Becoming a Jewelry Designer: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a jewelry designer? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a jewelry designer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Jewelry Designer

As a jewelry designer, you will create designs for a line of jewelry. Read on to learn the pros and cons of becoming a jewelry designer to help you decide.

Pros of Becoming a Jewelry Designer
You can get a job without a college degree*
Allows you to express yourself creatively**
Can learn the trade through on-the-job training*
Advances in technology make jewelry design easier*
Might be opportunities for self-employment**

Cons of Becoming a Jewelry Designer
Poor job outlook (expected ten percent decrease in jobs for all jewelry and precious stone and metal workers between 2012 and 2022)*
Your creativity might be restricted in your attempt to meet client demands**
Self-employed designers will face fierce competition*
Demand for jewelry fluctuates with the state of the economy*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Jewelers of America.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

As a jewelry designer, you might work for a manufacturing firm and create designs for a line of jewelry. Alternatively, you may make one-of-a-kind pieces for an independent jeweler. Either way, you'll probably use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create two- or three-dimensional models of your inventions to help you explore design aspects of stones and settings. The software is especially useful when working with clients. You can show them the design on the computer, make any desired changes and help them understand exactly what they're getting before the piece is made.

Some designers work for themselves and develop their own lines of jewelry. If you decide to do so, you'll be involved in such business activities as marketing your products, taking care of the accounting and meeting with potential buyers. Some designers are also bench jewelers who take their own designs and make them into actual pieces. If you make your own jewelry, you might sell it through such outlets as galleries, art fairs and retail stores. You might even open up your own shop.

Salary Info and Job Prospects

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary data specifically for jewelry designers, it did report May 2014 salary statistics for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers, a group that includes people who design, manufacture, adjust, repair and sell jewelry. The median salary for that group was about $36,870 that year, and most people in the field earned between about $21,000 and $62,000. According to the BLS, employment of jewelers and precious stone and metal workers is expected to decline ten percent between 2012 and 2022, and designers with their own line of jewelry can face fierce competition.

Education Requirements

Training

Although some jewelry designers have bachelor's or master's degrees in fine arts or jewelry design, employers usually don't require a college degree. The traditional method for learning the craft is through apprenticeships and on-the-job training. However, since many jewelry designers create their designs on the computer, you might consider getting some formal training in how to use the various CAD software programs typically used in this field. In addition, if you're thinking about self-employment, you might also want to take some courses in business administration, marketing, merchandising, buying and entrepreneurship to help get your business up and running smoothly.

Skills

Because you are likely to work closely with customers or your employer to design pieces, communications skills are essential. Therefore, you may want to take courses in interpersonal relations and public speaking. You'll also need to be adept at organizing your time and meeting deadlines. In addition, designers are typically creative people who stay on top of the latest fashion and jewelry trends.

Real Job Postings for Jewelry Designers

Having both design experience and CAD skills can help you get a job as a jewelry designer. To give you a better idea of what employers are looking for, following are a few job postings from May 2012:

  • A jeweler in Scottsdale, AZ, wanted a jewelry designer to enhance and create new designs using GemVision CAD Design software. Candidates needed to have at least three years of CAD fine jewelry design experience, strong skills in 3-D CAD modeling and production and an understanding of jewelry manufacturing techniques and materials.
  • An employment agency in New York, NY, looked for a CAD designer of fine jewelry. Applicants needed to have jewelry experience and strong skills in Rhinoceros 3-D, a CAD software.
  • An accessories manufacturer and retailer sought a senior jewelry designer to join its design team in California. The ideal candidate had at least five years of accessory or jewelry design experience and a fine arts background. Additional qualities the employer wanted included fashion and current trend awareness, the ability to hand-sketch and strong communication and project management skills.

How to Stand Out

Since there aren't any requirements for jewelry designers to have a formal education, getting a degree or completing a training program can help you stand out among the competition. According to Jewelers of America, a national trade association, formal training can help you become a successful jewelry designer, and the BLS claims that you'll be more appealing to employers because you won't require as much on-the-job training as someone who doesn't have a formal education.

Jewelers of America also suggests getting some training and experience in gemology, sales and jewelry fabrication so that you'll better understand the end-to-end process of jewelry production. The BLS agrees, stating that knowing how to both design and make jewelry can enhance your job prospects. If you learn how to make jewelry, you can get a certification as a bench jeweler from the Jewelers of America, which it suggests is helpful for both career and compensation advancement.

Other Careers to Consider

Fashion Designer

As a fashion designer, you'll design original clothing and accessories. Like jewelry designers, fashion designers do not need a degree to get the job, yet many have some kind of formal training. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for fashion designers in May 2011 was about $65,000, with most people in this occupation earning between around $33,000 and $128,000. In addition, the job outlook is a little better than that of jewelry designers. Instead of a decline, the BLS predicts no change in employment of fashion designers between 2010 and 2020.

Industrial Designer

Industrial designers generate ideas and develop blueprints for such manufactured items as cars, home appliances, computers, furniture and toys. Typically, an industrial designer specializes in one product category. You'll need a bachelor's degree in industrial design, architecture or engineering to get this job, and some industrial designers even get master's degrees in business administration. In May 2011, the BLS reported a median annual wage for industrial designers of about $61,000, and most people made between about $35,000 and $96,000. The job outlook for this career is also encouraging. The BLS anticipates a ten percent increase in employment between 2010 and 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

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