Employment Outlook for Arts and Design

Job openings draw competitive applicants

Job creation isn't a problem in the arts and design world, and unfortunately for some job seekers, neither is the availability of skilled and talented professionals.

More qualified workers than openings means artists and designers must be at the top of their game to compete. A good art school or design school will go a long way to helping students gain experience. But it's important to make sure the institution offers training in the skills you need.

Graphic designers

Entry level graphic designers earn about $30,000 a year. More experienced designers can make over $40,000 a year, while senior level designers make a median salary of $56,000. Freelance graphic designers with good business sense can earn more than any staff position, pulling in up to and over $60,000. Those working as design directors or who have part ownership in a firm make between $90,000 and $100,000.

  • Median annual earnings - $38,030
  • Middle 50 percent - $29,360 to $50,840
  • Top 10 percent - over $65,940
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $23,220

Average growth in this industry will be due to demand from advertising and publishing agencies and computer design firms. Graphic design will experience more job growth than any other design job, but competition will be fierce since the job attracts talent. Applicants with experience in web design and animation may find they have the best opportunities.

Median earnings by industry

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services - $42,740
  • Specialized design services - $41,620
  • Advertising and related services - $40,010
  • Printing and related support activities - $32,830
  • Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers - $32,390

Artists

There will be average job growth across the board for those working in the arts. The next decade will see the availability of plenty of full-time, contract and freelance jobs, but more applicants than openings. This is especially true for art directors. Artists with the most experience and skill will have no trouble finding work.

Art director earnings (salary)

  • Median annual earnings - $63,840
  • Middle 50 percent - $47,890 to $88,120
  • Top 10 percent - over $123,320
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $35,500

Craft artists (salary)
Craft and fine artists will experience the most difficulty earning a living. Many will have to supplement their earnings with a second job.

  • Median annual earnings - $23,520
  • Middle 50 percent - $17,950 to $32,980
  • Top 10 percent - over $44,490
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $14,740

Fine artists (painters, sculptors, illustrators)

Illustrators are losing work to stock art websites and computer graphics packages that allow almost anyone to create illustrations. Highly skilled and well-trained medical illustrators will avoid the crunch and also make about $20,000 more than the average salary.

  • Median annual earnings - $38,060
  • Middle 50 percent - $25,990 to $51,730
  • Top 10 percent - over $44,490
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $14,740

Multimedia artists and animators (salary)

Competition isn't lacking in this occupation, which offers some of the best arts and design job opportunities. Jobs in 2D cartooning will decline but spaces will open up for professionals in 3D animated movies, video game animation and film and television special effects. Depending on the industry, median wages can vary widely. In the motion picture and video industries it hits almost $68,000, while the median is about $47,000 in advertising.

  • Median annual earnings - $50,360
  • Middle 50 percent - $37,980 to $70,730
  • Top 10 percent - over $94,260
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $29,030

Statistics courtesy the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004

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