When you arrive in North Carolina, you’re first bound to notice the warm and hospitable people that live there. Wherever your travels take you — from the Outer Banks down to Calabash or west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains — you’ll find a tight-knit community that works hard, upholds deep personal integrity, and maintains a great deal of Tar Heel pride.
Recently, North Carolina has welcomed several large corporations, bringing thousands of jobs to its residents. While the state’s major metropolitan areas transform into future technology hubs, there is a growing demand for creative professionals.
As a result, the Tar Heel State is the perfect place for graphic designers to relocate to. However, the real question is whether or not they can afford to live on a graphic designer salary in North Carolina while the cost of living increases.
What Is the Graphic Designer Salary in North Carolina?
Blue-collar workers and tradesmen have long shaped the North Carolina workforce —hence the history of the “Tar Heel” nickname. Now, other industries are balancing the equilibrium.
The influx of opportunities and a newly competitive market is exciting for graphic designers in the state, especially since all fields require branding and design expertise. According to Salary.com, the median graphic designer salary in North Carolina is $50,305 — yet, it could range anywhere from $45,446 and $53,468.
Graphic designers in North Carolina make about the same as the rest of the United States — their average salary is $50,710 nationwide.
However, Career Explorer says those in senior or top-tier positions could earn $62,510 and $79,960, respectively, in North Carolina — of course, this greatly depends on how many years you’ve worked as a graphic designer, your educational background, and your certifications.
What is the Graphic Designer Salary in the Triangle?
Some areas have more employment opportunities than others throughout the state. The Triangle — Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill — in particular, is one of the fast-growing job markets in the country.
Graphic designers have ample opportunities to make a decent living if they relocate to the Triangle. Glassdoor suggests that the median graphic designer salary is about $57,660 annually, which includes base pay and additional compensation, such as bonuses and commissions.
Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, while the Triangle is also home to several colleges and universities. Not only do companies have first pick of fresh talent, but prospective employees could also find graphic design opportunities in State government agencies and higher education institutions.
How Much Can a Graphic Designer Earn in Charlotte?
Just a little over 2.5 hours from Raleigh, graphic designers could decide to make Charlotte their new home. Charlotte recently took the seventh spot as the best place for job seekers and wage growth in a new MoneyGeek study.
The graphic designer salary in Charlotte could range from $39,000 to $66,000 — somewhat lower than in other places. However, there is always the potential for bonuses and commissions.
What Is the Graphic Designer Salary in Wilmington?
Suppose you’re not interested in a bustling city or would prefer to live on one of North Carolina’s pristine beaches — who could blame you? In a recent study by SmartAsset, New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick Counties all made the top 10 rankings for incoming investments — this includes Wilmington.
Wilmington’s average salary for graphic designers is $48,091 — significantly lower than other metropolitan areas. However, you’re sacrificing higher earnings for a more relaxed lifestyle in a smaller coastal city.
Why You Should Relocate to North Carolina
If the temperate climate and mild winters aren’t enough to entice you to relocate to North Carolina, perhaps its booming economy will. Coupled with a lower cost of living than the national average, you may have an easier time making ends meet.
That’s not to say North Carolina is by any means considered cheap. North Carolina’s housing market has risen 3.3% year-over-year — the median sale price is $351,800 for a single-family home. Meanwhile, the median rent is $1,900 throughout the state — much more affordable than in more expensive markets like Miami, New York City, and Los Angeles.
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, a single person with no children might spend the following amounts for the necessities in North Carolina:
- Food: $3,926
- Health care: $3,049
- Transportation: $5,477
- Civic engagement (pets, entertainment, dining, recreation): $3,074
North Carolinians also spend about $144 monthly for electricity — or $1,728 annually. The cost of utilities is 18% less than the national average, though.
The Triangle might be your best option to make a decent graphic designer salary in North Carolina. Raleigh and Durham have recently welcomed tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, while talks are ongoing about Meta and Apple expanding to the area, too.
The Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) reported a 4.9% growth in technology workers in North Carolina post-pandemic. For graphic designers, this should be a sign of economic opportunity.
Where Else Can Graphic Designers Live in North Carolina?
Graphic designers may find opportunities in cities just outside the major economic hubs, such as Cary, Apex, and Holly Springs.
Apex is not far from the Triangle — meaning many residents reap the benefits of higher salaries and easy access to the city. The unemployment rate is also much lower in Apex at 3.6% — North Carolina has an employment rate of 5.1%, while the U.S. is about 4.7%. Cary and Holly Springs are also located close to the Triangle and have similar advantages.
Other popular cities to consider moving to include the following:
Whether you aspire to do graphic design work for a large corporation or a private firm, you’ll likely find the perfect place to live and work throughout every corner of the state.
Related Graphic Design Careers to Consider
There are many different career options for people with graphic design degrees. If a graphic designer salary in North Carolina falls short of the cost of living expenses, you might earn more in another design-related role.
Some graphic designers leverage their degrees and experience in the following careers:
- User experience (UX) designer: Improves website accessibility and user satisfaction for products and services
- Web designer: Combines colors, fonts, and graphics to create website designs and layouts
- Animator: Create digital or hand-drawn 2D and 3D graphics, models, and computer-generated images for entertainment purposes, such as film
- Brand identity designer: Create the color scheme, font, tagline, style, and logo for brands to help them stand out
- Ad designer: Designs advertising campaigns for products and services
- Freelance graphic designer: Designers who provide contract graphic design services for various clients
While some graphic design-related jobs may be easier to find than others, 87% of employers are interested in hiring applicants with UX design experience. A UX designer can earn an average of $72,490 in North Carolina — much higher than the median salary for graphic designers.
Meanwhile, web designers have a median salary of $62,718 in North Carolina. Companies always need expert web designers to take their online branding to the next level.
Graphic Design Opportunities Abound in North Carolina
As more businesses and talent recognize the untapped potential of North Carolina, more jobs will become available to graphic designers. Sometimes, you just need a foot in the door to set yourself up on the best path, which could lead you up the career ladder in the Tar Heel state.