Automotive Designers


Employment Prospects


Approximately 39,700 industrial designers are employed in the United States. Some of the major employers of automotive designers are the Big Three U.S. automobile makers (General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and major foreign automakers that have factories or divisions in the United States (Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz).

Consumer demand for innovations in automotive designs and functions and new automobile styles will help to sustain demand by car manufacturers for experienced and well-trained automotive designers. Nevertheless, overall employment in the manufacturing sector is expected to decline through 2026, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Moreover, the automotive industry is particularly sensitive to periods of sluggish growth and declines in the overall economy, as consumer demand slackens for more expensive automobiles possessing new design styles, features, and functionalities. Automotive designers who develop and maintain superior computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting skills will be in the best position to weather national and international economic downturns affecting the automotive industry. 

Most employers prefer to hire automotive designers who have a degree or diploma from a college, art school, or technical school. Persons with engineering, architectural, or other scientific backgrounds also have a good chance at entry-level jobs, especially if they have artistic and creative talent. When interviewing for a job, a designer should be prepared to present a portfolio of their work.

Job openings may be listed through a college career services office, in employment Web sites, or classified ads in newspapers or trade magazines. They can also be found at the Web sites of publications such as Car Design News ( Qualified beginners may also apply directly to companies that hire automotive designers.

Directories listing industrial design firms can be found in most public libraries. In addition, lists of industrial design firms appear periodically in magazines such as Bloomberg Businessweek and Engineering News-Record. Also, a new industrial designer can find job listings and get a free copy of Getting an Industrial Design Job at the Web site ( of the Industrial Designers Society of America.

Advancement Prospects

Entry-level automotive designers usually begin as assistants to other designers. They do routine work and hold little responsibility for design changes. With experience and the necessary qualifications, the designer may be promoted to a higher ranking position with major responsibility for design. Experienced designers may be promoted to project managers or move into supervisory positions. Supervisory positions may include overseeing and coordinating the work of several designers, including freelancers and automotive designers at outside agencies. Some senior designers are given a free hand in designing products. With experience, established reputation, and financial backing, some industrial designers decide to open their own consulting firms.

Advancement prospects are superior for automobile design job applicants with a strong background in two- and three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided industrial design (CAID). In addition, automobile designers who possess knowledge, training, and experience in working with sustainable and eco-friendly resources will find better advancement prospects as the development of hybrid and all-electric automobile advances in the years to come.

Tips for Entry

Visit the following Web sites for job listings: 


Talk with automotive designers about their careers. Ask them for advice on breaking into the field. Set up infomational interviews and prepare key questions ahead of time.

Become a student or professional member of the Industrial Designers Society of America, which offers a Women in Design special interest section, to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.

Visit the Resources page of Car Design News for articles on getting a foot in the door and more: