16 Best Ways to Get A Graphic Design Job in 2024

16 Best Ways to Get A Graphic Design Job in 2024

From logos and advertisements to social media graphics and product packaging, we come across countless examples of graphic design work each day. Graphic designers enjoy a wide variety of career options, as they play a vital role in the branding of nearly any business.

In fact, graphic design recently topped Upwork’s list of the most in-demand design and creative skills. Whether you want to pursue full-time work for an agency or studio or offer your skills on a contract basis, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to break into the graphic design industry.

16 best ways to get a graphic design job in 2024:

  1. Pursue a formal education
  2. Develop a strong basic skill set
  3. Specialize in a design area
  4. Get certified
  5. Build a robust portfolio
  6. Enhance your online presence
  7. Volunteer your design skills
  8. Gain practical experience through internships
  9. Network professionally
  10. Practice effective communication
  11. Engage in freelance work
  12. Utilize job boards
  13. Target entry-level positions
  14. Explore non-traditional career options
  15. Pursue continued skill development
  16. Tailor applications and prepare for interviews

1. Pursue a formal education

Before you can pursue a career path as a graphic designer, you’ll obviously need to master the art of graphic design. But do you need a formal education to pursue real-world job openings? The truth is, there’s no one right answer.

Some recruiters and potential employers do require a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts, fine arts, or a related field. Others, however, are far more concerned with finding a graphic designer with a strong portfolio.

If you’re not sure which path is for you, you might consider starting out by enrolling in an online course. Some designers choose to go on to pursue a university design program, while others create their own learning path through top online courses such as the following.

Pursue formal education

2. Develop a strong basic skill set

No matter which type of training you choose to pursue, you’ll want to ensure that you develop a solid mastery of different design tools. A good place to start is in the Adobe Creative Suite, which has the basic tools you need for the design process.

Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are two of the most popular tools used by professional graphic designers, so they are clear choices to build a foundation. As you expand your skill set, you’ll find plenty of additional tools available in programs like Adobe InDesign, Sketch, and After Effects.

3. Specialize in a design area

The more you learn about digital design, the more you’ll realize just how varied the design industry can be. At some point along the way, you’ll begin to get an idea of which types of projects are your favorites.

Some designers end up specializing in logo design or infographics, while others gravitate toward animation, print materials, or visual communication. Identifying the type of design projects you prefer can help point you in the direction of other programs to explore.

For example, if you really enjoy user experience (UX) design projects, you might check out tools like Figma or Axure RP. If animation is your thing, programs like Moho or CelAction could prove excellent tools to add to your kit.

4. Get certified

Professional certifications can be a great way to boost your graphic design resume, improve your job prospects, and validate your professional standing. We provide some of the top certifications for graphic designers.

5. Build a robust portfolio

If you want to become a successful graphic designer, the importance of a strong portfolio can’t be overstated. Your graphic design portfolio should showcase your best work and can also include case studies, past clients, and anything else that shows off your skill set.

Adobe Express offers a free portfolio builder with plenty of template options. But you can also use other options like Dribbble Pro or even Wix to get your portfolio up and running. As you’re assembling your portfolio, look at other top graphic design portfolio examples for inspiration.

6. Enhance your online presence

In addition to creating a strong portfolio, you’ll want to develop a professional presence online. Creating separate social media accounts dedicated specifically to sharing your artwork can go a long way toward building a following.

Platforms like LinkedIn also offer an excellent way to connect with potential employers, all while showcasing your certifications, resume, and work. Be sure you also look into Behance, a social media platform designed specifically for graphic designers and other creatives.

7. Volunteer your design skills

When your skills reach a certain level, you’ll be ready to gain real-world experience. But few people graduate from tutorials to art director positions overnight. Don’t be afraid to start small by offering your design skills at a deep discount or even on a volunteer basis.

Whether it’s volunteering to design a logo for a nonprofit or using your typography skills to update your friend’s website, you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from volunteering. Not to mention that you’ll enjoy plenty of networking opportunities that could come in handy in the future.

8. Gain practical experience through internships

Graphic design internships can be an invaluable way to gain real-world experience while learning from seasoned professionals. From design agencies to major networks, you’ll discover that internships are available in a variety of industries.

Try to focus on those that offer experience in the specialization you hope to pursue. While some internships pay better than others, the learning and networking opportunities you’ll enjoy are certainly worth considering.

9. Network professionally

As you’ll quickly discover, professional networking is particularly important in creative industries. People like to work with people they either know or who have been referred to them by trusted friends and colleagues.Keep in mind that networking doesn’t have to mean regaling an in-house designer at a major agency with your Adobe Illustrator stories. Simply getting to know them on a personal basis at a networking event can make just as strong a first impression.

Network professionally

10. Practice effective communication

Aside from making professional contact, networking is a great way to practice effective communication skills. Graphic designers work with everyone, from clients to other team members, on a regular basis, so strong communication skills are essential.

This is especially true when working with clients who aren’t necessarily fluent in graphic design lingo. The ability to understand what a client is looking for and interpret it visually can go a long way toward setting you apart from the competition.

11. Engage in freelance work

Once you’re ready to start applying for job openings, freelance work can offer an excellent entry-level introduction to a career in graphic design. Freelancers enjoy the opportunity to work with clients in multiple industries, develop portfolio pieces, and set their own schedules. Successfully completing small projects can lead to larger and more rewarding work.

Upwork is an excellent place to find job openings for graphic designers of all levels. Browse through clients in search of your skill set and start developing contacts that can last for years. While some graphic designers go on to apply for in-house positions, others enjoy the freedom that freelancing offers full time.

12. Utilize job boards

If you choose to apply for full-time graphic design jobs, you’ll find plenty of job boards that can point you toward opportunities. Upwork now makes connections for full-time hiring in addition to freelance roles. While Indeed, LinkedIn, and ZipRecruiter are also solid ways to go, several job boards are geared specifically to graph design jobs.

  • Dribbble Job Board. Dribbble’s job board offers a solid array of jobs in everything from UX design to animation, illustration, and brand design.
  • The Design Kids. The Design Kids offers excellent resources for entry-level jobs and internships for up-and-coming designers and recent graduates.
  • Coroflot. Coroflot is a job board used by companies hiring designers of all levels.
  • AIGA Design Jobs. AIGA’s job board features openings for everyone from junior to executive-level designers.

13. Target entry-level positions

Never underestimate the importance of entry-level positions, especially if you’re just setting out on your graphic design career. While many employers will expect entry-level candidates to be proficient in tools like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, they’ll also understand that you’re still learning.

You’ll often work with far more experienced graphic designers who can provide on-the-job training and mentorship to help you take your skills to the next level. Take the opportunity to soak up all you can so that you’ll be fully prepared to earn a more senior job title.

14. Explore non-traditional career options

As a graphic designer, you’re likely no stranger to thinking outside the box. This creative capability can come in just as handy as your graphic design skills when it comes to exploring various career paths.

You might consider using your graphic design skills to pursue a number of non-traditional options, such as the following:

  • Children’s book illustration
  • Graphic design teacher
  • Fashion design
  • Marketing project manager
  • Textile or pattern design
  • Video game design
  • Product design

15. Pursue continued skill development

Like many other forms of technology, digital design is a constantly evolving industry. That’s why it’s vital to stay on top of the latest industry trends and design tools.

Whether you’re a freelancer or a seasoned designer, online courses and certifications can be a great way to stay on top of the latest innovations. Online platforms like Behance and Dribbble are also a solid way to check out the work of other artists and find inspiration.

Incorporating generative AI skills is essential for modern graphic designers seeking to streamline their workflow and expand their creative horizons. Generative AI can automate standard design tasks and generate innovative design elements, providing designers with new inspiration. By mastering AI tools, designers can remain competitive in a field that's rapidly evolving. Resources for learning these skills are readily available online. To learn more, check out this guide on becoming an AI artist.

16. Tailor applications and prepare for interviews

As you begin preparing to apply for job openings with potential employers, tailoring your applications and cover letters for your top choices may offer benefits. While it can be tempting to send out the same materials with each application, employers appreciate applicants who demonstrate that they’ve taken the time to read and understand a job post and personalize the cover letter or job proposal.

A tailored application can also give you an opportunity to explain why your skill set is the best fit for the job in question. Some graphic designers even create separate portfolios that show off different specializations. This offers them more chances to highlight certain projects to clients in search of specific skills.

Tailor applications

Common graphic design positions

The umbrella of graphic design covers a broad range of different job titles and positions. Within a single team or company, it’s not uncommon to come across multiple designers who each play a key role in the overall design process. We offer a look at several common graphic design positions and what they entail.

Graphic designer

A graphic designer can wear a single hat or many, depending on the project. An in-house graphic designer, for instance, might be responsible for designing everything from a company’s logo design and product packaging to its website and advertising materials.

A freelance graphic designer, however, might focus on a specific project, such as designing a book cover, website, or logo for a client.

Entry-level graphic designers might be responsible for designing things like a company’s social media posts, while senior-level designers often oversee a full team and make final design decisions.

Art director

The art director is to a graphic design team what a conductor is to an orchestra. This senior design position involves developing the overall stylistic direction for each project and overseeing it all the way to completion.

An art director may also work with team members such as photographers, technicians, printers, or anyone else who contributes to the design process. Many art directors start out as graphic designers, UX designers, or similar positions.

UI/UX designer

User interface (UI) or user experience (UX) designers are similar to web designers, but their work includes far more research and analytics. Much as their title implies, the main focus of these professionals is ensuring that users have a positive experience when interacting with a website or application.

By using data analysis, UI and UX designers make strategic decisions to tailor the design process to specific target audiences. They even utilize subtle psychology techniques to enable a site or app’s design to naturally guide a reader’s eyes to desired areas.

Web designer

A web designer is responsible for creating the overall look and feel of a website. Their duties range from ensuring that a site accurately reflects a company’s brand to making sure it offers a positive experience across multiple devices.

They may also integrate various programs or feeds into a site to increase its functionality. They often incorporate the findings of a UX designer into the design process to help improve user experience.

Read about additional varied roles and projects in this summary of freelance professionals who found graphic design project opportunities through Upwork.

Start building a graphic design career you’ll love

No matter how far along you are on your graphic design journey, Upwork offers everything you need to find your next graphic design job. Create a professional Upwork portfolio to showcase your work and browse job openings to connect with top clients from multiple industries.

If you’re a client in search of a graphic designer for your next project, look no further than Upwork to connect with top freelance designers. From branding to animation, Upwork is home to graphic designers with a diverse range of specializations.

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16 Best Ways to Get A Graphic Design Job in 2024
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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