How to Improve Job Prospects as Art and Design Graduates in UK

The UK is currently a hot study-abroad destination for international students. Yes, STEM is trending. But, art and design students also have a lot to cheer about. Yes, plain humanities and art and students will have a tough time finding jobs as international students in the UK. However, if you pivot towards creative arts, niche artistry, and digital media along with proper skills and attitude, then the UK is a great option. In this post, we will discuss the job prospects for art and design graduates in UK and how to improve your chances.

Job Prospects for Art and Design Graduates in UK

For any career to prosper, it needs to be a part of a thriving industry and economy. The good news for arts and design graduates in the UK is that the UK has a rich history of art and culture that goes back centuries.

The UK has been an employer of millions of talented artists, actors, musicians, performers, directors, researchers, publishers, artisans and craftsmen (the list is long) over the years. In fact, the industry is rather broad-based and is defined using terms such as arts (plural) and culture, or the creative arts.

Jobs for Art and Design Graduates in UK
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The Field of Art and Design

The field of arts and design is very broad. This field includes:

  • Humanities (e.g. History, Archaeology, Museum Studies)
  • Fine arts (e.g. painting, sculpture, pottery)
  • Design (illustration, graphic design, fashion)
  • Performing arts (e.g. music, dance, theatre)
  • Media (e.g. print, publishing, advertising)
  • Entertainment (e.g. film, TV, radio)
  • Events (e.g. concerts, exhibitions, trade fairs)
  • The web (e.g. web design, content creation & production, content streaming services)
  • Digital (e.g. graphic design, computer graphics, animation, video games, multimedia)

But, that’s just the beginning. The categories listed here are just indications. They are not hardwired to a specific area of work and often overlap with each other. For instance, an artist’s painting or sculpture-making skills may be used to design sets for a dance or drama performance, or in an exhibition.

A designer with fashion design skills and experience may be required to design and create costumes for a historical film. Digital artists are already collaborating with musicians, sound and light engineers, audio-visual experts, and choreographers to create stunning stage shows.

Varied Job Roles for Arft and Design Graduates

This is why you will find art and design graduates working in a plethora of jobs and industries in the UK. Undergraduate courses offer a wide range of aspects of contemporary art, and the terms ‘broad-based’, ‘diverse’ and ‘collaborative’ often appear on university websites detailing art and design courses and careers. UCAS says (on their website): “As it’s such a broad subject, you have a lot of options when it comes to applying for an art and design degree.”

So, how to improve your job prospects after studying art and design in the UK.

The first step would be to choose the right university for your area of interest and career goals.

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Choosing the Right University to Pursue Arts and Design

Focus on Your Area of Interest

If you are interested in Fine Arts, the top choices would be the Goldsmiths University of London, Royal College of Art, University of Dundee or University of Arts London (UAL).

In case you want to pursue Film Studies, then you should target the University of East Anglia, Kingston University, King’s College London, or Arts University Bournemouth.

You can’t just rely on broad ranking tables. Since the job market for art and design is very competitive, you have to strategic.

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Don’t Neglect the Employability Record of the University

If you’re considering Ruskin College of Art at Oxford for your fine art degree, they will tell you: “After graduation, most students go on to work in the arts sector, as practising artists, teachers, curators and art writers, fabricators and technicians, in public and private museums and galleries, community arts organisations and for culture and heritage councils and institutions. Many also pursue careers in academia, architecture, and the film and digital media industries.”

The Goldsmiths University of London, which is popular among international students, states on their Department of Art webpage: “The interdisciplinary nature of the programme will enable you to work in a variety of fields (e.g. media, museums, education, the music business, and academia) and progress to a variety of careers, including practising artist, art historian, arts administrator, gallery curator, arts journalist, teacher, lecturer, writer, conservationist, designer.”

The Goldsmiths Department of Design goes on to say: “Many graduates work as freelance artists and designers while some go on to set up their own design studios. As a commercial artist, you will be commissioned to create work for public spaces, private companies and charities. As a designer, you may work in areas such as graphic or industrial design. Whatever area you choose to specialise in you will work to deadlines and produce original ideas in response to briefs set out by the clients.

Design graduates go on to work in a huge variety of industries and careers. Some of our recent graduates are now employed as set designers, creative strategists, product designers, art and design lecturers and studio managers.”

Find the Right Fit for Your Post-Graduate Aspirations

If you are interested in research, then you should choose research-intensive universities like Oxford, University of the Arts London (UAL), or University College London (UCL).

However, if you are more focused on jobs (but not neglecting research altogether), then you should target universities like Brunel, Loughborough, Leeds, Bournemouth, Ulster, Northumbria, Reading, Edinburgh Napier, and Nottingham Trent.

Job Prospects of Art and Design Graduates in UK

According to a February 2021 article ‘Overview of the creative arts sector in the UK’ by Daniel Higginbotham, Editor, Prospects, a graduate careers advisory service in the UK:

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creative organisations involved in advertising, fashion, film and graphic design were thriving … The UK’s creative industries contributed £115.9 billion to the economy in 2019, according to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. This is a 43.6% increase since 2010 and means the sector makes up just under 6% of the economy as a whole.

Even more importantly, more than two million people were found to work in the creative industries and that number was growing – already up more than a third since 2011 – prior to COVID-19. All these figures demonstrate that this had become a vibrant sector with lots of opportunities for graduate careers.

Its growth over recent years has been driven by a boom in computer services, highlighting the importance of digital creative industries such as video games.”

Overview of the creative arts sector in the UK by Prospects

[Prospects article link:]

The Prospects website ( is informative and helpful for both students and counsellors – and recommended by university admissions and careers officers. For information on jobs and job profiles in the creative arts and design fields in the UK, please use this link:

Link to ‘fine artist’ job profile:

Link to ‘graphic designer’ job profile:

In terms of numbers, according to 2018 data (published in February 2020) from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), employment in Arts & Culture in the UK was estimated as (a) jobs in museums, galleries and libraries: 89,000; (b) jobs in music, performing and the visual arts: 296,000.

Best Niche Career Paths for Art and Design Graduates in UK

If you are going to pursue art and design in the UK as an international student, make sure to take advantage of the shortage occupation list.

The following job roles/career paths have been created as per the UK Skilled Worker visa: shortage occupations list 2021:

  • Archaelogists
  • Architects
  • Web Designers
  • Artists
  • Dancers & Choreographers
  • Musicians
  • Arts Officers
  • Producers & Directors
  • Graphic Designers

Top Cities for Art and Design Jobs in the UK

Geographically, these jobs can be found all across the UK, although London, by far, is the leading hub of employers and hence for job seekers (estimated to recruit a third of the talent annually). Other ‘creative towns’ attracting talent include (in alphabetical order):

  • Aberdeen
  • Bath
  • Belfast
  • Birmingham
  • Bournemouth
  • Brighton
  • Bristol
  • Cambridge
  • Cardiff
  • Dundee
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Norwich
  • Nottingham
  • Oxford
  • Plymouth
  • Sheffield
  • York

The UK also has a thriving small-and-medium sector industry in Arts and Culture, and the UK Government encourages this sector to develop through grants and funds, creating opportunities for employment.

Top Employers for Art and Design Graduates in UK

  • Advertising – AMV BBDO, Grey UK, Leo Burnett London, McCann.
  • Cultural heritage – English Heritage, National Trust, National Museum Wales, Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, National Galleries of Scotland.
  • Design – Jaguar Land Rover, Harrods, AKQA, Big Active.
  • Fashion – ASOS, Burberry, John Lewis & Partners, Marks & Spencer, Next.
  • Film/TV – Ealing Studios, Elstree 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.
  • Video games – Codemasters, Creative Assembly, Rockstar North, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), Sports Interactive.

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Job Tips for Art and Design Graduates in UK

There’s 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 designer, animator and game designer. So, this is a great area for art and design students & graduates to explore.

You’ll also find a crossover between this sector and marketing, advertising and PR, with advertising in particular considered a key component of the creative industries.

In design (graphic design or UI/UX), freelancing & self-employment is excellent career option.

For jobs in the creative industries, speculative applications or the pain letter approach can be particularly useful as many graduate positions are never formally advertised.

Recommended Article: How to Boost Arts and Creative Careers by Leveraging AI & Computing

Featured Image Source: SI-UK

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