Principal Designer Career Path

Are you thinking of becoming a Principal Designer or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Principal Designer, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Principal Designer job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
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How To Become a Designer

A designer is someone who creates visual representations of ideas and concepts. If you have aspirations of becoming a designer, you should be aware that there are different career paths you can take. Here is a list of steps you can take to become a designer.
Contents

1

Determine your focus.

Many designer jobs incorporate complex technical skills, so you might want to specialize and become an expert in a particular area. Some common types of designers include the following:

2

Dive into design.

Thinking like a designer doesn't happen instantaneously. Instead, you need to research the industry and find what it is you like and dislike. Scour websites and find inspiration. Take stock of what stands out to you, and keep notes. Take it one step further and determine why you gravitate toward certain designs versus others. Odds are, you already have an instinct toward a particular aesthetic, but until you sit down and think about it, you're probably not aware of why you think the way you do.

3

Speak with other designers.

Speaking with other designers is an invaluable resource. Find people in your desired field or reach out to those at a company you wish to work at, and try to pick their brains. Ask them what designs they like or dislike, and understand why they answered the way they do. Understanding their thinking can build your vocabulary and help you articulate better why certain designs work better than others.

4

Take classes and add to your portfolio.

Even if you can speak with others in the industry, attaining hands-on training in design is invaluable. Depending on your focus, you might consider attaining a degree in that particular field such as graphic or interior design. Enrolling in a degree program can introduce you to other courses to specialize your designs. The coursework you complete can be added to your portfolio, which you can show to prospective employers.

What skills do you need to be a Designer?

  • Scripting Languages
  • Static Timing
  • Verilog
  • Writing
  • CISSP CISM
  • Top Secret Clearance
  • Python PowerShell
  • GSLC
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Designer in the United States.

5

Secure internships and work experience.

Beginning a career as a designer often begins with an internship or as an entry-level assistant. You might be able to secure an internship through your degree program, and you might gain course credit as well as networking opportunities and work experience. Another option is to garner freelancing jobs to improve your portfolio and give you an advantage over the competition. Even if you don't have a degree, try to gain work experience in any way possible.

6

Develop an attainable skill set.

After you secure some experience, hone your skills on your desired skill set such as visual styling, photo editing, and typography. Many employers want individuals who have strong visualization abilities, can work well on a team, and pay attention to detail. Depending on your field, you might also seek certification in that particular skill set including those offered by Adobe and Autodesk or through professional organizations such as the American Society of Interior Designers and the International Web Association.

Seniority Levels

L5

Principal Designer

8+Years of Experience
$63,389 /yrAvg. Annual Salary
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L6

Associate Director of Design

No Years of Experience Reports
$114,046 /yrAvg. Annual Salary
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L7

Director of Design

8+Years of Experience
$127,850 /yrAvg. Annual Salary
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Salary Trajectory

Principal Designer Career Path

$150K
$125K
$100K
$75K
$50K
L5
L7
L10
Seniority Levels

Related careers in the Arts & Design Industry

Interested in other Arts & Design careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Principal Designer skills. Discover some of the most common Principal Designer career transitions, along with skills overlap.