While creative jobs are on the rise they are notoriously competitive. Find out how to get 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 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.
To break into publishing you typically need a degree in any subject, although subject-specific degrees may be useful if you intend to go into scientific, medical or education publishing.
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.
The Creative Skillset Courses Directory lists accredited degree and postgraduate courses that are endorsed by the industry.
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 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
- 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.
Work experience, internships and voluntary work can help you to learn and develop these abilities 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 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 internship opportunities. However, you may need to make speculative enquiries to find experience. If you want to get into design consider taking part in competitions. 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 2017 awards covered briefs from top UK companies such as Adobe, Amazon, British Army, BBC, John Lewis, Nationwide and the National Autistic Society. Briefs encompass copywriting, campaigns, design, film and illustration.
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, 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. You might also look to attend exhibitions and events, such as London Fashion Week and The Clothes Show.
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.
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.
Consider a creative apprenticeship
While the majority of creative professionals enter the sector with a degree the number of creative apprenticeships and art apprenticeships is increasing.
You can now learn your trade while earning a wage in areas such as:
- costume and wardrobe
- creative and digital media
- fashion and textiles
- graphic design
- hair and make-up
- interior design
- jewellery design/making
- 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 and salaries see what is an apprenticeship? If this is the right route for you find out how to apply for an apprenticeship.
Perfect your portfolio
Particularly for art and design roles, as well as an undergraduate qualification and relevant experience, you'll need a strong portfolio of work to demonstrate your talent.
Containing a range of your best and most recent work, portfolios help you to stand out by showing employers what you can do.
Arts portfolios should demonstrate who you are, your creative vision and your abilities through, for example, illustrations, sketches, design concepts and photographs.
Portfolios should represent your subject knowledge, artistic skill and creative, original thinking. They are the only tangible way to articulate your creative talent to potential employers. Portfolios can also provide recruiters with a valuable insight into the creator’s personality and interests.
Remember that portfolios are about quality not quantity. Time is precious at an interview so don't water down your best work with projects you're not proud of, drop anything that may distract from your strongest work. Unfinished projects are fine to include, as long as you're able to articulate where you're going with the work and what you hope the finished product will represent.
A minimum of three projects are needed to show variety and competence. For an interview however, a portfolio of up to six projects allows you to have a focused amount of work to discuss. Your ability to talk through your work is just as important as the work itself.
Most importantly show the work you want, not what (you think) the audience wants.
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, network and develop commercial awareness are all 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 market your skills.
Being active on social media sites such as 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 creating content, designing, making or 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, 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. In addition, you can find vacancies on company websites and through organisations such as the Arts Council England jobs site.
To increase your chances of finding work or to move towards self-employment, you could consider showcasing your work on websites such as Hiive.
Find out more
- Gain an insight into the creative arts and design sector.
- Discover how to get into museum conservation.
- Find out more about the 5 ways to get into fashion design.
- Learn more about careers in music.