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Creative Jobs and Careers

If you're a creative person, you may well be interested in finding work in the creative or cultural industries of the UK.

Competition for such creative jobs is high and the pay is often relatively low, but if you have the ability to apply your creative streak and work hard, the non-financial rewards are high.

Below you will find a list of creative careers, including (but not restricted to) actually working as an artist or performer. You might also want to see:

Performing Arts

Theatre

The sector: Jobs in theatre include a variety of creative roles. As well as acting roles, there are many other creative jobs, such as: artistic director, casting director, costume designer and wardrobe, dresser, set designer and crew, lighting crew, make-up artist, musical team, props crew, wig maker, etc. Many performers are self-employed or work in small companies, while competition for jobs in theatrical venues is fierce.

Type of person: Performing in the dramatic arts is a highly competitive and therefore insecure vocation if you wish to make a career out of it - few people are successful in financial terms. Huge dedication and determination are needed, not to mention talent. Appearance also plays a huge part in influencing levels of success and, obviously, you can only alter your appearance up to a point. A willingness to work for limited pay, putting in long and unsocial hours, is essential. At the same time, a desire to constantly learn and improve is necessary. Working in other roles in the theatre requires a similar amount of dedication and hard work for average pay, never mind the level of skills displayed and training acquired. Teamwork is essential.

Training: Many performance schools, independent and affiliated within the university system, offer training to varying standards, with degrees and diplomas. There are many short courses and workshops around that also offer performance training. Training in the technical and administrative areas is also available within further education and higher education. Post graduate degrees are available in subjects such as Arts Administration. Competition for these creative jobs is so high that it's essential to gain some unpaid experience in order to secure a first position.

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Dance

The sector: According to the type of dance they do, dancers work in dance productions in theatres, film and TV studios, clubs, cruise ships, etc. Many trained dancers opt to teach as well, or work in choreography or dance therapy. Other jobs include administration and marketing of dance companies. Obviously, there are physical demands to this work and dancers must take responsibility for their own condition, meaning there are invariably more hours involved than are paid. For those with performance jobs, the majority of time is spent rehearsing.

Type of person: Dancers need skills and strength, not just of the body but of the mind too. The career is extremely challenging and competitive. Dancers need to have started learning their art form while still very young, particularly in ballet, although contemporary dance allows for a later start. The work is arduous and tiring, and you also need to be prepared to take care of your health.

Training: Many dance schools, independent and affiliated within the university system, offer training to varying standards, with degrees and diplomas. You can attend vocational dance schools from age 16 years onwards, working towards an HND in Professional Dance or Musical Theatre. Bachelor's degrees are available in ballet, contemporary dance or musical theatre. There are many short courses and workshops around that also offer training. Training in the technical and administrative areas is also available within further education and higher education. Post graduate degrees are available in subjects such as Arts Administration. Competition for these non-performance jobs is so high that it's essential to gain some unpaid experience in order to secure a first position.

Music

The sector: This is a vast art form, with many access routes to as many different kinds of careers. The music industry generally refers to the dissemination of recorded music, its members being performers (musicians and singers), producers, recording technicians and the vast industry involved in marketing and selling the products. Other industry members include composers, arrangers and publishers, as well as the people who make instruments themselves. Musicians also perform in non-recording bands, orchestras and choral groups, working in venues as diverse as pubs and concert halls. Many teach to supplement their income.

Type of person: It's impossible to define a kind of person who suits this industry, as there are so many different sectors within it. Few musicians make considerable money from performing the music they love and success is notoriously transient. Most make a living from performing work that isn't necessarily to their tastes, but for which there is a demand. You therefore need to be flexible in order to earn a living on an ongoing basis. It can take a long time to establish a career, so tenacity is needed. Other roles within the industry require professional skills, whether it's a technical role or a marketing role. Competition is strong, so tenacity is essential.

Training: Entry routes to this sector are diverse. There are many degrees in music, with the focus on different specialist areas. Performance schools also now focus on rock and pop in the recording industry. Administrative and venue technical roles require specialist skills, available in the form of general arts training. Other applications, such as music therapy, require a degree or a Higher National Diploma (HND).

Visual Arts

Artists and Craftspeople

Artists: Visual artists create works of art in the form of paintings and drawings, sculpture, photography or (increasingly) multimedia pieces. One goal is to exhibit the work in galleries and ultimately to sell it, or to sell it privately, direct to a collector or other buyer. As well as working singly, artists may work as illustrators for books and magazines, or greetings card manufacturers. Jobs in the visual arts include gallery curatorship and administration, running private galleries in the high street, producing magazines and providing agency services to artists. Even amongst the creative industries, visual arts is an extremely hard sector within which to earn a living. Those who make an income selling work they are committed to are few, while those who pursue acclaim and respect are more likely to need an alternative source of income, or remain poor.

Crafts: Makers, as they are known, work in ceramics, glass, graphic crafts, heritage crafts, iron and stone, jewellery and silversmithing, textiles and leatherwork and woodturning. There is no direct route into this career, as while many have emerged from arts degrees, many more develop skills and begin selling their work without formal training. Work is often sold in shops, galleries, fairs and markets, although highly successful makers also produce one-off commissions. Makers work in their own or shared workshops, while some work in collectives with their sales area. Related roles can be working in conservation and restoration of antiques or museum pieces.

Type of person: The majority of artists and makers create because they feel the need to do so. To achieve critical success requires huge staying power and the ability to not only work hard and develop an existing talent, but to network and sell the ideas to agents and gallery curators. For most, achieving financial success requires a compromise between artistic goals and producing what is in demand from the market. Networking and self promotion skills are important if the artist or maker is to establish a market and get their work placed in galleries and with dealers.

Training: As work is self-produced, there is no official career route. For those who are seeking to learn and develop their knowledge and skills, a three year Fine Art degree is the most common route to take through higher education. This usually follows a one year foundation diploma. A limited number of Craft degrees are also available at specialist art schools. Post graduate training in crafts is also available. Ongoing professional short courses and workshops both in techniques and associated skills such as marketing and publicity are advisable.

The Design Field

We all live with the fruits of design work, whether we're aware of it or not. Every item you pick up, printed item you read, web page you view and building you enter, has been designed.

Creativity meets commercial needs in this industry, the largest of the creative industries. Aesthetic form meets technical function in design, with industrial production and economic demand driving the creative aspect. Sectors include industrial and product design, graphic design, architecture and interior design, textiles, etc.

Architecture

The sector: Architects are responsible for designing new buildings and their immediate environments. As well as preparing plans, they are involved in the construction process. Other areas of work include making changes or additions to existing to existing buildings, and the restoration, renovation and conservation of older buildings.

Architects work on a project from inception, tendering for a project and then discussing the client's needs in detail, before preparing a design solution. This has to be a workable concept, meeting planning requirements, as well as fitting with engineering requirements and limitations. The architect goes on to work with professionals including surveyors, planning departments, building companies and interior designers until completion.

Type of person: Architects need to be able to blend divergent skills. As well as having an obvious passion for buildings, they need to be creative and imaginative, but able to problem solve at the same time. Strong organisational skills are essential, with the ability to consider different aspects of different projects at the same time. Experience in the AutoCAD design software is important. Numeracy and the ability to create and work to budgets, coupled with a strong commercial sensibility, is vital. Communication and presentation skills are needed too, with the ability to sell ideas to others.

Training: Architects qualify through seven years of training, in the form of a five-year degree followed by two years of experience in an architect's office.

Interior Design

The sector: These design professionals are concerned with planning interior living spaces, their decoration and furnishings, which can include ornaments. They are trained in problem solving in a creative way, relating functional spaces to the emotional qualities that appeal to their clients' tastes. In practical terms, this means inspecting sites, using software to prepare designs, sourcing and costing furnishings and fittings, preparing plans for clients and overseeing execution of the work itself.

Type of person: Interior designers need to be good problem solvers as well as creative. They need to be able to plan at every level. This means not only the physical spaces involved in projects, but completing budgeting and managing finances. This means numeracy is important too. IT skills are needed for using design software packages. Written and verbal communication skills, plus interpersonal skills, are need for presenting proposals, managing projects subcontractors and answering clients' queries. An understanding of regulations, such as Buildings, Planning and Health and Safety, and a willingness to adhere to them is needed.

Training: Three year Bachelor's degrees in Interior Design can be applied for after completion of an art Foundation year. Two year vocational degrees are also available in the form of Foundation degrees, which can be taken at Further Education colleges. HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) are usually two to three years long, while BTEC certificates are one year practical courses.

Graphic Design

The sector: Graphic design appears on every product we buy and every sign we read. Words and images are used to communicate information and concepts on packaging, advertising, in printed literature, signage, company branding, digital communications, exhibitions, shop displays, etc. These designers work in teams to respond to clients' briefs by producing graphic solutions in the appropriate media. In larger agencies, the brief will usually be provided by an account manager who liaises with the clients, while in small practices it's the designers themselves who work with the clients.

Type of person: The graphic designer clearly needs to be creative, with the ability to use different design software applications. Professional communication abilities are important, as is the ability to work in a team. A wide range of drawing skills are needed, coupled with accuracy and attention to detail. The designer needs enough enthusiasm to apply themselves to all kinds of projects, even if they don't hold personal appeal. Time management and ability to work under deadline pressure are vital. Knowledge of art and design needs to encompass different styles and their relevance to the present day design environment.

Training: Three year Bachelor's degrees in Graphic Design can be applied for after completion of an art Foundation year. Two year vocational degrees are also available in the form of Foundation degrees, which can be taken at Further Education colleges. HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) are usually two to three years long, while BTEC certificates are one year practical courses. Other part-time studies are available in specialist software. Prospective designers can start building portfolios at the earliest stages of their training.

Product Design

The sector: Product designers work on the conception and design of manufactured objects, from cars to household goods to equipment and machinery. Their remit may be to design new solutions or improve existing objects, using appropriate materials for function and cost-effective production, in line with market needs. As well as coming up with the design, the product or industrial designer must model, test and produce prototypes, collaborating with engineers and other related professionals.

Type of person: As well as creativity and design awareness, these designers need to have high levels of practicality and the ability to interpret engineering and manufacturing specifications. Visual and spatial awareness must be balanced with a commercial sensibility. Technical competence is also important with CAD (computer aided design) software packages and other software, as well as knowledge of industrial production processes. Strong team working skills and the ability to work under pressure of deadlines are important.

Training: A three year Bachelor's degrees in Industrial or Product Design is vital. Two year vocational degrees are also available in the form of Foundation degrees, which can be taken at Further Education colleges. HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) in 3D design, product or industrial design are usually two to three years long. Vocational experience is desirable, through a placement or freelance work. Postgraduate and masters degrees are also very valued.

Fashion Design

The industry: While high end clothes fashion is extremely visible, the industry is far wider and more diverse than designer labels. Careers include the design and manufacture of clothing for high street stores, accessories, hats, shoes, sportswear, textiles design, and much more. There are many associated professions that service the industry, including the product development, buying and merchandising, sales and marketing, PR and journalism.

Type of person: Designers need to be creative and proactive, able to innovate and generate ideas, with a knowledge of fabrics and a good colour sense. Drawing skills are important, along with CAD skills, and technical skills such as pattern cutting. Given that fashion is highly subject to market forces, a commercial orientation and businesslike thinking are important. The marketplace changes rapidly, so adaptability and readiness to stay tuned in to ongoing developments are important. Team working is intrinsic to fashion design, so communication and interpersonal skills are vital, along with self-organisation and time management skills required for working to tight deadlines.

Training: A three year Bachelor's degrees in Fashion or Textile Design is vital for designers. Two year vocational degrees are also available in the form of Foundation degrees, which can be taken at Further Education colleges. HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) in fashion design are usually two to three years long. Vocational experience is desirable, through a placement, freelance work or competitions. Postgraduate and masters degrees are also very valued. It's possible to gain non-design employment in the industry without a degree in fashion design, although other qualifications need to be relevant and a large amount of vocational experience would be expected.

Job Sites for Creative Jobs

There are numerous websites providing information on creative opportunities and creative jobs in the UK's cultural industries. Here are some of the key sites covering the arts in general - be sure to search for more in your own arts sector.

This site provides information for the UK's creative arts community, from careers information to job vacancies: http://www.artshub.co.uk/jobs/

The Stage is Britain's leading performing arts newspaper, with news and jobs www.thestage.co.uk

This site provides an index to UK performing arts careers and training: www.ukperformingarts.co.uk

Creative & Cultural Skills is the Sector Skills Council for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing, and visual arts: ccskills.org.uk

This site from the Arts Council of England lists current jobs in the arts community: www.artsjobs.org.uk

Creative jobs from top companies in design, digital, advertising, product design, interiors and architecture, media, fashion and web design: www.creativepool.com

The Guardian newspaper is a central source of arts industry jobs: jobs.theguardian.com

Creative Match lists jobs as well as news from the creative industries: creativematch.com


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