Becoming a Media Designer: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a media designer career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a media designer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Media Designer Career

Media designers, also called graphic designers, create print and electronic material to communicate messages and ideas. Take a look at the pros and cons of becoming a media designer to decide if it's the career you desire.

PROS of a Media Designer Career
Allows creativity*
Work may be viewed by a large audience*
Many opportunities for growth and advancement*
Web design is expected to grow*

CONS of a Media Designer Career
Working on deadlines can be stressful*
Freelancers must find their own work*
Schedules must cater to clients*
Changes in software and technology greatly affect this career*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Media designers can have a variety of job duties depending on their employer and specializations. However, they must always ensure that their client or company messages are delivered effectively, so working directly with clients and marketing teams is part of the job. After ensuring message continuity, they begin sketching ideas. When a rough draft is complete, they begin computer-based work.

Designers depend heavily on computer software to produce their videos, graphics, websites and other means of visual communication. Staying up-to-date with software is imperative and can be costly.

While the job allows, and even requires, creativity and an aesthetic eye, media designers must be willing to stray from their taste and work on tight deadlines, in order to satisfy clients. Those who are self-employed may spend a great deal of time hustling new business.

Salary Info

The BLS reported that in May 2014, the median salary for graphic designers was about $45,000. The lowest-earning 10 percent made less than $27,000, while the highest-earning 10 percent made more than $80,000. Generally, staff and freelance designers earn less than senior designers and design directors, while the principal owners of design firms and heads of in-house creative staff are the top earners in this field, according to the most recent data available from the BLS.

Career Paths and Specializations

Media designers may create visual communications for a variety of platforms, including web, mobile, signage and print, or they may specialize in just one area. Careers in this field include web design and videography as well as newspaper and magazine layout. As a media designer, you may also work in just about any industry, since publicity and brand continuity matter to public, private, non-profit and for-profit businesses alike. Specializing in a particular field may get you ahead as a designer.

Career Skills and Requirements

According to the BLS, most entry-level positions in design require a bachelor's degree in fine arts or graphic design. Many colleges and universities offer undergraduate programs, and graduate options are also available. Coursework includes design principles, art history and communication studies. An array of mediums is also covered, including video, sound, animation, gaming and interactive media.

Employers may request varying levels of experience, according to the specific projects. A physical or online portfolio of your best work can help you demonstrate the type and level of work you are capable of completing.

Useful Skills

In addition to education, employers are looking for media designers who have the creativity to make their company stand out from a crowd and the know-how to implement their ideas. Based on job postings from CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com, employers seek media designers who have:

  • Fluency or working knowledge of design and web development software, including Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office Suite, HTML and CSS
  • Strong communication skills
  • Self-discipline and the ability to work on a deadline
  • Awareness of consumer tastes and trends
  • Knowledge of computer programming
  • Photo editing skills
  • Knowledge of their industry

Job Postings from Real Employers

The field of media design is widely varied, but many employers seek the same qualifications. Those looking for specialized designers often include the particular required skills in the job title and postings they display. While it is not all-encompassing, the list below illustrates some profiles posted by real employers in March 2012:

  • A Chicago-based human resources company is seeking a multi-media graphic designer to integrate animation, digital media and visual images with existing client information. The candidate must have experience with design software, HTML/XHTML, Wordpress and other web tools.
  • A leading computer company in Virginia is seeking a media designer to assist with the development, delivery and presentation of its software. This job requires more in-depth IT skills, security clearance and experience with video, web and print design.
  • A staffing company for the creative industry is seeking a contract web designer in Minneapolis. This position requires the ability to understand, utilize and communicate the benefits of web coding and new technology. The candidate must be able to manage multiple projects and work with many teams.
  • A software and data protection company in New York state is looking for a creative media designer and videographer to work with their marketing team on internal and external communications. The candidate must be skilled in video and motion design since he or she will be working on banner ads and web elements. Designing packaging, signage and print advertisements is also part of the job.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Media designers can highlight their skills and stand out in the field by organizing a portfolio of their best work. This may include projects created during college, while interning or during previous employment. Depending on the type of work you're creating, your portfolio may contain print work that you bring to interviews or send to employers with your resume, or it may be posted online. Web designers and videographers, for example, would most likely post their portfolio on a website and direct employers or clients to it. Having a web presence can also help freelance media designers generate a client base.

Develop Specialized Skills

Many 4-year graphic design programs allow you to specialize in a particular area of design. By focusing on 3-D graphics, for example, or taking additional photo editing electives, you can set yourself apart. An internship or graduate degree can also help you become specialized and build your portfolio.

Working in a particular industry can also give you an edge among your competition. For example, working in software development or IT will give you a unique skill set that you can use to advance.

Other Career Paths

Technical Jobs

If you're interested in design but don't think a 4-year college program is for you, you can opt for a 2- or 3-year program instead. An associate's degree or certificate can give you the skills to work in assisting or technical positions. A technical positions may suit you find less appeal in the creative aspects of media design but still want to use their web and computer skills. You may consider pursuing a career in IT, web development or computer programming. These fields focus more on application and performance implementation than design. However, they may still require some creativity and communication.

Manage or Teach Others

After some experience in the field, you may choose to go into management or begin teaching design. Managers oversee designers and may work to recruit new clients. Instructors of media design demonstrate their knowledge and give students the building blocks to enter their field.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
      • B.S. - Graphic Design
      • B.S. - Computer Animation
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Government - Political Communication
    Bachelor's
      • BFA in Graphic Arts
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Communication Studies, B.A.
    Associate's
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication - General
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Digital Communication
      • BS Human Communications
      • B.S. General Studies - Communication
      • B.S. Communications
    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Communications
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Communications

Featured Schools

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
  • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
  • B.S. - Graphic Design

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
  • BFA in Graphic Arts
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Christian University

  • Communication Studies, B.A.
  • Communication Studies, A.A.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Arts in Communication - General
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
  • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

What is your highest level of education?