Starting Salary for a Graphic Designer and How to Earn More

Posted on November 12, 2022 | Updated on May 29, 2023

Let’s face it. It doesn’t matter the years of experience — or the area of expertise you possess. The most important aspect of a graphic design career is your salary. Though you may love it because of the creativity, you still have to pay bills and feed yourself. So, what is the starting salary for a graphic designer? And is there a way to take it to the next level?

Find out everything you need to know about it and ways you can try to increase your salary.

What Is the Starting Salary for a Graphic Designer?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the starting salary for a graphic designer is $50,710 as the median wage. However, some graphic designers may start at $31,310 or make as high as $98,260. 

Of course, these numbers will depend on several factors. For instance, an employer will base your graphic design salary on the amount of experience, expertise and the location you reside.

For example, suppose you were a junior graphic designer. In that case, you could expect your salary to be around $30,000 — whereas a senior graphic designer could make approximately $50,000.

It also depends on the company you work for as well. Larger companies are most likely to pay their graphic designers a higher salary.

What Are the Most Valued Skills in Graphic Design?

Before you look at ways you can try to increase your salary, it’s important to understand whatever the employer is looking for in a graphic designer. Some of the top skills that are in demand include:

  • Design principles
  • Ideation
  • Branding
  • Typography
  • Tech tools, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, etc.

In addition to these design skills, every graphic designer needs soft skills to thrive in a team environment. Creativity, strategy, communication, problem-solving and time management are a few of the soft skills of graphic designers to keep up with the pace of project development. 

Additionally, graphic designers must be mindful of the changing design principles and trends. This is essential to giving clients what they want.

How To Make More Money as a Graphic Designer

If you’re not earning what you’re worth, there are certain things you can do to increase your wealth. Whether it’s asking for a raise or finding a new job, you can always find a way to improve your starting salary as a graphic designer.

Here are a few ways to accomplish this goal.

1. Ask for a Pay Raise

If you currently work for a company as a graphic designer, you can always ask for a raise. Consider scheduling a meeting with your manager to discuss a higher salary. 

Once you have this setup, preparing your case for why you think you deserve a raise is always helpful. 

One way to prepare is by keeping a collection of positive feedback. Each time your employers or co-workers praise you for your hard work, note it in a file on your desktop. 

Furthermore, it helps to conduct regular self-evaluations and keep a track record of your accomplishments. 

2. Do Freelance On the Side

Freelance graphic design work is always an option because you have the satisfaction of establishing your rates. You also have the freedom to complete the work at a time that suits your schedule.

Essentially, you’re in charge of who you work with and how much you make alongside your full-time salary.

The earning potential as a freelance graphic designer is much higher than the average employment rate. One report shows that freelance designers earn an average of $95,629 annually.

If freelancing on the side interests you, consider taking on new projects by leveraging your network. Chances are there’s someone you know who needs to hire a graphic designer.

You could also try utilizing your time by connecting with potential clients on freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr. Or, you could join networks on social media and engage with users who could use your services in the future.

Freelance remains one of the most popular choices for work as many can increase their earnings this way. 

3. Create a Niche for Yourself

Another way to enhance your salary is by specializing in something your employer values. Is there an area within your company where you can help them achieve better results? Maybe there’s a new skill you can develop. 

You can always expect a pay raise when you specialize in an area that brings value to your employer. 

If you can expand your skills in an area in high demand, you can reap the rewards of a financial increase. For instance, user experience and user interface are two highly valuable skills that companies need today.

4. Get Certifications

If you’re interviewing for a new graphic design job, obtaining a certification can help you stand out as a graphic designer and offer a higher salary. That’s because you’re demonstrating your knowledge in a certain skill set.

Though you may not have as much experience, certifications showcase your determination to increase your skills and willingness to adapt. 

Employers greatly appreciate graphic designers who show an interest in learning and development. It shows that you have a passion for graphic design and an interest in participating in continuing education.

Some certifications you may find essential to your career include Adobe programs, graphic design, advertising design and more.

5. Find a New Job

Switching jobs is a guaranteed way of improving your salary. In most cases, a potential employer will allow you to state your salary expectations. 

If this were to occur, the first step to negotiating a higher salary is knowing your worth. You can start by visiting websites that provide salary information based on your experience, location and what other employers currently offer. 

Conducting research is crucial because it can give you a realistic figure. It’s a helpful guide, so you’re not underselling yourself or turning off an employer by asking for too much.

Secondly, having this information in your back pocket is handy because you can mention it during negotiations when the time comes.

6. Earn a Degree in Graphic Design

The starting salary of a graphic designer can increase when earning a degree. Consider obtaining an undergraduate degree — such as a bachelor’s degree — in art, digital media arts, graphic design, web design or a related field. 

While these programs involve general education courses, you’ll also find yourself learning specific topics pertaining to your major. For instance, you may take classes in art history, color theory, design principles and digital media technology.

Graphic designers with a bachelor’s degree typically earn higher wages than those without a college education or an associate degree. However, you could consider obtaining your master’s degree to make even more.

Plus, a degree doesn’t only allow you to increase your salary. It also opens more doors as you will be qualified for more jobs and advancement opportunities.

Look for Windows of Opportunity in Graphic Design

Now that you know the starting salary for a graphic designer, what will you do to keep increasing your earning potential? There are various ways you can improve your starting salary. While there’s no “get rich quick scheme,” it does require patience for the right job opportunities to come your way.

In the meantime, continue to advance your career by educating yourself, expanding your skill set and specializing in a certain area of expertise.

Graphic design is a lucrative career and can open you up to many opportunities. However, you need to remain creative and self-sufficient in the latest technology and work efficiently to earn better rates.

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