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Q&A - Graphic Design Salaries

What are the highest and lowest graphic design salaries that I could earn?

An important consideration when deciding to pursue this profession is your potential graphic design salary. Graphic design pay can have a significant range. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of graphic designers was $43,500 in May 2010, with the lowest 10% earning less than $26,200, and the top 10% earning more than $76,910.

As you gain experience in the field, you can expect your pay to grow. Payscale tracks the increase in salaries by years of experience. You can expect your graphic deisng starting salary to be in the range of $22,500 to $43,600. With 10 to 20 years experience, the salary range increases significantly to $30,400 to $68,600.

Average graphic design salaries also increase with your level of education. An associate degree in graphic design is sufficient training to be qualified for a variety of entry level positions. Graphic designers with a more advanced degree or animation and website design skills will be the most likely to attain a top salary. With advanced training in computer science, as well as a graphic design degree, salary expectations can go much higher.

According to SimplyHired, graphic design salaries can vary significantly based on your role and skills. On 1 end of the spectrum, entry-level graphic designers make an average of $30,000. On the other end, senior graphic designers make an average of $57,000. There are also high demand skill sets, such as AJAX for web graphics designers, that will earn you higher pay.

In addition to my graphic design salary, will I earn benefits?

While benefits for graphic designers vary, if you are employed as a full-time employee, you should receive benefits in addition to your salary. The average graphic design salary plus benefits package could include healthcare, dental, vision and mental health insurance with possible options such as retirement account savings, matches for money put away into retirement savings accounts and paid time off.

Many companies also offer opportunities for professional development and participation in employee recognition and advancement programs. Other side benefits offered with graphic design positions could include such things as a fun and casual environment, catered meals and refreshments, company sponsored events, fitness facilities, yoga classes and some companies even welcome your dog in the office. On the flip side, these extra perks often come with an expectation to work long hours.

Compensation is usually competitive and based on skills and experience. Formal training will increase your chances of landing a position in a company that offers a full benefits package. Opportunities available to graphic designers with only basic training and little experience often do not include benefits packages or a high degree of job security.

The best graphic design salaries and benefits packages are most often achieved through a full-time, permanent position at an established company. It may necessary to gain experience early in your career through freelance projects or short contracts in order to be considered for the more competitive positions. It is also helpful to keep yourself in demand by staying on top of trends and mastering the new software and skills that come along.

Will I always earn a salary in my graphic design job?

Full-time graphic designers who are employed directly by established companies usually earn a traditional salary for graphic design work. These positions are, however, comparatively rare. In 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 29% of graphic designers were self-employed. You should probably expect to work as a freelancer for a variety of clients and charge hourly or set rates for your design services.

The AIGA Survey of Design Salaries is a great resource for understanding the latest graphic design employment trends. According to the 2011 survey, a considerable proportion of work is being outsourced to freelance and contract designers or small agencies. Many companies have adopted this strategy to reduce head counts in response to the recession. As a result, even if you get hired full time for 1 company, you might still be paid an hourly wage and may not qualify for benefits.

Companies ranging from those in the Fortune 500 to small start-ups use outside creative talent agencies to source contract labor for temporary, hourly positions. Though it is not uncommon for these positions to turn into permanent, salaried positions, many designers find themselves on indefinite short-term contracts.