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What arts jobs are there - and how do I get there?

The arts. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? Well, it is quite grand, but we’re guessing that if you’ve come to this page, you’re probably after a little bit of grandeur!

If you’re into the arts, why should it just be a hobby? Why not pursue that passion in your career? So just what arts jobs are there - and how can you put your artistic talents to good use in other industries?

First we take a look at what “the arts” actually are.

What are the arts?

Put simply, the arts are different forms of expression. These different “art forms” usually get across an idea, like a feeling or a story. This might be through a play or novel, a piece of music, a dance, or any number of other art forms.

Allegory of Peace and the Arts under the English Crown Artemisia Gentileschi
This painting depicts peace and "the arts" (just a bit of culture
for you).
 Can you tell which is which?

The arts can be broken down into three main areas:

  • Literature: Artistic writing, such as poetry, a short story, a novel, or even a graphic novel.
  • Performing arts: Including dance, music and theatre.
  • Visual arts: Such as film and TV, photography, painting and drawing, and print making.

Some highly skilled ways of preparing food and drink are considered art forms. This includes winemaking and making chocolate (yum!).

Art critics don’t always agree on what counts as art. For example, we’ve included comic books above – but not everyone would agree with us.

What arts jobs are there?

So what arts jobs are there? You might be surprised to learn that making art isn't the only career you can pursue in this area - but it's a good place to start:

Be an artist!

If you have a passion, what could be better than pursuing it in your career? You could be a:

  • Painter
  • Composer
  • Musician
  • Actor
  • Singer
  • Writer
  • Poet

Some arts projects involve numerous artists, as well as a host of other individuals.

For example, a theatrical work will often involve a playwright, a composer to create the score, and of course actors, dancers and singers – not to mention the set designer, choreographer, and backstage crew.

Get it ready for the public

Creating the artwork itself is only part of the puzzle. Once the artwork itself is complete, it needs to be packaged for the consumption by the general public, and sold. Here are just a few of the areas you could go into within the arts industry:

  • Publishers put books into print and delivers them for sale.
  • Marketers (sometimes called “marketeers” with a double E) publicises artworks to boost sales.
  • Designers comes up with the design work for the artwork itself, plus any marketing materials.
  • Set designers develops the “look and feel” of a theatrical production, from props to the way the stage is laid out.
  • Sound engineers are responsible for the soundtrack, including dialogue, music and background noises.
  • Music has to be recorded for distribution.
  • Choreographers decide how performers should interact physically in a work of performance art.
  • Cameramen capture performances on camera, for distribution on TV or film.

Look after art

Restoring artThere is a whole industry of people dedicated to caring for art and restoring it when it gets damaged. This extends to other historically or culturally important artefacts such as historic buildings.

  • Curators: Look after exhibits in museums and art galleries.
  • Restorers: Improve the condition of old artworks and objects when they get worn out, including paintings, buildings and antique furniture.
  • Custodians: Look after artefacts such as old buildings. This includes organisations like the National Trust and English Heritage. These are often known as “heritage jobs”.
  • Librarians: In university libraries, and libraries in other old institutions, librarians are responsible for looking after large collections of old books.

'Jobs in the arts range from being an artist to conserving or even marketing artworks'

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What skills do I need?

  • Passion: A prerequisite of any job in the arts, and the reason why a lot of people go into a profession in this field.
  • Creativity: Maybe it goes without saying, but the arts is all about making something amazing out of the tools and materials you have at your disposal.
  • Communication: Whatever your role, you’ll spend much of your time communicating with other people involved in your project.
  • Technical skills: Painters don’t just know how to paint: they learn, and it’s the same for any other artist. Formal training isn’t essential, but it is the normal path for many.

So what should I study?

You should start by figuring out what school/college subjects go with the arts career you’re interested in pursuing. Here are some examples:

  • Art students at university
    Picking the right school/college and university subjects will
    help you launch your career in the arts
    Painter: Art, design and technology
  • Composer: Music
  • Musician: Music
  • Actor: English literature, drama, languages
  • Singer: Music
  • Writer: English literature, English language
  • Poet: English literature, English language

Once you’ve completed your A-levels, highers or equivalents, you’ll probably need to build on your learning through higher education. Here are some of the key institutions and qualifications you should consider if you’d like to go down this route:

  • Conservatoire: There are nine UK conservatoires for trainee musicians.
  • Drama school: Institutions like RADA, where actors train.
  • Dance school: Training colleges for dancers.
  • English literature or creative writing: Aspiring writers should consider degrees in these subjects.

What about other arts jobs?

Most other arts jobs require a degree, and some career paths favour candidates with postgraduate qualifications (like master’s degrees and PhDs). For example:

  • Curators: BA in conservation studies, fine art, art history – although the subject will depend on the sort of museum you’d like to be a curator of!
  • Restorers: BA in conservation studies.
  • Librarians: BA in librarianship.

Being artistic in the wider world

Careers in the arts are perfect for those with passion for their field. However, there are a few things it’s important to bear in mind:

  • Pay tends to be low, particularly when you enter the profession. Funding often comes from the government, and cuts means pay is not rising in some professions.
  • In performance art, the majority of jobs are behind-the-scenes, technical, or marketing positions, whereas performance roles such as acting or dancing are harder to come by.
  • Competition can be fierce, and because degrees in the arts are often quite generic, they don’t prepare you for a specific role. Work experience can help you overcome this and give you the edge when it comes to applying.
  • Toronto architecture
    Careers like architecture can be a great outlet for
    your creative tendencies
    Job security can be poor as roles are often related to a specific project, particularly for actors.

If you’re not keen to face these challenges, never fear! There are other industries where you can let your creative juices flow. Here are just a few:

  • Architecture: Often considered an art form, architects design buildings.
  • Engineering: Engineers use maths and science to invent, design and create practical solutions to real-world problems.
  • Advertising and marketing: These industries need creative people such as copywriters, graphic designers and filmmakers to work on marketing campaigns.
  • Video games: Writers, artists, graphic designers, sound engineers and animators are all needed to come up with a great game idea and make it a reality.

Now you have a better understanding of what the arts actually means and the different careers you can pursue there, check out our Art & Design Career Zone to get more specific.

Image credits

Lead image via Royal Exchange, Peace and the Arts via Wikimedia, Restoration via Wikimedia, Students via Wikimedia