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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

Jul 12, 2012

Salary: What to Expect When Starting Out

I just took part in another heated discussion with a mixed group of recent grads and mid-career graphic designers.  A young woman in the group raised the question of salary range for an entry level graphic designer with a master's degree.

This question was asked the recent graduate:
"What kind of pay should I be expecting for a full-time entry level graphic design position with my master's and no prior career experience? I've gotten a couple offers that seem just way too low, but for the amount of experience I don't have I'm wondering if that's just what I should expect.... argh."

Here's my response and a few others... I applied for and was offered a job at a DC non-profit during my last semester of grad school. I had already had a few years of professional design experience, and this was not an entry-level job.

The highest salary they could stretch to was around  44K--I believed that was on the low end. So, I negotiated an extremely flexible schedule that allowed me to work from home three days, and I was able to take 1 full month off each winter (in addition to the regular vacation and sick days).

NEGOTIATE! If they're not willing to pay more, see if you can negotiate on the perks: more flex time, working offsite, more vacation days, or unpaid leave. I personally believe that 28K is a slap in the face. Two years of college cost more than that!!! Read a bit more about negotiating your salary after the offer, http://www.howdesign.com/design-career/salary/salarynegotiationtips/

Here's what other design professionals had to say:

B.G.: If it is a print only job the pay will be low and that will never change. Chances are you will never advance because the folks above you are content and not going anywhere. If you are in a hybrid role or designing for web and/or new media your pay will be better and your career path will be brighter. The degree doesn't matter, its your work and what you bring to the table that matters most. I think low 40s is a decent starting point. If you jump around for the first 2-3 years of your career you'll not only learn a lot more but you will make significantly more after those first few years. Worry about getting good experience first, the money will come if you work hard for it. I know all of this from experience.

J. G.: Good luck trying to figure this one out! I'm still unable to answer that. I've asked teachers, internship supervisors, employers, friends with design jobs, people on linked in and google. I always get a range and it goes from about $28K-$50K. The lower end being Baltimore jobs and jobs that focus more on print design and the higher end being jobs in DC or surrounding areas and jobs that focus more on digital design. I know that's not very helpful. The helpful part might be to stop trying to find just one answer and go with what works for you. Also, keep in mind, some jobs have great benefits with a lower salary but it could even out?
* I got my this particular job while in my last year of grad school. This was not an entry level position and I'd had a few years of professional experience when I applied for the job.

J.G.M.: 50-100 if you know Wordpress (basic php) and web development

Hope this helps,

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