The number of jobs in the creative arts and design sector is increasing but you'll need more than talent and enthusiasm to secure a position. Explore what else you'll need for a successful career in this competitive industry

A relevant degree is required for most occupations within this sector. Professionals within the creative industries are highly qualified and in order to compete with, and stand out from the masses you'll need the right qualifications.

According to official statistics from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) more than half (60%) of jobs in the creative industries in 2015 were held by people with at least a degree or equivalent, an increase of 2.2% when compared to the previous year.

There is a huge range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses on offer from graphic and fashion design to museum studies, art administration, photography, production design, illustration and performing arts.

For art and design roles, as well as an undergraduate qualification you'll also need a portfolio to demonstrate your work. A practical degree in art or design is the most common route to develop a relevant portfolio, which reflects what employers in the sector are looking for.

For performing arts roles, such as acting and dancing, work experience can be just as important as qualifications, but a degree from an established drama school can significantly increase your chances of employment.

For museum and art gallery roles, a degree in art history, museum studies or heritage studies is desirable. A subject relevant to museum or gallery collections would also be useful, for example, fine art, history or photography.

The Creative Skillset Courses Directory lists accredited degree and postgraduate courses that are endorsed by industry. This website is also a good source of information on design, creative and media careers.

For information on entry requirements and relevant qualifications, see job profiles.

While the majority of creative professionals enter the sector with a degree the number of industry apprenticeships is also increasing, you can now earn while you learn with apprenticeships in community arts, jewellery design, creative and digital media, photography and fashion and textiles to name just a few.

What skills do employers want?

Graduate employers in the creative arts and design sector require candidates with:

  • creative ideas and ability;
  • strong communication skills - not only useful in your day-to-day work, but also invaluable when networking and building contacts an essential part of any career in the creative arts and design sector;
  • the ability to work in a team;
  • effective planning, organisation and time management skills. The majority of work in the creative industries is project-based and deadline-driven so you'll need to stay organised to manage your workload;
  • self-discipline and stamina to cope with long hours;
  • resilience and determination - the industry is highly competitive and you'll have to be able to cope with setbacks;
  • a good eye for detail in art and design roles;
  • the flexibility to work on multiple projects at once;
  • commercial awareness and business orientation;
  • digital and IT skills;
  • manual dexterity;
  • practical and technical skills, including associated software, e.g. Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, CAD;
  • marketing, administrative and business skills - especially if you are self-employed.

Where can I get work experience?

In many cases, voluntary work, work experience or internships are the usual route into employment in this sector. Opportunities of this nature offer an insight into industry practices and enable you to learn new skills, make contacts and gain confidence.

Having a period of work experience or voluntary work, or a stint as an intern under your belt will also help you stand out to potential employers.

Creative Choices, an online resource of Creative and Cultural Skills, advertises a variety of paid creative internships.

The Design Council sometimes advertises intern opportunities. Some of the larger organisations or design consultancies in the sector also provide paid internships. However, you may need to make speculative enquiries to find experience. When it comes to a career in design taking part in competitions can be a way to gain experience and get noticed. The Design Council advertises design challenges where young designers contribute ideas and solutions to design briefs. It also offers conferences, workshops, events and talks. D&AD also offers the New Blood Awards for those aged 24 or under. The 2017 awards cover 16 briefs from top UK companies such as Adobe, Amazon, British Army, BBC, John Lewis, Nationwide and the National Autistic Society and encompass copywriting, campaigns, design, film and illustration.

If you'd like to get into an art or design role, taking a residency or moving into a shared studio space can provide opportunities to network with, work alongside or assist established artists and designers. You can find information at Artquest.

For work experience, internships and voluntary positions in museum settings look to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, London. The Natural History Museum also runs short-term 'visiteering' schemes, enabling you to experience working at a museum for a day.

If you want to work in the fashion industry, experience in fashion retail is extremely valuable. You can learn about the styles, looks and brands customers prefer. You should also attend exhibitions and events such as London Fashion Week and The Clothes Show. This will provide networking opportunities and a chance to keep up-to-date with trends and brands. ASOS, the online fashion retailer, also take on fashion interns over a one year period in a number of functions including garment technology, design and pattern cutting; see ASOS internships.

For graduates in Scotland, the Arts and Creative Industries Graduate Internship Programme funds third sector employers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in providing paid internships to unemployed graduates who have studied a creative industries subject. The scheme is funded by the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland and is delivered by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

Creative Access also provides internship opportunities across advertising, publishing, film, museums, music, television and theatre to those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

To find work placements and internships in the creative arts and design sector, search for work experience.

How do I find a graduate job in the creative arts and design sector?

The creative industry is highly competitive and in many cases jobs are not formally advertised. The easiest way to uncover graduate opportunities is through undertaking work experience, building up contacts through networking and making speculative applications to employers.

Having the confidence to market yourself, network and develop commercial awareness are all important.

Entry-level positions are easy enough to find and although numbers are increasing, graduate schemes are not as common in creative arts and design as in other sectors. However, some large organisations in retail, fashion and manufacturing - such as Harrods, Marks & Spencer and Jaguar Land Rover - offer graduate schemes in design.

Museums sometimes offer traineeships for assistant curators, and Creative Skillset advertises trainee placements for animation, film, games design, TV and visual effects (VFX).

Jobs are advertised on university careers service vacancy lists. Creative Opportunities, the University of the Arts London’s jobs and internships website, is open to public access and is particularly useful. The careers and employability service at the University for the Creative Arts job and internship board is also worthwhile. In addition, you can find vacancies on company websites and through organisations such as the Arts Council England jobs site and specialist websites such as Design Week.

To increase your chances of finding work or to move towards self-employment, you could consider showcasing your work on websites such as Hiive, or create your own website where you can show an online portfolio. Writing a blog to communicate your ideas and feature your designs can be effective, particularly for fashion design.

To find jobs in the creative sector, search graduate jobs in creative arts and design.