The job market for auto design is highly competitive.
The work of an auto designer combines artistry with technical and scientific know-how. The finished designs must incorporate esthetic and functional concerns within the practical framework of business and manufacturing. The minimum requirement for most auto design jobs is a bachelor's degree in a related field, although some designers have master's degrees. A professional portfolio and an internship will also help you secure a job after graduation.
High School Preparation
Prepare for college auto design programs with high school classes in both arts and sciences. Take courses in drawing and drafting, ideally supplemented by classes in computer design. Take math, physics, English and foreign languages. A designer needs strong writing skills, and foreign languages are an asset in the increasingly international field of auto design. Prepare paper and digital portfolios of your work to showcase your design skills to prospective colleges.
Bachelor's Degree and Portfolio
Complete a bachelor's degree in transportation design, industrial design or a related field. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design, which accredits institutions offering these degrees, has a program search tool on its website. Typical college classes include drawing, design theory, 3D design, model-making, computer-aided design and industrial materials. Complete a portfolio of your design work through course projects or jobs during your student years to market your skills to employers.
Related Reading: What Training, Education, Other Qualifications, Licenses, Registration & Certification Do Vets Need?
Find an internship or part-time job with an auto manufacturer during your undergraduate years. In addition to practical experience, you'll gain industry contacts and a chance to develop your portfolio. For example, General Motors offers internships in creative design for students studying industrial design, transportation design, automotive design and similar subjects. According to the company website, interns receive competitive pay and have a chance at full-time jobs after graduation.
Optional Master's Degrees
A master's degree in industrial or transportation design is not usually required for entry-level jobs, but it can make you more competitive or get you higher pay. A master's in design also provides an added opportunity to do an internship, build your portfolio and make contacts that can lead to a job. Other car designers increase their job opportunities by learning how a business works through a master's of business administration degree program.
Earnings and Outlook
The average hourly wage for an industrial designer working for a motor vehicle manufacturer was $42.61 as of 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents an annual salary of $88, 630 for full-time work. The BLS expects jobs for auto and other industrial designers to increase by 10 percent between 2010 and 2020. Applicants with skills in computer-aided design and computer-aided industrial design will have the best chances of finding jobs.