Graphic Design as a Career: Is it worth it?

5 minutes read 28 Sep 2021

Choosing a career is always romantic and exciting. No bad experiences, no downsides, only motivation, and ambition. Sometimes it pays off, but sometimes, expectations of an idyllic future get crushed by the real world.

How To Learn Graphic Design?

When a person decides on a career in a specific field, they start their education – formal or informal. It can be done simultaneously or spontaneously, depending on how strong their motivation is. Certainly, a graphic design certificate can go a long way.

Experience teaches us that a real job or a real business rarely reflects the vision or an idea of a career. It is not often a person can precisely predict what their jobs will be like.

A career in graphic design is a type of career that can go either way – it offers a lot if you play cards right.

What Is Graphic Design?

Graphic design is all about communication. In an increasingly fast-moving world, visuals are something we first notice. It is no wonder because pictures, shapes, and colors are something that our eyes are drawn to. 

They are easier (and more fun) to grasp or comprehend, as opposed to letters or lengthy text. That’s why the process of shaping the visual, whether in print or digital form, is both challenging and rewarding. 

It is a fact that a person can recall 65% of a visual piece of the information three days later, but only 10% of something that was in the text.

Let’s underline how important graphic design is with this stat: 94% of the people who visit a website will trust or mistrust it because of its design, while only 6% will pay more attention to text or other content. 

It is no wonder, as the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than any other content. In a world that’s heavily relying on online representation, this truly is a big deal.

What Does A Graphic Designer Do?

Graphic designers create and develop visual concepts. They use tools like computer software or draw by hand, conveying ideas and messages through a specific type of communication.

Where Does A Graphic Designer Work?

There are many industries that require graphic designers. There are specialized design agencies and studios, but they are also essential in:

  • Advertising
  • PR
  • Media
  • IT
  • Other related services

A whole range of industries requires graphic designers, especially nowadays, in a globalized world. Even if a company does not have a graphic designer, they would still need their services, at least when it comes to designing their website. 

Types Of Work Environments

We could say there are three major types of work environments for graphic designers: 

  • In-house
  • Agencies
  • Freelance

 Each environment has its plus and minus sides.


Working in-house means working in a company and taking care of all the company’s creative needs. It requires a person to be quite skillful and versatile. There are many advantages when working in-house:

  • Full-time employment
  • Social work environment
  • Possibility of a promotion
  • Focus on the company’s brand

The disadvantages are:

  • Company hierarchy 
  • Often no other designers to share the workload with
  • Non-designers that seek results and explanations
  • Lack of credit for successful projects

Graphic Design Agency

Working in a graphic design agency means having outside clients that hire the agency for their campaigns or other brand needs. 

Working in an agency has these advantages:

  • Working with colleagues in a creative and professional environment
  • Space to learn and implement new expert knowledge
  • Professional supervision
  • The creative process is a priority

And the disadvantages are:

  • Project work
  • Not-so-secure employment
  • Workload dictates the number of staff 
  • Strict deadlines


Finally, the last type of work environment for a graphic designer is freelance work. This type of work offers great freedom, but also a great responsibility. A freelance graphic designer must do the professional work and also take care of the business side of things.

This entails marketing, bookkeeping, invoicing, and dealing with clients directly.

Advantages of freelance are:

  • Remote graphic design jobs
  • Choosing the projects you want to be involved in
  • Setting your own hours

The disadvantages are:

  • Finding work on your own
  • No colleagues to share the work with
  • Lack of motivation
  • The appearance of being unprofessional 
  • Unstable income and infrequent paying clients

Even though the list seems intimidating, in 2017, the number of freelancers in the graphic design industry was almost 90%. The market is quite competitive and the graphic design portfolio should be strong for a candidate to succeed.

Going from full-time employment to freelance and back is also an option. That way, a person can fully experience every angle of a graphic design career.

What Are Typical Responsibilities Of A Graphic Designer?

There are many aspects to this job, but the most standard ones include:

  • Discussing the project with clients and directors
  • Determining the project type, size, and requirements to complete it
  • Using proper tools and software
  • Creating all types of visuals – photos, images, illustrations, videos, logos, websites, billboards, etc.
  • Working closely with other creative professionals (like writers, marketers, programmers, multimedia animators etc.)

Graphic Designers often have the unfortunate privilege of having to work closely with some difficult clients. Clients can be demanding and ignorant from time to time, as they lack the expert knowledge of what it takes to actually produce quality visuals.

Image source: instagrampage

Graphic Design Industry

In 2021, graphic design is holding at the market size of $12.7 billion in the U.S. alone. The nature of the business and its global potential makes it a huge international industry with market size of $45.8 billion, making it the 9th largest business in the world.

The Corona pandemic had set back the whole U.S. market, in 2020, graphic design included. In 2021, it bounced back and grew 4.1%.

Image source: Findstack

Does Graphic Design Pay?

As far as the job market is concerned, a graphic design career is a challenging thing. A career in graphic design will depend on numerous factors, personal and circumstantial. The same goes for financial terms one might expect.

A graphic designer earns $53,380 on average in the U.S. This is a median average; the top 10% earns more than $93,440, while the bottom 10% earns less than $31,720. The skill level of a graphic designer determines the average hourly wage level.

Source: Eksposure.com

These are the median wages for graphic designers’ top industries of employment in 2020.

Source: U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics

UX (User Experience) is the most lucrative environment for a graphic designer currently. Top positions in the field make $129,250 per year. 

There are more than 400,000 graphic design businesses in the world, with more than 280,000 job positions in the U.S. alone. The number of businesses in the U.S. is more than 125,000.

There are 10-year projections that the number will reduce by 4%. Considering the remote graphic design jobs in a globalized world and the fact that the profession is 90% freelance, such trends would hardly affect the workload or the very demand for graphic designers.

After all, the industry grew in 2021 by 4.1% in comparison to 2020, breaking or at least setting back the trend predictions.

How To Become A Graphic Designer?

A bachelor’s degree in graphic design or fine arts is a typical level of education for a graphic designer. Communication design, as well. There are more than 360 postsecondary educational institutions that educate in the graphic design field.

There are many online courses that can help, too. 

The place and means to master software and other tools is a matter of choice and opportunity, but hard work and motivation should work in favor of ambition, finding a job in a company or agency through many graphic design internships.

Graphic design is a vibrant, creative field of work. It is hard to imagine a future without it.