You'll need a combination of creative and technical skills to work as a multimedia specialist

As a multimedia specialist, you'll design and develop multimedia applications, systems and products that entertain, educate, persuade or inform the user.

With expertise in digital audio and visual media, you'll bring text, photos, graphics, animation and sound together to make a media-based product that can be delivered online or on a CD-ROM or DVD. The mix of media may vary, but each project has in common a computer component integrating all the parts.

When the design is complete, you'll use authoring software to arrange the files in a single program, to enable interactivity and navigation through the product content. You'll test and adjust the product to fix any technical problems and produce documentation describing the creation, content and processes of files.

Responsibilities

As a multimedia specialist you'll need to:

  • meet with clients to establish their expectations and needs
  • advise clients on what is technically possible and produce a proposal including, for example, the range and scope of the work and realistic timescales and costs
  • work with drawings, sketches, models or written instructions to design the product
  • create design ideas using computer-based design packages such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Flash Player and 3D Flash Animator, Apple Final Cut Pro X and Avid audio production software
  • collaborate with other specialists, including writers, animators, artists, film-makers and video producers, programmers and sound engineers, and incorporate their work into the final product
  • author the files into a single program using HTML or by a software programmer using 'object oriented' programming languages such as Java or C++
  • test and adjust final programs
  • produce finished design work and present final designs to clients
  • liaise with account managers and technical staff on behalf of the client and, where necessary, ensure clearance and copyright
  • observe company policy in terms of producing and archiving product documentation, as well as any reports and recommendations
  • gain final sign-off from the client
  • agree on the upgrading of the product or website with the client
  • provide guidance to less-experienced designers
  • supervise other members of the design team.

Salary

  • Salaries range from £21,000 to £24,000, rising to £28,000 with experience.
  • Senior multimedia specialists can earn from £32,000 to in excess of £50,000, with the highest salaries usually found in London.

Salary levels depend on your company, level of experience and the type of contract. Some professionals become consultants and can negotiate high fees as well as commissions and profit shares, depending on their skill level and expertise.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are generally 9am to 5pm, but you may need to work extra hours to meet deadlines. Some companies offer flexible working arrangements.

What to expect

  • The work is desk based, usually in an office or studio environment. Many designers work from home.
  • Experienced multimedia designers and programmers can work as consultants or on fixed-term contracts. Alternatively, you may choose to start up your own company.
  • Opportunities exist throughout the country, with many vacancies concentrated in London and the South East.
  • Travel during the working day usually involves visiting clients' premises for meetings, mostly in the local area, although occasionally further afield.
  • There may be opportunities to work abroad, either in the overseas offices of UK-based companies or for an overseas employer.

Qualifications

You'll typically need a relevant degree or diploma qualification, or a strong portfolio of experience, to work as a multimedia specialist. Relevant subjects include:

  • business information systems
  • computing and computer science
  • film-making and digital photography
  • fine art/visual art
  • graphic and media design
  • multimedia/interactive technology/design/animation
  • software development/engineering
  • web development
  • 3D design/visual art.

Many professionals have done training in both design and technology-related subjects such as animation, photography and computer programming. This combination helps you develop a set of skills to integrate text, sound and visual elements within a digital environment.

As there are lots of degree, HND and HNC courses in the UK with 'multimedia' in the title, you'll need to do your research to make sure the content of your course matches the multimedia career you wish to follow. Postgraduate study in design, computing or technology can be useful, particularly if your degree is in a non-relevant subject. Check the course content for the balance between design and technology skills. Search for postgraduate courses in multimedia design.

A range of professional courses and qualifications are also available, covering topics such as communication and information technology, artwork imaging, website software and software development.

Skills

You will need:

  • creativity and a good understanding of technical processes
  • operation skills in the use of specific operating systems such as macOS, Linux or Windows
  • a passion for information technology and good programming skills
  • a high level of competency in using a range of relevant software applications
  • excellent interpersonal, communication and presentation skills, with the ability to listen, respond and relate to clients - in particular to explain things clearly to people who may not be very familiar with multimedia products
  • excellent organisational skills to plan projects and meet deadlines
  • teamworking skills and a willingness to share knowledge and expertise to achieve common goals
  • the ability to understand and communicate complex information expressed in numbers, charts or equations
  • a problem-solving approach to work
  • time management and project management skills
  • the motivation to keep up to date with technological developments and to work on a project from concept through to closure.

If you're aiming to become self-employed, you'll also need skills in how to run a business, plus the ability to self-promote and network.

Work experience

It's vital that you build up a strong portfolio of work to demonstrate your skills and creativity, either with a CD-ROM, computer game or through a personal website/portfolio. Relevant project work or placements will help develop your skills and build up a network of contacts.

Employers may ask to see examples of your work (this could be produced from your coursework, a work placement or be self-generated on a home computer).

Employers

There are opportunities with a range of employers across all employment sectors as most companies need advertising and marketing materials to promote their products, for example on websites, and through Flash banners, email campaigns and social media.

There are many opportunities in the ICT industry, working for computer manufacturers, software development companies, telecommunications firms and internet service providers (ISPs).

You will also find opportunities in the gaming industry and with companies producing training materials within the education and business sectors.

Opportunities can also be found within advertising and marketing companies, technical departments of large organisations and in local and central government departments.

Look for job vacancies at:

Many vacancies are handled by specialist recruitment agencies.

Professional development

Employers will expect you to be familiar with industry-standard computer design packages. You'll pick up more advanced packages as you use them and via online tutorials. Most training takes place on the job, although your employer may fund short courses in various aspects of multimedia design.

Some employers offer the chance to gain IT skills through graduate training programmes in areas such as programming or web development.

As skills and knowledge requirements change very quickly in multimedia, you'll need to keep up to date with new technological developments. You'll typically learn from your colleagues and peers, especially those who are working in the role you would like to move into next.

Details of media and multimedia courses, including animation, computer games and interactive media, are available on the Creative Skillset website. Professional qualifications for multimedia specialists are also available from the BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT).

Career prospects

With experience, you can work your way up to senior designer/studio manager positions. You may need to change employer to gain wider experience or promotion and salary increases.

Alternatively, you could use your IT skills to move into other areas of ICT, for example:

  • management roles - such as project manager, leading a team of specialists, or account manager, with increased client contact
  • technical roles - for example, in computer programming, applications development or website management
  • creative roles - such as art director or website/CD content writer.

While larger organisations may provide more opportunities for promotion to supervisory and management positions, smaller firms often allow a greater degree of responsibility at an earlier stage in your career. They may also provide the opportunity to gain skills and experience across a range of specialisms and in different areas of the business more quickly.

There are also opportunities to lecture in further or higher education.

Some experienced multimedia specialists become self-employed, working on a contract or consultancy basis and building up their own client base.