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Careers Options for Postgraduate Creative Arts Students

Many students with creative arts degrees study with the intention of finding careers in the arts, but are sometimes confused as to what jobs they can do with an arts degree. Competition for such roles is highly competitive and as such, it’s important to know what different art careers you can plan for if you have the relevant postgraduate qualifications. The skills gained in creative arts degrees can be quite broad, which means they can be applied to great effect in different art related jobs. Read on to find out about various careers in art below. 


Illustrator/Graphic Designer 

While a postgraduate qualification in relevant subject areas can be useful in these careers, they are by no means a prerequisite, and practical experience in a working environment can have a stronger impact when looking for work. On the other hand, qualifications can make career progression easier as most working in this profession will have a degree or diploma. 

Illustrators and graphic designers work to a brief and, depending on their medium, are usually skilled in making art using graphic software. A good working knowledge of programs such as InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator is usually expected.  

Many graphic designers can move into other related areas such as digital/web design and animation. Employers include publishers, advertising and design agencies, multimedia production companies, publishers, local government, charities, commerce and industry. 

Starting salary 

Graphic Designer – around £18,000 

Illustrator – around £18,000

Gallery Curator 

Art gallery curators are not only responsible for putting on exhibitions, but they are also responsible for looking after collections of work, acquiring or borrowing objects for display and looking after practical aspects of exhibiting works. A curator in a larger gallery may be responsible for a specific area of the programme, but smaller galleries will require more of an all-round role. 

A postgraduate qualification specialising in a relevant area of art history can help gain entry into this competitive profession, as can work experience in a gallery or museum. 

Starting salary 

Gallery Curator – around £20,000 

Set Designer 

Set designers are responsible for the visual aspects of a production, helping to bring the drama to life by creating an artistically realistic environment for actors to work in. Working with the director and production team, they plan the design for sets, costumes and lighting, considering the budget and practical problems. 

Most set designers begin in the profession as assistants in a design studio or workshop. Designers train on the job and some may go on to learn specific technical skills or take a postgraduate course in a specialist area. In theatre, the designer is likely to work alone or with a small team. In television or film, the production designer oversees an art department team to complete various aspects of the design process. 

Starting salary 

Set Designer – around £20,000 

Fine Artist 

Most artists make money by selling their work or being commissioned to produce a work of art by a third party, such as local council, private collector or art gallery space. Developing a portfolio is essential for securing paid work, as is displaying work in exhibitions.  

Some artists will work in-house at places such as schools, hospitals or prisons, either running workshops, teaching or producing work such as murals. As well as producing their own work, many will also be involved in related areas such as art education, community arts, gallery management, consultancy work and writing about the subject for newspapers and magazines. 

Starting salary 

Much of art is all about reputation, so though you might not earn huge amounts while building up your profile, once you have a strong reputation, you’ll be able to charge as much as you want. 


Choreographers need to be aware of different techniques and styles of dancing from around the world and through history, as they create and arrange the dancing and movement in musical productions, although many will specialise or be known in a particular area. Many choreographers have their own companies, but others supplement their work by continuing to dance or teach. 

Starting salary 

Choreographer – around £20,000 

Theatre Director 

Universities or colleges provide a good setting for budding directors to develop their skills, knowledge and repertoire, both through extracurricular productions at the institution, and by studying existing texts. 

Most directors will be assistant directors first and can then progress to artistic director at a particular theatre, who will then commission directors to put on productions at that theatre. Employers include theatres and production companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

Starting salary 

Theatre Director – around £19,000 


As the Incorporated Society of Musicians stresses, you may have to acquire qualifications to demonstrate that you have the necessary expertise for most careers in music, but they alone will not necessarily bring you work. 

Musicians are usually self-employed and may work on one-off performances, or show and tour contracts. Most soloists employ an agent to help negotiate work opportunities and terms. Some musicians progress to write and direct their own music, start up an ensemble or work in private music tuition.  

Employers include orchestras, music ensembles, opera companies or choirs. Musicians can also work with other artists, creating music for films, advertisements, websites or computer games. 

Starting salary 

Rates for musicians vary, depending on the type of performance and musical venue, their instrument, and their reputation and experience.  

Fashion Designer 

Fashion designers design clothes, accessories and shoes, individually or as part of a team. It is possible to specialise in a particular area, such as sportswear, men’s, women’s or children’s fashion. Though the job can vary, it usually involves working with a design brief, anticipating fashion trends, estimating costs, finding suppliers, communicating with manufacturers and making in-house presentations.  

A portfolio of work and interview will be necessary before you are offered a place, as will experience of skills that are in demand, such as pattern cutting, textile technology, production management or studio management. 

Starting salary 

Fashion Designer – around £18,000 

Game Artist 

Game artists will often work on computers creating 2D or 3D assets for video games. A director will normally instruct artists on what they should make, but there are usually opportunities to let creativity out and take the lead on what is produced. Some artists will specialise in concept art, creating the initial ideas for designs before working with other artists to produce the in-game assets. 

Alongside creativity and artistic talent, an interest in technology will also be handy for game artists, as advancing gaming hardware can make opportunities to explore new ways to present your art. 

Starting salary 

Game Artist – around £20,000 

Art Therapist 

Art therapists will use their skills of creativity to help people express their emotions via the medium of art. Additional qualifications are needed for this job, but it offers an opportunity to help improve the quality of life for your clients. 

While artistic ability is incredibly important for this role, communication skills are also a vital component of being an art therapist. Being able to talk to and understand your clients, who may not be able to express themselves as clearly as they want, will be a constant feature of the job. 

Starting salary 

Art therapists working for the NHS can start with a salary of over £32,000. Salaries for independent art therapists can vary. 

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