Growth Trends for Related Jobs

How Much Do Car Designers Make?

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Taking the Fast Track to a Great Salary

If you have always enjoyed cars, maybe it is time to move from driving to designing them. Car designers, also called automotive designers or automotive engineers, plan the look of the cars of the future on sketch pads and computers. It's a cool job, and your kids will be thrilled to brag that their mom designs cars. The median wage is a solid $90,160 a year.

Job Description

Automotive designers think up and sketch out new designs for vehicles, usually cars. Using both hand sketching and computer-aided design programs, they develop concepts for the way a new car should look as well as how it should function and perform. In short, those in this career make sure your ride looks good, feels good, is fuel efficient and keeps you safe.

Education Requirements

If you are interested in auto design, you'll want to start preparing in high school. To get into a good design school, you will need to submit a portfolio containing a sampling of your work. During high school, take art, drawing or drafting to build that portfolio. It can include drawings or three-dimensional art pieces.

Car designers can be industrial designers or automotive engineers. In either case, a bachelor's degree is required, with a major in either industrial design or mechanical engineering. Some colleges offer four-year degrees in transportation design, which is part of industrial design, and mechanical engineering with automotive design concentrations. You can take courses in three-dimensional design and modeling, design theory and vehicle systems. If you are focusing on automotive mechanical engineering, take coursework in design for manufacturing, power train systems and vehicle dynamics.

Some websites recommend that you earn a master's degree if you wish to advance, but this requirement is rare. Some 96 percent of those working in this field hold a bachelor's degree, while only 4 percent hold a master's degree. No data suggests that those with master's degrees earn more than those with bachelor's degrees, although they may get preference in the hiring process.

About the Industry

According to O*NET Online, almost half of the automotive designer jobs are found in the manufacturing industry, specifically in motor vehicle parts manufacturing. Another third of these jobs are found in the professional, scientific and technical services industry. These are generally full time jobs, and automotive engineers work 40 hours a week or more.

Years of Experience

The more experience you have as a car designer, the more money you are likely to make. An entry-level position (when you have less than 5 years of experience) can bring you $65,000, according to PayScale, while those with 10 to 20 years experience can expect to earn $90,000 or more. After you get more than two decades of experience under your belt, you may get a salary of over $100,000. The median salary for an automotive designer is $75,873. Median means that half of all car designers earn more than this, while half earn less.

Job Growth Trend

The job market for automotive designers is expected to increase by 5 to 9 percent over the next decade.


Teo Spengler has worked as a trial lawyer, a teacher and a writer at various times in her life, which is one of the reasons she likes to write about career paths. Spengler has published thousands of articles in the past decade including articles providing tips for starting a job or changing careers. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson,, and Working Mother websites. She holds a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley, an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in fiction.

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