The UK has a reputation for high quality car design, driven by a skilled and creative pool of entrants into the field. Competition for places on automotive design courses at universities is intense and this is something that should prepare aspiring designers for a competitive jobs market. To succeed in this area, you will need talent and high-quality training, but if you can make it through to a job with one of the major companies, a decent salary will be on offer.
A car designer is responsible for the look and aesthetic value of a motor vehicle, taking account of factors including crash safety legislation and market requirements. Designers create the interior and exterior look of a vehicle, and often have responsibility for colour schemes and the shape of a car. Design roles vary from working on mass-produced family cars to top of the range models for companies such as Bentley and Aston Martin.
Working as a car designer is likely to involve extensive travel. Most manufacturers will expect designers to take on placements abroad, and UK designers might find themselves moving around established European car-making nations such as Germany, Italy and Holland.
Salaries range according to experience and you may have to look abroad for car designer positions. In the UK, first year placements with car companies can sometimes be unpaid but the average salary for designers is around £50,000 per year. Salaries in the US range between $43,500 and $58,000. This is less than the rate for UK-based jobs but reflects the fact that UK car makers focus on designing prestige rather than consumer models.
The better qualified you are, the better chance you having on earning a decent wage. The standard qualification is a degree in Transport Design and you will usually need an A-level in art or design to be accepted onto a course. A language qualification is useful bearing in mind the travel involved in the job, and you will also need good communication skills and an excellent knowledge of Computer Aided Design software.