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Discover the Appeal of a Career as an Industrial Designer

For the average person, things like cars, microwaves and couches are practical items, but they don't get much thought beyond how they look and perhaps how comfortable or efficient they are.

For someone with a designer's mind and creative instincts, however, a single item could be a platform for new changes, striking design or a greater number of uses. The people who create new manufactured products have to combine their business sense with engineering skills and then add in some artistry to make the final product appeal to all types of people.

If you are creative, inspired and dedicated, then discover more about what industrial designers do, where they work, what kind of education they require, what characteristics are found among the most successful industrial designers, the typical salary for this field and what kind of job growth is predicted in the future.

Quick Facts: Industrial Designers Industry
Median Pay:   $64,620 per year | $31 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Bachelor's degree
Work Experience:   None
Number of Jobs, 2014:   38,000

Industrial Designers Occupations:

  • Commercial and industrial designers$64,620

Understanding What Industrial Designers Do

In essence, this career is one that drives and even oversees the manufacture of a new kind of product, or a variation on an existing product. Industrial designers start by thinking of new manufactured toys, cars, electronics or even furniture that might be appealing to the general population, or they create tweaks and changes on existing items to set their version apart in the market.

However, the work is not purely theoretical, and industrial designers take a very hands-on approach to their designs. After sketching out ideas or using software to create 3D versions on the computer, a designer might need to create a physical version, choose the right materials at a specific price point, test the safety of the project and then figure out how to market the item successfully.

Typical Places of Work for Industrial Designers

Industrial designers work primarily in the manufacturing industry, and they might be hired in-house to help create newer, more Eco-friendly, more attractive or smaller versions of items already made by a particular company.

Other industrial designers work on their own, and they copyright the items they create much like inventors, or sell their ideas to the highest bidder.

While most designers work in an office setting, it is not at all uncommon for them to visit factories or warehouses when creating a new product or ensuring that the final result is designed as it was intended.

Average Salary for an Industrial Designer

One key thing to know before deciding on pursuing a career as a designer is what kind of salary can be expected. It is important to understand that salaries can fluctuate drastically depending on a variety of different factors that might include geographic location, regional cost of living, years of experience and level of education.

As a general guideline, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for industrial designers is $59,610 per year. The highest salaries in the industry go to those designers in architecture and engineering, while the lowest go to those designers in wholesale trade.

Educational Requirements for this Position

While there is no licensing or certification requirement in the United States for industrial designers, most employers will only want to hire designers who have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a related subject.

Suitable majors might include things like engineering, industrial design or architecture. Over the four years that you pursue your undergraduate degree, some of the various courses you might take to prepare for your career could include that of art history, manufacturing techniques, computer-aided drafting, sketching and using metal or wood.

Although not necessary, having a master's degree may be beneficial for those designers who want to reach the top of the industry and secure supervisory or managerial positions.

Many aspiring industrial designers will opt to seek out a college that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, which may add some additional legitimacy to their program. NASAD accredits both online and traditional colleges, which might make it easier for busy students to fit the perfect curriculum into their schedule.

Characteristics Common Among Successful Industrial Designers

Having a bachelor's degree is the best way to secure a career in this field, but it does not guarantee success in the long term. There are a few key characteristics that are seen time and again among top industrial designers, and it stands to reason that these attributes contribute to their success.

Perhaps obviously, creativity and artistic ability are vital in this industry. Industrial designers need to be able to imagine new products and new ways of changing existing products, and they should also be able to capture that idea on paper or on a computer using specific software.

The best industrial engineers are also willing to work hard to find the answer to a problem, and they are not discouraged just because something doesn't work the first few times. Designers should also be organized, motivated and excellent communicators when working with clients, managers or potential suppliers.

Predicted Job Growth in the Field and Similar Career Opportunities

While individuals should always choose their career path because it is something that interests them, it also helps to consider the job growth within the field. Careers with higher than average predicted job growth rates might indicate more job stability in the field as well as a less competitive hiring process for new graduates, all of which is ideal.

The BLS predicts that for industrial designers, there will be an increase in job demand of approximately four percent over the next decade, which is lower than average. However, there are a number of similar occupations that might prove to be an appealing alternative to some.

Similar occupations to industrial designer include that of architect, drafter, desktop publisher, industrial engineer, interior designer and graphic designer.

Working in industrial design can be appealing and rewarding for those who enjoy art as well as creating new things. Earning a bachelor's degree in design or a related field is the first step toward enjoying career success in this exciting industry.