Education and wages



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The design world is changing, and fast. It’s no surprise, then, that many institutions of higher education struggle to keep pace. In the 2016 Product Design Report, we wanted to learn more about the role education—both formal and informal—plays for designers today.

The biggest takeaway we uncovered? Designers are split nearly 50/50 in terms of being self-taught and having a formal design background. 51% have a formal design education while 49% are self-taught. Makes sense when you consider the pace at which the design industry is evolving!

We found a pretty significant difference in education when you break it down by gender, too. Women are more likely than men to have a higher degree, with about 72% of women holding a bachelor’s versus 56% of men. 22% of male designers hold no advanced degree, compared to just 7% of female designers.


The real question, though, is if education correlates in any way to salary. Is the high cost of a formal education worth it for an aspiring designer?

As it turns out, salaried designers with formal training earn about 5% more on average than their self-taught counterparts: $78,061 compared to $74,657 annually.

A curious finding in the report was that designers with doctorate degrees earn less than those with bachelor’s degrees, on average. Those holding a master’s degree fared best, earning just under $90,000 annually. Those holding just an associate’s degree came in at less than $61,000 annually.


If you want to ascend to “highest earning designer” level, the report shows that earning a higher degree is probably worth it. Designers without a formal degree were 27% less likely to be the top earners in their chosen field.

Discover more insight into how education and pay correlate in the full report!


Kayleigh Karutis
Kayleigh got her start as a news reporter, and she still considers that time she wrote the entire paper among her greatest achievements.

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