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How Much Do Graphic Designers Really Make?

How Much Do Graphic Designers Really Make?

Michelle Taute

It depends on who you ask. Your boss probably thinks you’re being paid fairly (or at least her boss thinks so). But you probably have more important questions on your mind: Are you doing as well as the other junior designer? Or the creatives at the shop across town? Lucky for you, we did some digging and found three surveys to give you a better sense of average graphic design salaries.

Are You Earning What You Deserve?

I like being the leader in the group.

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Just take a deep breath before you go asking for a raise. These are broad guidelines and salaries vary widely based on geography, experience, specialty and performance. People with hard-to-find skills typically make out better in the marketplace — especially in a tight economy. To make the case for a salary bump, you need to do it based on the value you provide to your employer. Not an arbitrary number from a study.

AIGA|Acquent Survey of Design Salaries 2010

The money number: $37,500. Based on this annual survey, this is the median cash compensation for entry-level designers as they work their way into the industry. (That means half of you make more and half of you make less.) It’s up slightly from 2009, and all the other salaries cataloged in the survey—web designer, designer, solo designer, art director—were higher, so your future raises look pretty bright. There’s also a handy online salary calculator that spits out numbers based on type and size of employer, client base and where you live.

HOW Salary Survey 2010

The one number to know: $48,983. This number represents the average salary for all 1,520 designers who responded to this magazine’s most recent salary survey in 2010. It throws together professionals with a variety of job titles, addresses and experience levels, but it’s a good starting point for thinking about the earning potential of graphic designers. The survey also breaks down the numbers by region, gender and job title. Plus, there’s helpful information about the kinds of benefits most designers receive along with their paychecks. Numbers are gathered every other year.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

What the government says: $42,400 Yes, even the United States Department of Labor cares about graphic designers. In the 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook, they list this number as the median annual wage for graphic designers in 2008 (most recent numbers). But perhaps more importantly, the handbook gives hope to all the designers pounding the pavement (and internet) for jobs: It predicts industry employment growth at 13 percent.


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