The graphic design sector is a very broad employment sector with most graphic designers working for companies specialising in advertising, marketing or corporate communications, or as part of internal (in-house) design teams of large organisations such as retailers.
Vacancies for graphic designers can attract strong competition so speculative applications can be productive and there is a higher than average likelihood of being self-employed or freelance within this profession.
Where do I start?
With a degree in Graphic Design you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Advertising art director
- Graphic designer
- Production designer, theatre/television/film
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up-to-date with developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- ScreenSkills – Industry body which supports skills and training for people and businesses working in the creative industries.
- Creative and Cultural Skills – Online service to provide the tools, knowledge and networks to support every individual and business to get in, and get on, in the creative industries and cultural sector. This includes profiles for ‘A Career in…’, ‘Getting Started in…’ and jobs in the sector.
- D&AD – Educational charity; a source of information, ideas and advice for those working in advertising and the creative industries.
- Represent – Has collected information from leading design studios outlining what they are looking for in an ‘ideal candidate’.
- Chartered Society of Designers – Website gives access to advice, and opportunities for ongoing training, development and networking.
- Creativepool – Network for agencies, brands and individuals to showcase what they do, find and connect with each other, collect inspiration and hire or get hired.
- Bubble Digital Career Portal – Aimed at graduates, school leavers, teachers and career advisors providing some great resources to help job seekers and employers connect; includes link to a Jobs and Careers Blog with useful information and resources.
- The Drum – Global media platform with useful career advice, profile hub, latest industry news and ideas to showcase, celebrate and inspire great projects and work to learn from. Includes a searchable jobs board showing latest opportunities within a variety of creative sectors.
Competition for jobs in this sector is fierce and you will need work experience and a portfolio of your work to show employers. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferable skills, which will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to this area of work. Employers also expect a good knowledge of design software, such as Quark, InDesign or Illustrator plus photo-editing software, including PhotoShop. Participating in relevant competitions and exhibitions can help you to promote yourself and build up your contacts.
However, finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations.
It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience. For more information about volunteering, please visit our guide to Getting Involved in Volunteering.
You can also access a virtual volunteering bank through MyCareer, and book appointments with advisers to discuss opportunities and applications. There are a wide range of positions you could consider, and many offer the opportunity to develop valuable skills and experience to support you in your career.
If you wish to instigate voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to ‘External sites’ on the voluntary work experience section on our website.
Tips to build experience:
- Explore the various areas within the graphic design sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in relevant university or external groups. This is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our guide to Networking and Social Media.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within the graphic design sector and work can be varied. You could get involved in advertising design, event or product branding, or delivering imaginative solutions that generate sales; so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
Employers who recruit in these areas
- Local authorities
- Schools, and colleges
- Advertising and public relations agencies
- Design consultancies
- Book, magazine and newspaper publishers
- Brand agencies
- Multimedia companies
- Television and broadcasting companies
- In-house graphic design services of major national and international organisations and companies
Useful websites to start your job search
- Creativepool – Forum includes a comprehensive jobs board, search for Graphic Designer jobs worldwide, browse by country and region.
- Design Week – Resource for design professionals to help find current job opportunities and plan their next career move. Covering every design discipline, from branding to graphics, as well as account management and planning roles, the jobs board caters for the entire design industry.
- Bubble Digital Career Portal – Niche jobs board for the digital industry.
- Design Jobs Board – Aims to reach designers in the UK looking to work in creative design studios.
- UK Graphic Designer – Company directory and jobs board.
- If You Could – Information about some of the best opportunities that arise in the creative industries.
- The Drum – Extensive website which includes a searchable jobs board showing latest opportunities within a variety of creative categories.
- Jobs board – Graduate jobs across different sectors and locations.
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with graphic design news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden jobs market.
- Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within graphic design check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, follow them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted and where you can keep in touch with their current activities.
Useful Twitter feeds
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
If you need more information check out some of the resources below to help you to research a sector in more depth.
Working as a freelancer
- Freelance Toolkit – Provides useful information, advice and resources about working as a freelancer.
- Student StartUp Team – Provide advice and support to students and graduates at the University of Portsmouth to develop their enterprise skills and set up their own business.
- Crunch – Provides UK freelance advice with free downloadable beginners business guides.
- Freelance – Global crowdsourcing marketplace, which allows potential employers to post jobs that freelancers can then bid to complete.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.