Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Designers and Artists

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects are good for designers, especially industrial designers and graphic/web designers with competence in new technology. People with these skills will be in demand over the next few years. Wages for designers are good.

Job prospects are generally poor for artists in the fine arts. It is very hard to build a reputation to a level where it pays a decent wage. Many artists have to work other jobs to support themselves, and very few make it to the point where they can be full-time artists.

People who can unite their ‘art’ with more commercially focussed ‘design’ work may be able to marry their need for creative expression with commercially viable careers. However, there can be a tension between the work the artist would like to create and the work they need to produce to please clients.

How to become a designer or artist

What they do

Designers and artists are creative people who use their skills to create visually appealing products. Designers also have to unite visual appeal with functionality and ease in manufacturing in the objects they design. Different kinds of designers design different products.

For example, industrial designers design and develop the concepts for products and services. They combine art, business and engineering to design innovative products and gadgets that people use every day.

Graphic designers create artwork for the promotion or development of goods, services and ideas. They may also design artwork and/ or layout for fabrics, websites, magazines and other publications, or help to develop television advertisements.

Tasks may include:

  • determining the objectives and constraints of the design brief by consulting with clients and stakeholders
  • undertaking research and analysing functional communication requirements
  • formulating design concepts for the subject to be communicated
  • preparing sketches, diagrams, illustrations and layouts to communicate design concepts
  • negotiating design solutions with clients, management, sales and production staff
  • selecting, specifying or recommending functional and aesthetic materials and media for publication, delivery or display
  • detailing and documenting the selected design for production
  • supervising or carrying out production in the chosen media
  • archiving information for future client use.

Qualifications needed

To become a designer, you usually need a degree or diploma in the specific area of design you want to work in. Generally, you also need a good portfolio of your previous work to show prospective employers.

For industrial design, a bachelor’s degree in industrial or product design is usually needed. Most people working as industrial designers also have knowledge and/or experience in drawing, computer-aided design software (CAD), architecture or interior design work, industrial materials and processes, manufacturing methods, and a passion for design in general.

For artists, no specific qualifications are needed, but you need creativity and a very high skill level in your art. Although a qualification is not needed, many institutions in New Zealand offer courses in different genres of art. These can help new artists develop their skills.

Cost of study

Bachelor of DesignBachelor of Fine Arts
$19,500 over three years $26,000 over four years

Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

A Bachelor of Design costs around $19,500 over three years, while a Bachelor of Fine Arts costs around $26,000 over four years. Both degrees are likely to include independent projects within design or arts.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Professional organisation

The Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ) represents the interests of industrial designers. It helps with professional development and lists job advertisements – a useful resource for new graduates.

Creative New Zealand is a government organisation that supports artists with funding and training.

Designers Institute of New Zealand: 
Creative NZ:

Where to study

Design can be studied at institutes of technology and polytechnics, universities and other tertiary institutions throughout New Zealand.

Fine arts can also be studied at institutions throughout New Zealand.

Completed qualifications

The number of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in graphic and design studies from 2011 to 2017 has been quite steady around 800 graduates per year.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


In 2019, the average income for designers and artists was estimated to be around $55,100. This can be significantly higher for some kinds of designers, and lower for artists. Pay for designers depend on skill and experience, while income for artists depends on the popularity of their art. Although successful artists can get a very high income, it is very hard for most artists to earn enough to make a living.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index.

Employment and skill shortages

Designers and artists’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
6,384 7,539 9,400 10,730
  2.4% 3.7% 2.2%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Architects, Designers, Planners and Surveyors”.

The number of designers and artists increased moderately from 2006 to 2013. Employment for designers is projected to increase to 2028.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
18% 12% 2% 66% $44,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission
*Three years after completion of Bachelor Degree - Graphic & Design Studies.

Most graduates were in employment three years after completing a bachelor’s degree in graphic and design studies. Some were overseas. The median salary was around $44,000.

Designers and artists are not on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Job vacancies for artists are rare, as most are self-employed.

Designer vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites, and increasingly through social media like LinkedIn. The DINZ website also lists job vacancies in design.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Aspiring artists often have to work other jobs to support themselves while they try to break through as an artist. Very few artists make it to the point where they can support themselves through their art, and the ones who do usually have to work hard with very little income for many years first.

Career paths are different for different kinds of designers.

Industrial designers work in a range of industries including advertising, manufacturing, architectural practices, industrial policy development in the public and private sectors, and engineering consultancies.

New industrial designers usually receive on-the-job training. A few years’ experience at entry level is usually required before they can advance to higher positions.

Industrial designers often look to specialise. They may work as:

  • Computer-aided designers
  • Furniture designers
  • Ergonomic medical equipment designers
  • Marine or aircraft interior designers
  • Textile designers
  • Glass designers
  • Ceramic designers
  • Packaging designers
  • Retail space designers
  • Stage and tourism designers
  • Service/experience designers
  • Technology teachers (upon completion of teaching qualifications).

Industrial designers in large firms may advance to roles such as chief designer. Some experienced designers open their own design firms, operate a design studio, and consult privately.

Some other kinds of designers may have to work as a freelancer on short-term contracts, or undertake unpaid work to build a portfolio in the start of their careers.

More graphic design and advertising firms are choosing to hire freelancers, so being able to promote yourself and build a network within the industry is beneficial.

Senior designers may have the opportunity to manage or lead projects.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry level designers and artists.

  • Animator/Digital Artist
  • Architect
  • Body Artist
  • Cartoonist
  • Ceramic Artist
  • Clothing Designer
  • Clothing Pattern Maker
  • Craftsperson
  • Fashion Designer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Illustrator
  • Industrial Designer
  • Interior Designer
  • Jewellery Designer
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Painter (artistic)
  • Photographer
  • Sculptor
  • Signmaker
  • Tattoo Artist
  • Textile Artist
  • Visual Merchandiser
  • Web Designer

Other information


More information on designers and artists is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of designers and artists has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

2114 – Visual Arts and Crafts Professionals
2325 – Interior Designers
232311 – Fashion Designer
232312 – Industrial Designer
232411 – Graphic Designer
232412 – Illustrator
3996 – Signwriters
6395 – Visual Merchandisers