BFA, good program, how much $ can I expect?

TypophileGirl's picture

I'm about to graduate from a public university with a degree in g.d. I went to school in Georgia for my undergrad before transferring to the bay area. I will be living in the bay area and employers I hear generally look for a b.fa degree as opposed to our school's b.a. degree- which only has an emphasis in g.d. I do have that degree as well as I completed it upon passing a portfolio review for the b.f.a.

Friends say not to take less than 35/40k a year at minimum because of our skill level.

The bay area is full of shitty designers, and where the good ones come in, there is a lot of hard competition- mostly from California College of the Arts and Art Center. I can't compete. Of course I know that the portfolio I have matters in the end, but is there a place to draw the line and just say, "No - that's not enough?".

what amount is realistic?

TypophileGirl's picture

forgot to clarify- our school has a b.a. degree and bfa degree (24-26 out of 150-200 accepted per year.

dan_reynolds's picture

I'm not sure what you are asking, here. Are you asking if you will earn enough money to live in the San Francisco area? Or are you asking whether or not it is true that local design studios tend to favor graduates from local "star power" art schools—like CCA and Art Center in this case—over anyone else?

I can't vouch for SF myself; I've never worked or lived there. But in my experience, every market has a range of studios willing to pay a range of salaries. Some of them pay better than others. It is possible to make more than 40K, too, but you'd probably have to work mad overtime for that. Will you earn enough to live in SF? That depends on who hires you, in the end…

Local art schools do tend to dominate their geographic areas. Its a head and reputation thing really. It is never impossible for graduates from other schools to get work in those markets; employers just often think that they are "better"… maybe because they went to those schools themselves, have worked with people who have, or just believe the hype. The art schools also have big alumni and referral networks, which makes it easier to get a job in some places if you can fit in that picture.

Every market has its own "favorite" schools. But if you write a killer cover letter, have a good resume, and a good portfolio, you'll get interviews at great places, too.

TypophileGirl's picture

hi dan, sorry for being unclear.

I guess my question is about salary. what can on expect to be offered, generally, just coming out of school? what should one hope for realistically? how as a ,graphic designer, do you know what you are worth?

dan_reynolds's picture

Well, this is really a personal question. The answer depends on 1) how much money you want, 2) how much money you really need, 3) how much a specific market pays entry-level designers in general, and 4) how much the studios that hire you themselves are willing to pay.

Some studios are small (and mean?) and will just pay you a tad over minimum wage. I guess you could hit the jackpot, too. Back in the days of the internet bubble, I heard an urban legend about a recent grad from my school who got 72K right away… those were the days ;-)

I don't mean to be morose, but the probable answer to your question is: just enough. Whatever that means. Entry-level salaries are rarely "great"…

TypophileGirl's picture

good answer. shitty reality.

back to picking lotto numbers (j/k). thanks for responding, dan :)

ben_archer's picture

I heard an urban legend about a recent grad from my school who got 72K right away I agree Dan; legend would have be the operative word there...

Where I live and work graduates command a starting salary slightly less (between 5-10K p/a) than the local cost of living, which apparently is cheaper than metropolitan Australia.

Both Amanda's question and Dan's response highlight that 'local alumni dominate local networks' thing – so if you want to command premium price it's not worth moving out of the area. Emigration is an expensive business in many (undocumented) ways.

dan_reynolds's picture

>I agree Dan; legend would have be the operative word there…

Not so fast! I'm not being too off-base here… in 1999, designers where geting salaries in the bay area that were way abnormal. The internet boom was great while it lasted.

hrant's picture

Then everybody defaulted on their mortgages like flies and all
the sushi joints became Denny's. Yeah, really great overall.


thomas206's picture

Well, I don't mean to be rude what so ever....but you might want to brush up on your writing skills. Not that you need them in order to design graphics, but I also had a hard time deciphering what exactly you were asking. If salary is most important to you coming straight out of college--you will most likely not be getting a design job right away, and will need some writing/speech/interpersonal skills for a temporary job.

Reality is, yes, graphic design is a very hard field to get into, and VERY competitive. I mean, it is important to have a degree from an accredited program, but that's worth almost nothing without a SOLID portfolio and legit experience. It's almost impossible to get a legit job in design right out of school, unless you've already interned during school and what not. What's your internship experience? Here's a good website showing you how to really make your portfolio stand out from all your other competitors:

So, also a lot of designers start off freelancing to have some small side jobs on their own if they can't go under the wing of a bigger company. If you're new to freelancing, it's pretty much just running your own business, getting clients and tailoring your work to their needs...which also involves the work of taxation: some faq's to help guide you through that process. But in order to actually establish, you need to actually be GOOD at marketing yourself. You can try out to see what marketing is all about and how to build relationships with your clients--this is the ultimate root of all your business.

Good luck.

Syndicate content Syndicate content