Creative careers are incredibly popular, but notoriously competitive. Discover how to increase your chances of securing a job in this diverse sector

You'll need more than talent alone to successfully break into the creative industries - you'll also need the right combination of qualifications, skills and experience.

Study for a degree

The majority of jobs in the creative industries are held by those with a degree; as such professionals are highly qualified. In order to compete with - and stand out from - the masses you'll need the right qualifications.

A relevant undergraduate degree is required for most occupations. There is a huge range of available courses from graphic and fashion design to museum studies, art administration, photography, production design, illustration and performing arts.

For art and design roles, look for a practical degree in your specific area of interest, such as creative pattern cutting, interior design, game design or photography. Practical programmes give you the hands-on experience that employers look for.

For performing arts roles, such as acting and dancing, work experience is just as important as qualifications. However, a degree from an established, industry-recognised drama or dance school can significantly increase your chances of employment.

For museum and art gallery jobs, a degree in art history, museum studies or heritage studies is desirable. A subject relevant to museum or gallery collections will also be beneficial, such as fine art, history or photography.

While postgraduate qualifications aren't always necessary they can increase your knowledge and understanding, help you to gain industry contacts and give you an edge when trying to stand out in a crowd. Search postgraduate courses in creative arts.

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

Secure a creative internship

Graduate employers in the creative industries 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
  • the ability to work as part of 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 need to be able to cope with setbacks
  • a good eye for detail in art and design roles
  • the flexibility to work on multiple projects
  • 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’re self-employed.

Work experience, internships and voluntary work can help you to learn and develop these skills and in many cases these are the usual routes into employment in this sector. Such opportunities offer an insight into industry practices and enable you to make contacts and gain confidence. Having a period of work experience, voluntary work or a stint as an intern under your belt also helps you stand out to potential employers.

An online resource of Creative and Cultural Skills, Creative Choices advertises a variety of paid work experience.

To find design experience, you may need to make speculative enquiries. If you want to get into the industry consider taking part in design competitions, in order to get noticed. Design and Art Direction (D&AD) offers the New Blood Awards for those aged 24 or under, all students enrolled on a higher education course and recent graduates. The 2019 awards cover briefs from top companies such as Adidas, Adobe, Bacardi, BBC, Burger King, GiffGaff, Heinz, John Lewis, Microsoft, The Times and Virgin Atlantic. Briefs encompass copywriting, campaigns, design, film and illustration.

For experience in museum settings look to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, London. The Natural History Museum also runs short-term 'visiteering' schemes, and the Science Museum offers a variety of volunteering opportunities 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 valuable. You can learn about the styles, looks and brands customers prefer. ASOS, the online fashion retailer, 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 more information. A variety of fashion-related internships are also advertised on Fashion United. Attending exhibitions and events, such as London Fashion Week and The Clothes Show will also provide invaluable experience.

For students and graduates from ethnic minority groups, Creative Access provides internship opportunities across advertising, publishing, film, museums, music, television and theatre.

To find work placements and internships, search for work experience.

Consider a creative apprenticeship

While the majority of creative professionals enter the sector with a degree, the number of creative and art apprenticeships is increasing.

You can now learn your trade while earning a wage in areas such as:

  • animation
  • costume and wardrobe
  • creative and digital media
  • fashion and textiles
  • graphic design
  • hair and make-up
  • interior design
  • jewellery design/making
  • photography
  • publishing
  • visual effects.

Creative apprenticeship opportunities span all available levels from intermediate (Level 2) through to degree (Level 7). To find out more about entry requirements, potential salaries and how to apply, see apprenticeships.

Network your talent

The creative industries are highly competitive and in many cases jobs are not formally advertised. While possessing the right qualifications and a stint of work experience will go a long way to helping you secure your first job, you'll need to put yourself out there through networking opportunities in order to get noticed. Having the confidence to market yourself is important.

Joining professional bodies relevant to your field will help you keep up to date with networking events, conferences and workshops - all useful opportunities to meet industry professionals and promote your skills.

Being active on Twitter and LinkedIn enables you to follow and connect with industry professionals and keep an ear to the ground for suitable vacancies. Blogging is also a useful way for creative types to demonstrate their talent for content creation, design and crafting. Attending fashion shows, art/museum exhibitions or taking part in design competitions are other great ways to meet like-minded people.

Graduate schemes are not as common in creative arts and design as in other sectors. However, some large organisations - such as Harrods, Marks & Spencer and Jaguar Land Rover - offer graduate schemes in design. Museums sometimes offer traineeships for assistant curators.

Jobs are advertised on university careers service vacancy lists. Creative Opportunities, the University of the Arts London's jobs and internships website, is particularly useful. In addition, you can find vacancies on company websites and through organisations such as the Arts Council England jobs site.

You'll typically need a portfolio of work to demonstrate your skills and abilities to potential employers. Find out more about putting together a creative portfolio.

See creative jobs and search graduate jobs in creative arts and design to find out more about careers in the creative industries.

Find out more

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