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Have you ever been seduced into buying something by a wildly creative ad — or at least been tempted to try it out? How many of the choices you make when shopping at the mall were influenced by an ad or a phrase or a picture, or all of the above? If you know how powerful imagery can be in influencing your habits, then you know that marketing and advertising are big business.

Career planning for a position in graphic design

For an artist with an eye for people and their needs and desires, graphic design seems a logical choice — it allows you to utilize your talent in a productive and satisfying career. In the arts industries, the graphic design area is expected to continue to grow at an average pace, and to create more job availability than all the other creative arts industries combined.

The fast-paced world of video entertainment and online design relies heavily on the talents of designers, which is also the case in other media-heavy realms of advertising, such as publishing and merchandising. Opportunities to specialize in various media forms and industries abound. A noticeable talent, a degree, people skills, and a reputable portfolio are the key elements for landing a top job in graphic design (see online graphic design programs).

Where your career path could take you

Graphic design offers a diverse choice of specialties, ranging from commercial and industrial design (cars, furniture, appliances, etc.) to advertising media (merchandising, marketing, Web design, newspapers, and publishing). Of the more than half a million designer jobs in the United States, positions in graphic design comprise about 40 percent.

The impact of design is everywhere — in the layout of “People” magazine, on your Starbucks coffee cup, in the logo of this site, and perhaps in the design of the chair you’re sitting in right now. It would take a page or more to list all the career options available in the industry, so what’s important to know is that there are many specialties and you can choose whichever direction most appeals to you.

Career information: salary potential

In spite of the millions of dollars made by advertising firms and by the companies they represent, the graphic designers are not at the top of the heap when it comes to the big bucks. With salaries averaging in the mid-thirties, you can expect to make a decent living, but as with any job, it’s time, talent, and advancement that will bring the promotion to Creative Director and the bigger salary that goes with it. Freelancers, quite common in the industry, can also make good money, but must bear the costs of running their own business and the financial risks of operating solo. Keep all of these factors in mind during your career planning.

Required education and job training

Some graphic designers are self-taught. For the most part, though, you’ll need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and you’ll obviously need to be familiar with the software used to create and modify designs (see graphic arts schools). Creativity and talent are a must, but to be competitive, a portfolio of accomplished work is essential to landing the best job; it may be the only difference between you and the next applicant.

A keen ability to analyze and understand what customers need and the ability to translate those needs visually is an inherent talent that you may need more than schooling to acquire. Without some basic instincts and skills, a degree may get you a job, but it won’t make you marketable for the top jobs. However, a degree from a school that specializes in fine arts or graphic design may go a long way in developing not just your creative skills, but your analytical ones as well.