Car Designer: Job & Career Info

Learn about what kind of work a car designer performs. Explore the academic and skill requirements, employment outlook and salary potential to decide if this is the right career choice.

Career Definition for a Car Designer

Car designers use product design principles to create practical yet innovative ideas for new automobiles. They often work with engineers to make sure that their designs can be made into functioning automobiles that will appeal to consumers, and they use emerging technology to create cars that are environmentally friendly and affordable.

Education Bachelor's or master's degrees for the best job prospects
Job Skills Creativity, math and science skills, computer-aided drafting, communication
Median Salary (2017)* $65,970 for commercial and industrial designers
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 4% for commercial and industrial designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

The majority of automotive companies hire car designers with bachelor's or master's degrees in product design or automotive design. Since car design is a very competitive field, a high level of academic achievement is beneficial when looking for an entry-level job. Courses such as industrial design, electrical engineering, mathematics, environmental science, and computer-aided drafting are required for car designers.

Skills Needed

Successful car designers need to be creative and should have strong math and science skills. They must also have a background in computer-aided drafting techniques, and they need strong communication skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

As summarized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the increased public concern about fuel economy and environmental preservation and the growing consumer acceptance of electric vehicles is expected to create job growth for electric car designers. Slower than average job growth of 4% is expected in the field of commercial and industrial design in general between 2016 and 2026, per the BLS.

The salary for car designers varies greatly depending on experience, employer and location. The BLS ( reported the median annual salary among commercial and industrial designers, such as car designers, as $65,970 in May 2017.

Alternative Careers

Individuals who wish to become part of the car design and manufacturing process might also consider the following careers:

Mechanical Drafter

For those who are interested in using computer software to prepare schematics and other drawings, becoming a drafter is another career possibility. Mechanical drafters take rough drawings from engineers and create computer-generated images that can be used to construct prototypes of machines and other mechanical devices. To enter this profession, training from an associate degree or certificate program in drafting is generally required, and obtaining optional professional certification can be beneficial when looking for work. The BLS predicts the field of mechanical drafting will see an increase of 5% in job opportunities for 2016-2026 due to the decrease in manufacturing activities. These drafters earned a median salary of $55,130 per year, based on 2017 figures from the BLS.

Industrial Engineer

If a job in overseeing the manufacturing of automobiles sounds appealing, then a career in industrial engineering should be considered. Industrial engineers analyze the manufacturing production process and find ways to improve time, cost, quality and work flow. They also make sure that equipment is working properly and client satisfaction is met. Gaining employment in this area requires a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering or another related engineering field. According to data from the BLS, a 10% increase in employment of industrial engineers is projected from 2016-2026. In May of 2017, the BLS also estimated that these professionals received $85,880 in median yearly wages.

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