Design Jobs, Programs, Schools and Career Information

Design - Career Information

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Design Schools and Career Information

Designers work in creative teams or individually with clients to bring their visions to life. Although designers may work in a myriad of fields, the many projects they work on can include the following:

  • websites, brochures or signs
  • landscapes for homes or businesses
  • wedding cakes or floral arrangements
  • products or packaging
  • restaurant decor or corporate workspaces
  • clothing, hats or jewelry
  • stage sets, props or exhibits
  • decorative items or art pieces
  • new kitchens or renovated basements

Designers combine their knowledge of design and their own creativity to bring life to their client's ideas. Here are the various types of businesses and individuals who work with designers:

  • Businesses and entrepreneurs who rely heavily on marketing or creating new products often work with marketing companies or product development companies. These companies hire creative teams, including graphic designers, industrial designers, developers and production workers who come up with workable, affordable concepts and collaborate to create the final product.
  • Property managers, businesses, restaurant owners, homeowners and architects work with interior designers and landscape designers to give a professional, well-thought-out appearance and functionality to work and home environments.
  • In preparation for an event, those who host, plan, produce and participate in the event work with designers to prepare floral arrangements, promotional giveaways, cakes, announcements, menus, props for decor, bridal or evening wear, one-of-a-kind gifts, formal hairstyles, and more. The designer often works with many different kinds of clients, from engaged couples planning their wedding, to a chef planning a new restaurant opening party, a corporation's marketing team planning a conference banquet dinner, or a charity planning a holiday fundraising ball.
  • Graphic designers may use computers not just for creating websites or brochures, but to create complex, artistic designs to be displayed as art pieces in homes or businesses.

Successful designers are good communicators who are skilled in listening to a client, making note of what they want to accomplish, then using their artistic skill and drive to make it happen. Often, they must work with printers, website developers, gardeners and stonemasons, event coordinators, fabricators and manufacturers, suppliers and salespeople, and project managers to complete the vision. Some of the other skills a career in design requires:

  • Innate creativity and expressiveness
  • Patience and flexibility with clients
  • The ability to work long hours at a computer
  • The willingness to take direction from creative directors and project managers
  • The ability to work under pressure while switching frequently between projects
  • Updated knowledge of the latest materials, software, technology and trends that influence design
  • The ability to keep an eye on the big picture while managing minute details

According to BLS figures, employment for professionals in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations could increase by as much as 7 percent during the decade leading up to 2022, although estimates for various design careers vary drastically.

Top Careers in Design (BLS, 2013) 

Career Number of Workers Nationally in 2013 Job Description Degree Requirements
Fashion Designers 17,370 According to the BLS, fashion designers use their skills and creativity to design and create items of clothing, accessories, and footwear. As skilled creators, they often take part in every sequence of the creative process from idea to production. The BLS notes that most fashion designers earn a Bachelor's degree in Fashion Design or Fashion Merchandising.
Graphic Designers 194,360 Graphic designers create visual concepts that are then used for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and other forms of media. Most graphic designers earn a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design. However, some earn a Bachelor's degree in a related field then seek out technical training in graphic design to gain employment.
Interior Designers 43,710 Interior designers create captivating and functional interior spaces using colors, lighting, and their knowledge of design. As the BLS notes, many interior designers have a Bachelor's degree in Interior Design. However, an Associate degree is often acceptable for entry-level positions.
Commercial and Industrial Designers 28,540 Commercial and industrial designers use their skills to create functional products and appliances that people use and enjoy. They not only design new products, but they also improve upon existing products with added functionality or style. The BLS notes that commercial and industrial designers typically earn a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Design, Architecture, or Engineering.
Floral Designers 46,490 Floral designers use both live and silk flowers to create beautiful floral displays for special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, funerals, and more. They also create floral displays sold in flower shops, grocery stores, and convenience stores. According to the BLS, most floral designers learn the skills for their career on the job.

Design Schools and Training

Due to the many occupations that belong in this industry, design programs come in all shapes and sizes. The following table uses BLS data to outline some of the most popular kinds of design schools along with their respective degree options, coursework offered, and possible career outcomes in each field.

Type of School Degrees and Requirements Coursework Career Outcomes
Fashion Design Schools

Most employers hire fashion designers that have an Associate or Bachelor's Degree, with preference given to graduates of a fashion design program accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. To attend one of these programs, most students must have attended basic art classes and submit samples of artwork.

Almost a quarter of all fashion designers are self-employed, therefore students often double-major, earning an additional degree in Business, Marketing or Merchandising.

Coursework typically includes history of fashion, computer-aided design, color theory, textiles, sewing, patternmaking and tailoring, design of shoes, belts, hats and other types of clothing, accessorizing and ornamentation, and fashion trends.

Many practicing designers got initial experience working in stores or participating in internships with design firms. They frequently submit their designs to contests as a way of gaining recognition, and their portfolio of designs is essential to finding employment.

Costume design for performing arts, film, and television productions is an example of a specialty area in fashion design.

Floral Design Schools

Floral designers or florists usually get their start on the job, although a certificate from a community college, private program or vocational school goes a long way to helping a budding designer get hired. These programs can take from one week to a year to complete, and a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to be accepted as a student.

Associate degrees and Bachelor's degrees in Floral Design, Floriculture or Horticulture are available from some colleges and universities.

On-the-job training is important for all floral design students, as they gain real-world experience in running a business. Designers who wish to demonstrate their accomplishments can become certified through the American Institute of Floral Designers.

Courses may include plant identification and handling; design trends and techniques, such as working with color or texture; and presentation skills, such as working with ribbons, bows, baskets and protective wraps.

Most floral designers work in small independent floral shops that prearrange floral arrangements for purchase by walk-in customers. Some floral designers assist interior designers in creating live or silk displays for hotels, restaurants and private residences.

Graphic Design Schools

Graphic designers rely on knowledge of advanced software and complex design techniques to make their clients' vision a reality. A Bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level graphic design positions, and many universities, colleges and private design schools offer fine arts or graphic design degrees.

Vocational schools and community colleges offer 2-3 year Associate degrees in graphic design, emphasizing technical proficiency. Graduates of these programs are qualified to work as assistants to graphic designers.

Coursework usually includes design software skills, principles of design, printing and graphics production, website design, color management, four-color design for print, pre-press layout, color theory, and animation.

Many graphic designers work independently for companies that do not specialize in graphics, or may work from home. There are many levels of skill in graphic design, largely because the demand for diverse and complex software skills is constantly changing. Because of this, many accomplished graphic designers are self-taught and self-employed. Graphic designers must be able to communicate well with clients and be creative under pressure.

Industrial Design Schools

Because of the many complex requirements involved in such work, a Bachelor's degree is required for most industrial design jobs, even at entry level. Many programs are accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and most students must have completed basic design courses and submitted samples of artwork. Master's degrees are common among industrial designers.

In addition to an internship at a design or manufacturing firm, 4-year degree program coursework often includes computer-aided design, industrial processes and manufacturing methods, materials and safety, and engineering and science.

Industrial designers often work in manufacturing, specialized design services, wholesale trade, or architectural or engineering careers.

Interior Design Schools

A Bachelor's degree is typically required to qualify graduates for participation in a 1-3 year design apprenticeship program. Some professional schools and colleges offer 2-3 year Associate degree or certificate programs that qualify graduates to work as design assistants. Programs are accredited through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and National Council for Interior Design Accreditation.

The National Council of Interior Design administers the licensing exam for Interior Design Qualification, which interior designers must pass to work in many states. Six years of education and experience, of which two years are postsecondary education, are required to be eligible to take the exam.

Coursework may include computer-aided design, color and fabrics, drawing and perspective, architecture and spatial planning, furniture design and interior finishes, and ethics and psychology.

Interior designers may specialize in commercial or residential design, and may prefer to work with a particular type of client, such as restaurants, apartment builders or luxury homes.

Landscape Design Schools

Most landscape architects hold a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). A Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) takes two years to complete for those who have the BSLA, or three years if the students has a Bachelor's degree in another field.

For those who wish to study landscape architecture, but do not seek to become registered practitioners, a Master of Arts or Master of Science in Landscape Architecture is another path of education.

Landscape design education includes geology, plant and soil science, surveying, conservation, construction, computer-aided design, landscape ecology, geography and urban planning.

The BLS notes that approximately 20 percent of Landscape Architects are self-employed. The rest typically work in architectural, engineering, and related services industries.


"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates,http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Fashion Designers,http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm#tab-1

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Graphic Designers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Interior Designers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/interior-designers.htm#tab-1

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Industrial Designers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/industrial-designers.htm#tab-1

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Floral Designers,http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/floral-designers.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Landscape Architects, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/landscape-architects.htm#tab-1

Schools for Design are listed in the column to the left.

Careers and Salary Data

This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.

Click each Occupation title for more details.


Occupation Jobs
Median Pay
% Growth
Designers 6,590     $53,280     6.2%
Exhibit Designers 11,930     $49,530     6.8%
Fashion Designers 19,040     $63,670     2.9%
Floral Designers 44,350     $25,010     -3.4%
Graphic Designers 204,850     $46,900     1.4%
Industrial Designers 31,330     $67,130     2.0%
Interior Designers 51,050     $48,840     3.8%
Merchandise Displayers 100,540     $26,870     2.8%
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