Key Takeaways
  • Your salary will depend in a lot of factors, level of experience, state and skill set.
  • A beginner graphic designer earns between $45,000 to $50,000 US dollars.
  • There are different salaries brackets depending on your different roles as a designer.
  • Some freelancers make more money freelancing than actually hired by a company.
  • The highest paying states in the United States are California, New York, District of Colombia, Massachusetts and Maryland.

A graphic designer sounds like an interesting career prospect to pursue.

What is cooler than designing all day you might ask yourself?

Making a living from creating art, who wouldn’t want that?

But before we delve into what the average graphic designer salary is, lets first understand who they are, what are their different roles, job descriptions and what their job entails.

Let’s begin…

What does a Graphic Designer do?

A graphic designer creates images and art that can be physical or virtual. These images are very often used in business to capture and captivate potential clients, draw them into the business and hopefully turning them into loyal clients.

Thus, we can say that the work of a graphic designer is to inform and communicate ideas and concepts through images, graphics, and words.

When employed, graphic designers are expected to fulfill a simple but crucial role—to make the organization stand out, become more prominent, become more recognizable by creating work or content to be used in promotion.

Look at it this way…

A graphic designer is a problem solver who uses visual means to find solutions to concepts.

But there are many different fields where a graphic designer can specialize in.

graphic designer

Different types of Graphic Designers

Creative Director

These guys are at the top of their game. As a creative director, you will be in charge of a team that develops images and visuals for businesses to be used in promotions, advertisements, and branding.

 Art Director

This role also requires you to be in charge of a team but this time your team will be production artists as well as illustrators. You will see to it that the projects are completed to the satisfaction of the clients.

Art Production Manager

Here the main aim is to ensure that the production of art runs smoothly and efficiently while also striving to achieve the best output at lower costs.

Package Designer

This type of graphic designer creates packages for products while also adding the right images, words, and graphics.

Brand Identity Developer

As the name suggests you will be focusing on creating brand identities for clients. These clients are mainly organizations.

Visual Image Developer

These graphic designers use photography,3D modeling and image editing software to create designs and images.

Broadcast Designer

They create images and designs that are meant for broadcasting especially in television production.

Logo Designer

These guys are tasked with taking the business’s core message and translating this from a visual point of view. This can also be thought of as a type of branding.

Interface Designer

They work for web development companies and mainly develop GUIs or graphical user interfaces.

Web Designer

The main activities involve creating web pages as well as the page layouts and all the necessary graphics involved.

Multimedia Developer

This type of graphic designer develops images and also incorporates sounds and motion.

Content Developer

These guys are versatile and will often develop written, video, graphics or sound as well as other multimedia concepts. It all comes down to how they’ve been briefed.

While this is quite the field of work that would attract anyone with an eye for design, it is not as straightforward as it may otherwise appear especially when trying to figure out the graphic designer salary.

Graphic Designer Salary

In the US the graphic designer salary depends a lot on different factors. These include the level of experience, state, and skill set to mention a few. For a beginner graphic designer, they may earn anywhere between $45,000 and $50,000.

These varying determinants are the reason why the salary reports from sites like Glassdoor, Simply Hired or PayScale show a wide range in the difference of the salaries. Reports range between $30,000 and $80,000.

And there’s more…

Salaries can also be influenced by the area of work that a graphic designer specializes in such as if you are a web designer, for example.

Let’s Talk About Experience

The total salary of a graphic designer based on experience will include the bonus, tips as well as overtime pay.

Entry level designers have between 0-2 years of experience. Often, they’ve just graduated and are actively freelancing looking for gigs.

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They are mainly very proficient in using programs but haven’t settled on an area of expertise.

If they are employed in a firm, they would be receiving instructions from a supervisor and earning between $40,000 and $49,000 a year.

With a 2-5-year experience level, these guys have their own portfolio that shows their abilities, proficiency as well as personal style.

If employed they will require less supervision and when freelancing will likely have their own website and set terms of engagement and business.

Graphic designer salaries for this level of experience is reported to be between $45,000 and $57,000.

At 5-10 years’ experience level, these are designers who hold top positions in a firm, have their own firm and are constantly updating themselves with the latest trends in their field of work.

The salaries of such experienced graphic designers are anywhere between $51,000 and $71,000.

Salaries as per the different roles

The field of graphic design is large and diverse and different roles earn differently.

Let’s consider them, below shall we?

Based on reports from SimplyHired:

  • A graphic designer intern will earn $25,000
  • Graphic Designer – $38,000
  • Senior Graphic Designer – $55,000
  • Instructional Designer – $60,000
  • Web Designer – $61,000
  • Art Director- $76000
  • Visual Designer- $77000
  • User interface Designer – $80,000
  • Senior Designer- $83,000
  • User Experience Designer – $89000
  • Creative Director – $108,000

With the figures, we can see that the average pay goes up as the level of work, skill requirement and responsibility rise.

What about freelancing?

It is not the simplest task to determine the average graphic designer salary when they are freelancing mainly because they get paid per job and the rate at which such designers acquire work can fluctuate.

And then there’s is the time factor.

Freelance graphic designers who spend 10 hours a week will earn way less than one spending 50 hours a week.

However, don’t be surprised to learn of a graphic designer who is making more than $10,000 every month from freelancing and crowd sourcing contests.

There is also services like Designer Task that offers unlimited graphic design services and as a designer you know you will have an steady flow of income coming your way.

Not bad, is it?

But like we said before, no two months are the same.

In one, you may have a steady flow of clients but experience slower income the next.

Bottom Line, Being a Graphic Designer Pays

As a designer, there is no defined method of charging for a task but the figures we’ve laid out for you above should help to put things into perspective.

If you are just starting out especially when freelancing, it might be difficult to know where to begin your rates.

By knowing the average salaries of your area of expertise you will know not to settle for less than you deserve.

Mainly to become a graphic designer, one only needs a bachelor’s degree in graphic design.

However, to improve your value and skill set, you can enroll in courses such as:


This is used to create games in 2D and 3D and is a standard for playing and using content on the Adobe Flash platform.

If a graphic designer has this extra skill, they stand a chance to earn between $21,000 and $68,000 according to PayScale.


This skill set involves illustrations of concepts and can prove quite profitable. For a graphic designer with the skill, they can earn between $23,000 and 60,000.


Just coming out the course with a PC knowledge is not enough for graphic designers in this day and age. In fact, having both Mac and iOS skills can seriously up the pay for the designer.

The average salary is between $36,000 and $82,000.

Adobe After Effects

This skill set makes it possible to develop motion graphics in film making and television production. Graphic designers can earn between $25,000 and $61,000 on this skill set.

What it Really Takes to Become a Graphic Designer?

Back in the day, a graphic designer could simply get a job by being creative and having a good portfolio.

Times have changed…

Today, employers are more willing to hire graphic designers that have a richer education background; the kind of educational background that can only be obtained with a college degree.

While it’s still possible to land an entry job with a certificate or an associate’s degree, to really improve the odds of landing a high-quality job, a bachelor’s degree in graphic design is the best route to take.

What about the portfolio?

Well, this is certainly one of the most important assets that someone looking for a job as a graphic designer must have.

Yes, granted the resume lays down the skills that the job seeker has managed to acquire, but to be able to showcase their talent and what they are actually capable of, a good portfolio is essential.

While it’s always a good idea to have both physical and digital presentations, don’t stress too much on the number of your presentations. Often a winning portfolio will showcase high-quality content instead.

Wrapping it up

Different states pay graphic designers better than others and a simple way to up the income is by moving to a higher paying state.

In America, the best states include California, New York, District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Maryland.