Vehicle Designer Career Information

Apr 05, 2019

Read on to learn what vehicle designers do. Find out what kind of education and training will help you get a job. See what the career prospects are to decide if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition for a Vehicle Designer

Vehicle or auto designers conceive and draw the designs of cars and trucks. Working with auto marketers, vehicle designers are responsible for creating ideas for new vehicles that are visually and aesthetically appealing to consumers, as well as safe to drive and economical to manufacture. Car designers also work closely with vehicle engineers so they can incorporate engineering principles, such as aerodynamics and 3-D volumes, in their designs.

Required Education A bachelor's degree in industrial design
Job Duties Includes creating ideas for new vehicles and working closely with vehicle engineers
Median Salary (2018)* $66,590 (all commercial and industrial designers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 4% growth (all commercial and industrial designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Car and truck designers have usually completed 4-year bachelor's degrees in industrial design at colleges and universities that offer coursework in transportation and automobile design. Typical classes for a student pursuing vehicle design careers include design theory, 2-D and 3-D drawing, computer modeling, and presentation skills workshops. Increasingly, many design schools incorporate an internship with an auto design studio in the third or fourth year of study. This helps students to understand how the skills learned in the classroom can be applied to real-world applications.

Skills Required

Car designers should have excellent drawing skills and an intrinsic sense of popular aesthetics. According to Car Design News, auto design studios increasingly look for candidates with foreign language skills to communicate with clients and manufacturers in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. The ability to effectively pitch their ideas requires vehicle designers to have polished communication skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, expects that positions for commercial and industrial designers, of which vehicle designers make up a significant part, will increase 4% from 2016 to 2026. Commercial and industrial designers in general earned a median income of $66,590 as of May 2018.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:


Architects meet with clients to determine what their needs are and then design structures like homes, office buildings, and shopping centers that meet those needs. They prepare drawings by hand and with computer-aided design and drafting software; they also prepare an outline of the required time and materials for a project. Architects also participate in the construction aspect of a new building, from assisting with bid selection to site visits.

Architects are required to hold a state license. Licensure typically requires completion of a professional 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree or a professional master's degree in architecture. Architects then complete several years of entry-level work before taking the Architect Registration Exam. Architects can also earn professional certification through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to increase 4% from 2016-2026, and competition is expected to be fierce; in 2017, these jobs paid a median salary of $78,470. According to the BLS, roughly 20% of architects were self-employed in 2016.

Fashion Designer

The look of garments, accessories, and footwear are all conceived by fashion designers. They create sketches and choose textiles and embellishments based on their research about what's trendy and what will appeal to consumers; they also take part in manufacturing and marketing activities.

Fashion designers can earn a bachelor's degree in the field to gain practical experience and build a portfolio. Roughly 19% of fashion designers were self-employed in 2016, per the BLS; employment of fashion designers is expected to grow 3% from 2016-2026. Fashion designers earned median pay of $67,420 in 2017, per the BLS.

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