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Be a 3D Rendering Designer: Education and Career Info

Learn how to become a 3D rendering designer. Research the education and career requirements and experience required for starting a career in 3D design.

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Should I Become a 3D Rendering Designer?

Designers who specialize in 3D rendering are often employed in construction or product manufacturing. They use computer programs to create and modify plans, scale models and animations. They may work in a variety of fields such as architecture, engineering, marketing and entertainment.

Designers tend to collaborate with other team members, such as artists, engineers or marketing specialists, when developing a project. They also contribute to project development by creating visual representations and/or physical models to analyze a product, recommend changes or identify potential problems. Some positions require designers to meet directly with clients in order to understand a project's vision and purpose. Travel may be required to observe and assess designs' function within various settings.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma plus 2-year drafting program; bachelor's degree for entry-level positions; Master of Business Administration (MBA) for advancement
Degree Field Architecture, business administration, engineering, industrial design, mechanical design
Experience Varies by industry, 2 - 5 minimum
Key Skills Analyzing production costs and feasibility, conducting product-based research, creating virtual and physical models, developing blueprints, evaluating materials, sketching designs, user awareness and safety testing, working as a team, comfort creating business plans and giving presentations, qualified to work in the U.S.; Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat, computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and computer-aided industrial design (CAID) software, Pro-Engineer 3.0 or higher, Word and Excel
Salary $81,490 (2014 median salary for all industrial engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerBuilder.com job notices (December 2012)

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Some 3D rendering designers start their careers by earning a 2-year degree at a community college or technical school, such as an associate's degree program in CAD, CAID or drafting. Courses in these programs usually focus on technical tools and computer software to create, plan and present product and other types of designs, such as 2D drawings and 3D models.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that a bachelor's degree is usually required for entry-level positions. Prospective 3D rendering designers may want to consider a degree in architecture, engineering or industrial design. Industry-specific degree programs provide students with coursework to develop the skills necessary to enter the field. Coursework tends to include manufacturing and design principles, drawing and sketching as well as developing proficiency in software such CAD, CADD and CAID. These programs also tend to provide instruction on various materials and processes, and some schools assist students with creating project portfolios.

Success Tips:

  • Develop industry-specific software proficiency. Since industry-specific and industry-preferred software will be one of your primary design tools, developing and exceeding proficiency in CAD and CAID software may increase your job options.
  • Create design portfolio. According to the BLS, having a professional portfolio to show prospective employers is standard practice. You would include examples of previous projects that highlight your best work.

Step 2: Develop Skills and Experience

According to a December 2012 search for 3D rendering design positions at CareerBuilder.com, a combination of education and experience may be acceptable to employers. The minimum qualifications range from a high school diploma with an associate's degree or 2-year drafting program to a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field combined with a minimum of five years' experience.

Creativity is also an important component of 3D rendering. Successful designers have artistic talent as well as the ability to come up with unique solutions to design problems. In addition to strong technical skills and creativity, good interpersonal skills and customer service experience are important for working in teams and communicating with clients.

Success Tips:

  • Explore internships. One way to obtain relevant experience and explore career paths is to participate in an internship. Some schools may assist their undergraduate students with obtaining internships in architecture, manufacturing or design firms.
  • Join a career-oriented organization. Many states have student chapters of organizations such as The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). These types of organizations have a variety of opportunities for students including mentor programs and webinars.
  • Review portfolios. One way to learn more about design possibilities is to review portfolios by established designers and other students. One site recommended by the IDSA is Coroflot.com.

Step 3: Focus on a Specialization

Since education and experience requirements tend to be industry specific, such as with plastics technology or the fuel industry, some employers may prefer up to 12 years of industry-related experience as well as proficiency in specialized software that includes 3DBentley, MicroStation and Solidworks 3D. Employers in the engineering field often prefer proficiency in ProEngineer Wildfire 4.0+, for example.

In addition to 3D rendering skills, designers are expected to have extensive experience in the specific skill set for the job to which they're applying. A company that designs water pipes, for example, typically prefers a designer familiar with both mechanical drafting and plumbing. 3D rendering designers need to be proficient in a variety of computer design programs. Although their work is centered on computer-based design, they should also have a solid grasp of 2D drawing and drafting.

Step 4: Look into Licensure

Once 3D rendering designers have the necessary experience and degree, they may choose to seek licensure as a professional engineer (PE). In order to qualify, candidates must pass a series of professional examinations. Continuing education courses may be periodically required to maintain title of PE. Although not required, licensure may be favored, especially by employers carrying out projects for the government. Licensure might also be a good idea for career advancements, as licensure obtained in one state is generally accepted in another.

Step 5: Advance to Leadership Positions

After obtaining years of experience, 3D engineers are prepared for supervisory roles in the field. Technical specialist and management positions give 3D engineers more control in the planning and execution of projects.

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