Are you interested in becoming a graphic artist? Do you have a flair for creative design and want to translate that passion into a long-term career?

Becoming a graphic artist is a process that requires a clear vision of your career goals and the willingness and determination needed to achieve them. Today, we will provide you with a detailed overview of this career, its associated job duties, key responsibilities, career outlook, and salary potential.

Graphic Artist Career Overview

Role Summary

Graphic artists, also known as graphic designers, are the creative professionals who formulate visual ideas and turn them into concrete concepts for consumer viewing. Designs can be created by hand or with the use of specialized computer software.

The work graphic artists do is geared towards motivating, communicating to, and engaging the target audience of a specific project. These artists must conceptualize the structure of a design and create the final product for mediums like corporate reports, brochures, magazines, and advertisements.

Typical Schedule 

Working as a graphic designer is typically a full-time job. Your schedule might change according to the number of projects and deadlines you are juggling at any given time. Graphic artists typically work for entities like publishers, manufacturing firms, design businesses, advertising and public relations companies, and similar industries. About one-quarter of all graphic artists are self-employed professionals.

There is considerable freedom with running your own freelance design business, but this might require you to work hours outside of a regular 40-hour work week. For instance, clients might need to meet with you at night or on the weekends. When running your own graphic design business, you will be consistently searching and applying for new jobs to build your client base. This could require you to factor extra time for client networking into your schedule.

Educational Requirements 

To become a professional graphic artist, you must typically complete your bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a similar discipline. Receiving formal education enables you to hone your skill set and build an excellent portfolio you will take with you into the field to apply for jobs and gain clients.

While a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a similar major is ideal, there is the possibility for an individual with a 4-year degree in a different discipline to undergo technical training to become a designer. If pursuing a degree or relevant training in graphic design, study at an institution, university, or college accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. There are around 300 accredited learning institutions that fall under the purview of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, so you have plenty of options to choose from.

Coursework typically covers subjects like principles of design, studio art, commercial graphics production, computerized design, website design, and printing techniques. It is also advisable to take classes in business, marketing, and writing, as these subjects will serve you well once you enter the field.

The majority of educational programs allow you to grow your design portfolio throughout the learning process, with projects completed via internships or classroom assignments. Your portfolio is your greatest asset as an artist working in graphic design. Cultivating one during the educational process will serve you well once you graduate and apply for jobs and projects.

If you are still in high school, consider taking classes in design and art to get your feet wet. Quite a few bachelor’s degree courses of study ask students to finish a year of basic art and design classes before being officially accepted into their degree program. Many institutions also require you to send in sketches and other work displaying your artistic skills when applying for a degree program.


To be a graphic artist, it is important to be well versed in the various software programs required for the job. Whether you choose self-study or formal training in these design programs, you must be up to date with all software elements to meet client demands. You have the option to earn your certificate in graphic design software, which will look excellent on a resume and make you stand out to potential employers and clients.

To work your way up in the field, you must usually gain anywhere from 1 to 3 years of experience before moving on to a different role. For instance, graphic artists with several years of experience under their belt may be promoted to chief designer or creative director.

Job Duties and Responsibilities

Key Tasks

The keys tasks associated with the role are multi-faceted and diverse, requiring an acute attention to detail and an understanding of client needs to meet project demands. A graphic artist frequently liaises with clients or the art director to identify the concept for a project, offering advice to clients on ways to reach their target audience.

Graphic artists must conceptualize the idea behind a design and create work that transmits that message. The role requires you to come up with graphics for projects like websites, logos, and product illustrations, choose the structure, text, pictures, and colors for the design, and submit the final product to your art director or the client directly. If the client wants changes to be made, it is the graphic designer’s job to implement those and check for any mistakes before the final print is published.

Graphic artists have the rare opportunity to use their knowledge of modern technology and artistic practices to transmit concepts via images, print, and website design. Their work is key to generate sales and marketing success for companies and products through projects like logos and brochures. The job also typically requires you to work with professionals in industries like public relations, advertising, promotions, and marketing.

As an artist, you will use text and imagery for each design, choose the exact layout, colors, font, size, and type needed, and combine each element to be visually engaging and appealing. Many designers have a particular project or target client they specialize in. For instance, a graphic artist might concentrate on designs for retail goods or imagery for book covers.

Important Skills 

Besides the design prowess required to be successful as a graphic artist, there are other important skills you need to have. You must be highly analytical to identify what consumers want and plan a design that will engage a client’s target audience.

You must have a flair for artistic design to create works that are aesthetically appealing and interest consumers. The ability to create sketches by hand or with software is essential.

You must be a strong communicator to interact with colleagues, clients, and customers to make sure that every design you create is in line with their requirements and expectations. You need to be adept at using computer software to create your designs too.

You should also possess the creativity required to come up with new ideas and imagery that will convey the message the client wants to get across while appealing to the intended audience. As you will probably work on many projects and for multiple clients simultaneously, having exceptional time-management skills is imperative.

Career Path and Salary

Field Outlook 

Graphic artists are an integral part of the advertising and marketing industries, with the field expected to grow by around 7 percent by the year 2022. This is a slower rate on average when compared to other job fields, but this is partly due to the specialized, creative nature of a graphic artist’s work.

Certain industries that employ graphic artists are expected to see more jobs open up than others. For instance, job opportunities for designers working for directory, book, periodical, and newspaper publishers were projected to drop 16 percent in the decade between 2012 and 2022. However, roles for graphic artists in industries like computer systems design were expected to increase by 35 percent in the same decade.

The field itself is highly competitive, so the more education and training you have, the better. Keeping your skill set open and well-developed, with the ability to work in different mediums like print publications and websites, will provide you more opportunities for jobs.


The salary you can expect to earn as a graphic artist depends on your work schedule, respective industry, and whether you work for yourself or an employer. On average, designers earn around $44,000 annually.

This is the median salary for graphic artists, meaning that about half earn more and half earn below this amount. Professionals earning at the bottom of the salary spectrum bring home less than $26,000 per year, while those earning at the higher end could earn as much as $77,000 per year.


Entering the field of graphic design is an exciting ambition that requires hard work, determination, creativity, and drive. You need to have artistic skills, be adept in a plethora of design software programs, and be skilled in communication and time management.

Becoming a graphic artist is a compelling career choice. It allows you to take concepts and express them through beautiful imagery and other design mediums to appeal to consumers and clients alike.