How to become a junior designer (with skills and FAQs)

Updated 28 April 2023

A junior designer is typically a professional with little or no experience who's just starting their designer career. This can be a good choice for those who've recently graduated or completed some form of design education. If you're interested in starting a career in design, knowing the process for becoming a junior designer can help you get a good start. In this article, we explain what a junior designer is, describe how to become a junior designer, list key skills for this position and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is a junior designer?

A junior designer is someone who has recently completed their education or training in design skills. This means it's typically an entry-level position where you can expect to practise many of the basic skills and learn new ones as you gain experience and develop. Junior designers might work under the supervision of senior graphic designers or others as part of a design team. Their initial tasks might be quite simple but then increase in importance as they prove themselves and get better at their job.

Related: 8 types of designers (plus career and salary info)

How to become a junior designer

If you want to know how to become a junior designer, read the steps below:

1. Get your GCSEs and A-levels

Depending on the route you choose to take to become a designer, you may require some GCSEs or A-levels. In almost all cases, GCSEs are going to be essential. For example, you may choose to pursue college courses to get some training to become a designer. For a level 3 course at a college, you're typically going to require four or five GCSEs or their equivalent, usually with grades of 4 or higher (C and above). If you choose to pursue a level 4 or level 5 course, you may require one or two A-levels as well.

The other route is through a degree, foundation degree or higher national diploma from a university. For a higher national diploma or foundation degree, the requirements typically include one or two A-levels. For a full bachelor's degree, this often means two or three A-levels. Good subjects to consider for your GCSEs and A-levels include art and design, computer science, design and technology, media studies and moving image arts.

Related: What are A-levels? (With alternatives, grading and FAQs)

2. Acquire a university degree (optional)

One option for getting the necessary design qualifications is through a degree. Some good degree subjects include graphic design, art and design, illustration, communication design and graphic arts. If you find other options, try to make sure that they contain courses which teach you how to use design and image editing software, as these are often essential for junior designers. A bachelor of arts in one of these subjects typically takes three years to complete full-time. During your studies, you can expect to learn about important design concepts, acquire specialist skills and complete multiple projects to practise your abilities.

During your studies, it can be a good idea to speak to your supervisor or other staff about opportunities for internships, placement years and other ways of getting some practical experience. This can help you add more elements to your CV and get a position as a junior designer after graduation.

Related: Graphic artist vs. graphic designer: differences and skills

3. Complete a college course (optional)

An alternative route into design work is through courses at further education colleges. These can be a good option if you don't want to complete a full degree at a university and may be possible to combine with work part-time. Some good examples of college courses to consider include a Level 2 Technical Award in Graphic Design, a Level 3 Diploma in Art & Design, a Level 3 Diploma in Graphic Design and a Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Graphic Design BTEC.

Some of these courses can take up to two years to complete and provide many of the necessary skills to become a junior designer. These courses also typically offer you opportunities to start a portfolio of work.

Related: Understanding graphic designer qualifications (with FAQ)

4. Prepare your portfolio

For design work, your portfolio is an essential part of your application and demonstrates your ability. It can be more important than your CV and other application documents, especially for entry-level work when you have little or no work experience. During your studies, you may find opportunities to complete projects and start building a portfolio of work. Select an appropriate format for your portfolio, such as through a hosting site for designers.

It can also be a good idea to seek additional opportunities to complete design work besides those involved in your studies. These allow you to add more items to your portfolio and potentially stand out from other recent graduates when applying for entry-level work. Make sure your portfolio is presentable and shows your best work to a potential employer. While you're at university or college, ask an instructor or lecturer for their feedback and opinion if possible.

Related: How to make a digital portfolio and tips for success

5. Apply for junior designer positions

Once you've got the necessary skills, qualifications and portfolio, you can start to look for vacancies. Check job sites for junior designer job opportunities, in addition to the websites and social media pages of organisations that interest you. Prepare your CV and cover letters, in addition to ensuring that you tailor these documents to the role and hiring organisation in question. Remember to highlight your key skills on these documents, such as your knowledge of important design concepts, university projects and your proficiency with design and illustration software.

Related: How to write a graphic designer cover letter (with examples)

Key skills for junior designers

Here are some useful skills for a junior designer which can be useful to mention in any application documents:

  • Creativity: One of the most essential soft skills for a designer is creativity. This allows you to come up with new ideas for designs and develop novel solutions to meet client requests.

  • Software use: Designers are proficient with design, illustration and image editing software packages. There are various types available and it's usually a good idea to learn more over time or become more familiar with their features.

  • Attention to detail: Being able to notice and focus on details is a key ability for most designers. For a junior designer, initial work might include making corrections and alterations to existing designs, making attention to detail important from the very beginning.

  • Computer skills: In addition to design-related software, designers benefit from general skills and knowledge regarding computers. This can include knowledge of computer hardware, as some design tasks and software may require powerful computers to run effectively.

  • Curiosity: Curiosity is an attribute which complements and supports creativity, in addition to increasing your desire to learn. This can be especially important for entry-level roles like junior designers, where learning quickly is going to be essential for further progression.

Related: What is graphic design and what skills do you need?

Frequently asked questions about junior designers

Here are some frequently asked questions about junior designers, together with their respective answers:

What are the career progression options for junior designers?

As this is an entry-level position, the career progression options for a junior designer are quite varied and can lead to many careers. In the short and medium term, you may want to advance to graphic designer positions or even senior designer roles. From there, you have several options to consider. One is to continue progressing within an organisation to become a lead designer or head of design. Alternatively, you may start to focus on independent work and become a freelance designer. With ambition, hard work and satisfied clients, you could even start your own design business.

There are also specialisations within the field of design which you could consider. These might require additional training, but they allow you to specialise in a field which you enjoy or one with good prospects. Some examples include user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design, which relate to design work for software applications.

Related: 8 graphic design certifications to advance your career

What's the difference between junior designers and design assistants?

In many cases, these two job titles are almost completely interchangeable. Both are entry-level roles for someone starting a career in design. In some cases, a design assistant might work more closely with an experienced designer to help them complete work, whereas a junior designer might work more independently. Use both terms when searching for jobs and read the descriptions carefully to determine what they entail.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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