How to Become a

Car Designer

The complete career guide to be a Car Designer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $69,820
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 2.1%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Car designers are a specialized form of industrial designers that focus their talents on designing new models of automobiles. Each year, the major car manufacturers release a new set of models, and car designers are behind these releases, creating the designs that are used to manufacture the new models.

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What is a Car Designer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in car designer roles:

  • Work with company leaders to determine the features and goals of new car models
  • Determine the types of people new models should be marketed to and designed for
  • Use hand sketches, computer-aided design (CAD) programs, and 3-D printers to create models
  • Weigh production costs, retail costs, potential features, aesthetic appeal, and safety concerns when creating product designs
  • Present finished designs to stakeholders for approval, and revise designs as requested

A Day in the Life

Car designers are part-artists, part-engineers who use their talents to design functional, attractive, and desirable cars for automobile manufacturers. They use artistic talent, engineering ingenuity, and market research to form cars that will inspire purchases when annual new automobiles are released to the public for purchase. When forming product designs, car designers must weigh the benefits and disadvantages of production costs, retail costs, potential features, aesthetic appeal, and safety concerns.

Final car designs must lead to automobiles that meet all employer requirements and specifications, utilize materials and production methods that lead to reasonable production costs, and can be sold at a price point that leads to both affordability for the consumer and profitability for the manufacturer. Additionally, different cars are designed to cater to different types of people, so the designer must conduct market research to determine what styles and features are appealing to different groups.

Car designers use a variety of tools to form their designs. They may create hand sketches of proposed automobiles, utilize computer-aided design (CAD) software to create scalable models, or employ 3-D printers to create models that stakeholders can touch and play with. They may also need to consult with engineers to ensure that the proposed materials and features are feasible using existing components.

Once designs are complete, car designers present their designs to company leaders for approval. If stakeholders are satisfied with the designs, the designs are transferred to engineering and manufacturing teams for blueprint creation and product production. If stakeholders request changes, the car designer must return to the drawing table for revisions.

Typical Work Schedule

In general, car designers work full-time schedules during normal business hours. While new models are only released once a year, car designers work year-round to create the designs for new models and to test developed models to ensure they meet design specifications.

Typical Employers

Most car designers are employed by automobile manufacturers like Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Honda, and General Motors. Some may also work for architectural, engineering, and/or design consulting firms.

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How To Become a Car Designer

The basic requirement for a career as a car designer is a bachelor’s degree. Common majors for aspiring car designers include transportation design, industrial design, architecture, and engineering, though coursework in both art and business are beneficial as well. While in college, students should work to build their design portfolios. This can be achieved either through class projects, internships, or independent projects. Most employers require a design portfolio before hiring a car designer.

While a bachelor’s degree is a sufficient level of education for working as a car designer, it’s is very unlikely that new graduates will immediately find work in the field as car designers. More likely, you’ll need to start in entry-level positions with car manufacturing companies and work your way up. Look for positions that allow you to assist car designers, or assist with engineering or manufacturing tasks. These positions will allow you to train under experienced engineers and designers, as well as start getting a feel for the styles that automobile manufacturers prefer.

Car design jobs are very competitive, so a bachelor’s degree, an excellent portfolio of work, and experience in the field are all crucial. However, some aspiring designers want to become more competitive for open roles and pursue a master’s degree in transportation or industrial design to gain an edge above other candidates. In a master’s degree program, you can focus all of your coursework on car design courses, and work to build and refine your portfolio will new skills and class projects.

Car Designer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Car Designer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Car Designer's can make an average annual salary of $69,820, or $34 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $50,300 or $24 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #201 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Highest Education Among Car Designers

  • 1.4%   Doctorate
  • 8.7%   Masters
  • 47.4%   Bachelors
  • 12.7%   Associates
  • 17.6%   College
  • 9.8%   High School
  • 2.3%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Car Designer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 800 jobs for a total of 39,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 2.1% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #547 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Car Designers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 8,800 200 0%
Specialized design services 4,200 300 0%
Engineering services 2,400 300 0%

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