Design careers are becoming more specialized, and those with deep experience in the digital world are currently highly sought after by employers and command high salaries. Here’s are the design hiring trends and salary demands you need to know when recruiting professionals in 2014.
Salary and hiring for graphic designers varies significantly based on industry and skill set. And because demand varies equally, graphic designers have a wide salary range.
Salary: A 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports $48,730 as the median annual salary for graphic designers, although actual salaries differ by region, skills, and experience. Salaries range from $30,000 to $77,000. And even though that data is two years old, the salaries are still accurate. According to Salary.com, the current median annual salary is $49,377, relatively unchanged from 2012.
Where the jobs are: The highest concentration of graphic design jobs can be found in California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois, driven primarily by digital jobs in Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and growing tech scenes in cities like Houston and Chicago. Washington, D.C. also has the highest median salary, where graphic designers earn an average of $69,700.
The bottom line: Over the next ten years, graphic design jobs are expected to grow just 7%, though that slow growth may be deceptive. Graphic designers working in print media are far less in demand and less well compensated than their digital peers, and many of the jobs in traditional media, as well as manufacturing, are likely to be shed, offsetting the growing demand in the tech sector.
Experienced designers with robust digital portfolios command higher salaries, and competition for these talented creatives is fierce, especially in major cities with thriving tech scenes.
User Experience (UX) Design
In recent years, the field once known as “web design” has split into two different — but still related — fields: user experience design (commonly called UX) and visual design. UX designers use their aesthetic skills to create user flows — the experience web users have as they click from one page to the next — and wireframes during the web design process.
Salary: Highly in-demand and with relatively few experienced professionals in the field, UX designers earn a national average of $80,000, though experienced UX designers in the nation’s top markets can earn upwards of $130,000.
Where the Jobs Are: Unsurprisingly, the most jobs for UX designers can be found in major cities with successful digital business centers. New York City tops the list, followed by San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, and Boston.
The Bottom Line: UX is experiencing explosive growth. As traditional companies catch up with the start-up sector, UX designers are in high demand. Competition for top talent is aggressive, so expect salaries to increase for experienced UX professionals. However, more young professionals are entering this field, so promising talent can still be had for more affordable rates.
Visual designers are also highly in-demand, though not quite as rare or specialized as their UX counterparts. However, salaries are rising as companies compete for seasoned visual design talent.
Salary: Visual designers with significant experience command healthy salaries, but entry-level positions in the field are also fairly well compensated. Salaries range from $60,000 to $97,000, based on experience, skill set, and location.
Where the Jobs Are: Since they’re closely intertwined with UX designers, visual design jobs are most often found in the same locations. New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, and Boston are all hot spots for visual design careers.
The Bottom Line: Equally integral to the digital design process as UX designers, but less specialized, visual design salaries will increase in the near future. Expect to put in significant effort when recruiting visual designers, especially if they have stellar portfolios with recognizable brands and exceptional design executions.
All in all, hiring trends for these three design positions point to increased demand, driven by greater demand from growing digital companies. For graphic designers, however, both jobs and salaries in traditional industries are shrinking. There may be bargain talent to be found here, but not for long — soon, they’ll all migrate to digital or find other careers.