What to expect when looking for a full-time design job?

Hi Everyone!

I will be graduating in May with a BFA in Graphic Design (woo!) and I’ll be looking for a full-time job. However, I have no idea what to expect when it comes to a starting salary for a graphic designer out of school. I am from Tennessee to give you an idea, and that’s where I’ll be looking for a job.

Does anyone mind telling me a fair number to be looking for when accepting job offers? Or what you made when you started off in the full-time design world?

I know it will be different depending on location etc., but I really have NO idea what to expect!


In my experience it was quite hard to find a job after college. A lot of places would look at my portfolio and say: “This is all nice, but do you have any professional work?” Basically I ended up getting an unpaid internship for a year. I highly recommend to do an internship or volunteer projects that would be actually used. This may be very different for TN though, my experience was very different since I went to a state university in NYC, which adds a lot of competition from the best art schools in the country.

Anyway, if you do get an internship try to look either for a paid one or at a good company where you’d be working under/along other graphic designers. Avoid places that say “internship” but then use you as a free in house designer.

Pay really depends on the skill and experience level, also where you live.

I’ve had two internships. One with a small design studio and one with a larger, nationwide business! Both paid :slight_smile: I’ve also done a lot of freelance work for companies who use my work for their businesses currently.

Then just ask around local designers or someone who works in HR about a starting pay. A lot of professors do design apart from teaching, talk to them. They know the school, they know the state…

There are too many factors that can play a part in compensation. As you’ve mentioned, specifics such as location can shape this. Some other things to consider:

  • Your experiences outside of school (internships, personal projects, volunteering)
  • Type of employer (Agency, Company with in-house marketing team, Freelancer or working with staffing agency)
  • Technical skills (Press experience, coding or web skills)

I would highly advise an internship for you so that you’ll have a hands-on experience that will help you get a better picture. In the world of work, the path you’ve taken in your work life quickly outweigh school, especially as you grow in your career.

The OP has had two successful-sounding internships.

I’ve had two internships. One with a small design studio and one with a larger, nationwide business! Both paid :slight_smile: I’ve also done a lot of freelance work for companies who use my work for their businesses currently.

I think talent plays a part in this as well. How that’s measured depends on a few variables. Other considerations include employer needs vs. what you have to offer, personality, creativity, punctuality, reputation, ect.
So all that said, here’s my question: If you’ve had two paid internships, and neither has resulted in a full time job offer, why is that? I would certainly be asking that question if I were interviewing you for a position. No need to answer that on an open forum, but have an answer prepared. And be honest about it. Also, ask some of your happy clients for a letter of reference. Back that up with the work you done for them.
As for salary expectations, graphic designers are a dime a dozen as are good ones with egos. Take an entry level job, and if you are worth more than what they’re paying you that will eventually pan out… and never, ever fall in love with your work. Leave your ego at the door.

What a weird downcheck.
Not everyone who offers an internship can hire on the intern. Way WAY too many students and not enough job openings. At between 2 and 8 interns a year (sometimes more,) where would we put them all?
Be happy for those that can at least still offer the student a chance to work in the field. Those places are fewer and farther between these days.
I wouldn’t even consider that a minus. It’s more a plus that the student has actually put the effort into getting that internship and being successful at it.

It’s not all about the “number”. You should factor in paid vacation, benefits, whether you can work from home at times etc.,

As an example, If you are expecting 40,000 at entry level, and you’re offered 32,000 with benefits, two weeks paid vacation and the option to work from home some days during the week. Would you turn it down because it’s not 40,000?

People may give you an arbitrary number, but there isn’t one, entry or otherwise. In the end it’s what works for you and your lifestyle/the lifestyle you want to live.

Weird is a matter of opinion, I’d still ask the question. So as long as there are people like me hiring out there, be prepared to answer the question. The fact it made you uncomfortable enough to call it weird tells me it’s a good question.

Asking why a previous job or internship ended is often asked in an interview. It’s usually easy enough to answer, however. Maybe the budget didn’t exist to hire a full-time employee, which is typically the case when internships end.

It gets more difficult when you quit because the supervisor is a schmuck and the company you’re applying to wants to know if they can contact your previous employer.

No matter the case, though, be prepared for the question.

I can see asking about previous jobs ending. That’s a given.

But “why did your internship end without you being offered a job?”
It’s weird to me in the sense it’s really a waste-of-time question, not a good question.
When I read it, it made me blink a couple times and the sarcastic answer that immediately came to mind was, “Because the semester ended?” - which will be the true answer 98% of the time. 1% might say budget, but I kinda doubt it. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be hiring the 1% sitting silent with a strangely incredulous look on their face. :wink: It’s all about being able to answer the question diplomatically, I suppose.

Time better spent finding out more about the takeaway the student got from the internship experience, since so few college internships these days are vetted.

Internships are not pipelines to jobs, at least not in graphic design, where a junior design position usually requires a 4-year degree and at least 2 years of professional experience. Those days are loooong gone, simply because there are way too many design students out there. That’s why I advocate students getting internships and work experience as soon as they can while still in school, not wait for their final semeser of senior year. Even a real part-time job at a printer will put a student above their peers in an interview (but try telling that to a student of design wanting to be creative…)

Now a days the graphics designing if I talk about free lancing is a very worse place. There are many people who can do designing and they are doing the job at a very low cost and that is why the price has decreased and people are now doing the work at the same price. If you talk about full time job, you will find yourself busy all the time and you will be stacked with work every hour. Talking with experience.

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