas and make decisions by yourself.
From here, your career path will be firmly focused on becoming a senior designer or art director, and then on to the pinnacle of being a creative director. At this point, to be honest, hard and fast rules go out of the window. No one ever gets to these stages through longevity alone.
The further up the pyramid you go, the more competition there is, and even just doing great work isn’t always enough. Making friends and influencing people, being on the right campaigns at the right time, and generally having a fair bit of luck can be as important as delivering great work. But in our experience, the most determined will always make it in the end.
It’s not just seniority, though, that leads pay rates to vary. The kind of design job you’re doing will also have a big impact.
As the design world has become more complex, graphic design disciplines have become increasingly specialized in recent years. Specialized types of graphic designers include:
The salaries for each type of designer will vary wildly, so if you’re working as an editorial designer, for example, don’t expect your salary to match that of a UI designer, as that kind of job will broadly speaking pay much more.
Now you know what to compare, the next step is to start finding comparative roles to your current (or sought-after) job, in your area, to give you an idea of what the salary should be.
Below, we list some good resources for checking graphic design salaries around the world.
Our Shillington team is wishing you lots of luck in your job hunt and future career! We hope these resources can prove useful as you navigate your journey.