What qualifications do you need to be a product designer?

Written by faith davies
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What qualifications do you need to be a product designer?
Almost a third of designers in the UK are self employed. (Getty Images)

Product designers create the drawings and plans that determine how consumer goods appear and function. According to the National Careers Service, 42 percent of all people in the design industry work in product and industrial design, and the starting salary is upwards of £17,000 per year. Entry into a career in product design requires candidates to meet certain requirements.

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Types of degrees

A bachelor's degree is typically necessary to work as a product designer. Around 50 per cent of all designers have at least a level four qualification, according to the National Careers Service, equating to at minimum, a BTEC professional diploma. Prospective product designers may also major in architecture or a specialised field in engineering, such as manufacturing, industrial or mechanical engineering.

Training and experience

Employers typically prefer to hire product designers who have some form of previous experience, such as working as an assistant to an experienced designer. Some industrial design degree programs include an internship as a part of their course requirements, allowing students to gain credit and work experience simultaneously. Other programs have cooperative work placements, in which students alternate semesters of taking classes with working in paid positions in product design. Once hired, new designers typically begin by performing basic tasks with their responsibilities increasing as they receive on-the-job training and experience. Several years of working as a product designer is usually necessary to become completely proficient in design, reports the Occupational Information Network.


Product designers use computers to perform many of the tasks associated with their work. As a result, knowledge of several types of computer software is necessary to gain employment in the field. Designers must have the ability to do computer-aided drafting with programs such as Audodesk and SolidWorks to create technical drawings. Desktop publishing software, such as Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Publisher, and graphics software, such as Corel Painter, Adobe Illustrator and McNeel Rhino, allow designers to create visuals of their projects. In addition, product designers often need to use office software, such as spreadsheets, e-mail and word processors.


For success in the field, product designers must possess creativity and an eye for artistic elements, such as colour, symmetry and perspective. The ability to draw and paint are necessary, as well as an understanding of mathematics, physics and the basics of engineering. Problem-solving abilities are important for product engineers, who are often called on to make improvements to the way an existing product functions or appears. Designers must also have the ability to communicate orally to give presentations of their designs to clients and to collaborate with other designers who may be working on similar products or a different element of the same product.

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