How much can you expect to earn as a designer in Sweden?

Wondering about a career as a designer in Sweden, or are you already working in the area and want to know how your salary matches up to the average? We've broken down the numbers to look at what you could expect to earn as a designer, both before and after tax, depending on your situation.

How much can you expect to earn as a designer in Sweden?
Knowing the average salaries for your sector can help inform your job-hunt and pay negotiations. Photo: Lena Granefelt/

The field of design covers a range of industries and companies, and many factors affect your compensation, such as your experience and level of responsibility. But it's always helpful to have an overall picture of the salary levels in your industry. 

Graphic designers earn an average of 35,200 kronor ($3,700) before tax each month, according to the latest national statistics. For comparison, the average salary in Sweden across all sectors was 34,600 kronor before tax in 2018, and the figure for 2019 is not yet available.

Women, on average, earned 34,200 per month as graphic designers while for men the figure was 35,800 kronor. The age group earning the most as graphic designers was the 45-55-year category, with an average monthly salary of 38,100 kronor. That compared to 32,300 kronor per month for those aged 25-34, 35,500 kronor for those aged 35-44, and 34,800 for those aged 55-64. 

Within the field of graphic design, workers with post-secondary education of under three years earned the most, 37,700 kronor per month on average. That was more than the average for those with upper secondary education of two years or less (32,100 kronor), upper secondary education of three years (34,500 kronor) and post-secondary education of more than three years (34,400 kronor).

For designers in the field of gaming and digital media, the overall average salary is 36,200 kronor per month before tax. There is a slight gender imbalance, so women earn 36,100 kronor on average while for men it's 36,300 kronor.

Salaries also differed depending on age, with the age group 35-44 bringing home the most each month at 39,100 kronor. That compared to 34,300 kronor for the age group 25-34, while average salary ranges for other individual age groups were not available at Statistics Sweden. 

And what about fashion? The average monthly pay for a fashion designer (and related professionals) was 40,500 kronor, although women received an average of only 38,000 kronor compared to 45,500 kronor for men.

For interior designers, a category that also included interior decorators and scenographers, average monthly pay was 31,900 kronor. And industrial product designers earned an average of 45,700 kronor per month.

As for how much of this salary you would actually take home, we looked into the numbers using Swedish tax office Skatteverket's calculator.

Your tax rate depends on a few factors, including where you live, so first we looked at the figures for a 35-year-old living in Stockholm. To calculate the rates, we also assumed that most of our readers who grew up outside of Sweden will not be paying members of the Swedish Church, so would not pay towards Sweden's church tax.

Other factors may play a role in your tax bill, so these calculations can be used as a guide but may not be exact.

Based on this, a 35-year-old graphic designer earning 35,200 kronor a month would take home 27,178 kronor after tax in 2020. For a gaming designer earning 36,200 kronor, the take-home sum would be 27,878 kronor, while an interior designer earning the average salary of 31,900 kronor a month in Stockholm could expect a net paycheck of 24,838 kronor per month in 2020.

For geographic comparison, in Malmö those average monthly take-home pay figures would be 26,397 kronor for the graphic designer, 27,067 kronor for the gaming designer, and 24,153 kronor for the interior designer. And in Umeå they would be 26,137 kronor, 26,797 kronor, and 23,925 kronor respectively. Again, these figures are approximate and based on the average monthly salary across all genders.

We used Statistics Sweden and Skatteverket as sources for this article. Did you find it useful? Please email [email protected] to let us know what you think or what industry you want us to look at next.

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How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

It can now take about six months to get a work permit in Sweden, and a year for an extension. Here's how you can get on the fast track.

How foreigners can get on the fast track for a work permit in Sweden

How long does it normally take to get a permit to work in Sweden? 

According to the calculator on the Migration Agency’s website, 75 percent of first work permit applications are completed within three months, and 75 percent of work permit extensions are completed within 14 months. 

These numbers, though, are only for people in non-risk industries. If you are applying for a job in the cleaning, building, hotel and restaurant, or car repair industries — all of which are seen as high risk by the agency — applications can take much longer to be approved. 

For these industries, the calculator suggests a long 12-month wait for a first application and a 17-month wait for an extension. 

This is because of the higher number of unscrupulous employers in these industries who do not pay foreign workers their promised salaries, or do not fulfil other requirements in their work permit applications, such as offering adequate insurance and other benefits. 

So how do you get on the fast track for a permit? 

There are two ways to get your permit more rapidly: the so-called “certified process” and the EU’s Blue Card scheme for highly skilled employees. 

What is the certified process?

The certified process was brought in back in 2011 by the Moderate-led Alliance government to help reduce the then 12-month wait for work permits.

Under the process, bigger, more reputable Swedish companies and trusted intermediaries handling other applications for clients, such as the major international accounting firms, can become so-called “certified operators”, putting the work permit applications they handle for employees on a fast track, with much quicker processing times. 

The certified operator or the certified intermediary is then responsible for making sure applications are ‘ready for decision’, meaning the agency does not need to spend as much time on them. 
You can find answers to the most common questions about the certified process on the Migration Agency’s website

How much quicker can a decision be under the certified process? 
Under the agreement between certified employers and the Migration Agency, it should take just two weeks to process a fresh work permit application, and four weeks to get an extension. 
Unfortunately, the agency is currently taking much longer: between one and three months for a fresh application, and around five to six months for an extension. 
This is still roughly half the time it takes for an employee seeking a permit outside the certified process. 
The Migration Agency told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in a recent article that in September the average decision had taken 105 days, while over the year as a whole, applications for certified companies had taken 46 days, and those for non-certified companies 120 days. 

How can someone planning to move to Sweden for work take advantage of the certified process? 
Unfortunately, it is very much up to your employer. If you are planning to move to Sweden for work, you should make sure to ask prospective employers if they are certified, or sub-certified through an intermediary firm, and take that into account when deciding which company to take a job with. 
Smaller IT companies are often not certified, as they tend to start off by recruiting from within Sweden or the European Union. 
If you have begun a work permit application with a company that is not certified or sub-certified, then you cannot get onto the fast track even if your employer gets certified while you are waiting for a decision. 
The certified process can also not be used to get a work permit for an employee of a multinational company who is moving to the Swedish office from an office in another country. 
If my employer is certified, what do I need to do?
You will need to sign a document giving power of attorney to the person at your new company who is handling the application, both on behalf of yourself and of any family members you want to bring to Sweden.  
You should also double check the expiry date on your passport and on those of your dependents, and if necessary applying for a new passport before applying, as you can only receive a work permit for the length of time for which you have a valid passport. 

Which companies are certified? 
Initially, only around 20 companies were certified, in recent years the Migration Agency has opened up the scheme to make it easier for companies to get certified, meaning there are now about 100 companies directly certified, and many more sub-certified. 
To get certified, a company needs to have handled at least ten work permit applications for foreign employees over the past 18 months (there are exceptions for startups), and also to have a record of meeting the demands for work and residency permits.  
The company also needs to have a recurring need to hire from outside the EU, with at least ten applications expected a year. 
The Migration Agency is reluctant to certify or sub-certify companies working in industries where it judges there is a high risk of non-compliance with the terms of work permits, such as the building industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the retail industry, and agriculture and forestry. 
Most of the bigger Swedish firms that rely on foreign expertise, for example Ericsson, are certified. 
The biggest intermediaries through whom companies can become sub-certified are the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and Vialto (a spin-off from PwC), and the specialist relocation firms Human Entrance, and Alpha Relocation. Bråthe estimates that these six together control around 60 percent of the market. Other players include K2 Corporate Mobility, Key Relocation, Nordic Relocation, and some of the big corporate law firms operating in Sweden, such as Ving and Bird & Bird. 

What is the EU Blue Card, how can I get one, and how can it help speed up the work permit process? 
Sweden’s relatively liberal system for work permits, together with the certification system, has meant that in recent years there has been scant demand for the EU Blue Card. 
The idea for the Blue Card originally sprung from the Brussels think-tank Bruegel, and was written into EU law in August 2012. The idea was to mimic the US system of granting workers a card giving full employment rights and expedited permanent residency. Unlike with the US Green Card, applicants must earn a salary that is at least 1.5 times as high as the average in the country where they are applying.
Germany is by far the largest granter of EU blue cards, divvying out nearly 90 percent of the coveted cards, followed by France (3.6 percent), Poland (3.2 percent) and Luxembourg (3 percent).

How can I qualify for a Blue Card?

The card is granted to anyone who has an accredited university degree (you need 180 university credits or högskolepoäng in Sweden’s system), and you need to be offered a job paying at least one and a half times the average Swedish salary (about 55,000 kronor a month).

How long does a blue card take to get after application in Sweden? 

According to the Migration Agency, a Blue Card application is always handled within 90 days, with the card then sent to the embassy or consulate named in the application.

In Sweden ,it is only really worth applying for a Blue Card if you are applying to work at a company that is not certified and are facing a long processing time.

EU Blue Cards are issued for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years.