The creative industries are growing faster than any other sector in the UK - great news for talented graduates with creative flair. Learn more about the different jobs in this diverse industry

Every year the UK's creative industries contribute £92billion to the economy and Government statistics from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) show that in 2017 the number of people employed within the creative industries stood at just over two million, accounting for 6% of all UK jobs. When taking into account jobs in the wider creative economy, this figure rises to over three million.

The growth of the sector is expected to continue according to the recent independent Bazalgette review of the creative industries. The review predicts that the creative industries could be worth £128.4billion to the UK economy by 2025 and help to create up to a million jobs by 2030.

What creative industries can I work in?

Employment opportunities can be grouped into:

  • advertising and marketing
  • architecture
  • crafts
  • design
  • fashion
  • film, TV, video, radio and photography
  • IT, software and computer services
  • publishing
  • museums, galleries and libraries
  • music, performing and visual arts.

Areas of design include:

  • exhibition
  • games
  • graphic
  • industrial
  • interior
  • landscape
  • product
  • textiles
  • theatre.

Working in the sector, you'll have the opportunity to pursue practical roles such as an artist, actor or interior designer, or administrative or managerial jobs such as an arts administrator or museum curator.

There is an increasing overlap with the media and information technology sectors in relation to the use of digital technology to produce and deliver creative content. This is noticeable in roles such as web design, animation and game design.

For examples of job roles in this sector, see creative jobs.

Who are the main graduate employers?

The creative industries are mainly made up of small companies and micro-businesses, the majority of which employ fewer than five people. While the highest proportion of creative industry jobs are located in London, many opportunities are located elsewhere in the UK. Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands and the South West all have increasing numbers of creative jobs.

While the majority of companies may be small, the sector also has large well-established organisations that recruit graduates. Examples include:

  • Advertising - AMV BBDO, Grey London, Leo Burnett, McCann
  • Cultural heritage - English Heritage, National Trust, National Museum Wales, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Galleries of Scotland
  • Design - Jaguar Land Rover, Harrods, AKQA, Big Active
  • Fashion - Arcadia, ASOS, Burberry, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Next
  • Film/TV - Ealing Studios, Endemol Shine UK, Pinewood Studios, Sony Pictures, ITV, BBC, Channel 4
  • Music - Opera North, Sony Music UK, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group
  • Publishing - Bloomsbury, HarperCollins UK, Oxford University Press, Penguin Random House.

For jobs in the creative industries speculative applications can be particularly useful as many graduate positions are never formally advertised. Creativepool is a valuable networking resource for companies and individuals.

Many design opportunities are to be found in design consultancies or advertising agencies. The Directory of Design Consultants is a useful resource to locate consultancies.

Self-employment is also a viable option in a sector where competition for jobs and graduate scheme places is high, as is freelancing.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the creative arts and design sector can expect:

  • the need to demonstrate a practical creative talent or to show a passion for art, design, music or other creative pursuits
  • to spend time practicing and honing their craft. This is particularly true for actors, dancers and musicians.
  • to need to be independent, proactive and resilient
  • a higher than average likelihood of being self-employed or freelance, or of working on short-term contracts
  • the majority of work to be project-based and deadline-driven
  • lower salaries, an unsteady income and a lack of job security when you first start out in the industry. The financial rewards of working in the creative industries can be great, but you’ll need to build your reputation and expertise
  • working environments to range from offices and art/design/film/photography studios to theatres, museums and music venues
  • working hours to vary enormously, from regular office hours to working evenings and weekends, and the flexibility of choosing your hours as a freelancer
  • to have to keep up to date with industry developments. The creative industries are rapidly expanding and you'll need to keep pace with the changes, especially if you're freelance or self-employed
  • to travel and work away from home depending on your role. Actors and musicians may need to tour nationally or internationally, and those working in the film/TV or fashion industries may need to visit foreign countries for shows or shoots. Opportunities to work abroad are plentiful.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.

What are the key issues in the creative industries?

While the creative sector may be the fastest-growing part of the UK economy, it still has its share of challenges. The main challenge is in ensuring diverse and sustainable recruitment.

Long-term unpaid internships are an established practice in the industry but they promote unfair access by shutting out those who cannot afford to subsidise their placements. This significantly narrows the pool of talent available to a sector that needs creativity and diversity to thrive.

Graduates considering a creative career will also face a sector that is highly-qualified, but often under-skilled. Employers report a lack of skills and experience when recruiting. Moreover, almost half of the industry is self-employed and most companies are micro-businesses, making it less likely that a graduate will find employment in the traditional sense. You will therefore need to build up industry skills and experience (through paid internships or higher-level diplomas).

In 2018 fewer students collected GCSEs in arts subjects, which could potentially lead to a lack of qualified, skilled workers in the near future. The number of GCSE music entries was down 8% over the last five years, drama by 14%, film and TV studies 22% and performing arts 26%.

Traditionally there have also been concerns within the creative industries about the lack of diversity in the workplace. In 2015, 37% of jobs in the creative industries were filled by women, while 11% were filled by BAME (black and minority ethnic) workers. However, the sector is working to address this.

Find out more