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Career Options in Art & Design: Graduate

So you’ve just graduated in an art and design based course. Your final fashion project, let’s be honest, was fit for the cover of Vogue’s September Issue and the world is your manikin. You have a great portfolio, new ideas every hour and even some knowledge of the business side of the sector you want to specialise in. One teeny-weeny problem though… you have no job!

Graduate opportunities

- Work experience/graduate internships

- Entry level jobs

- Freelance work

You may have already done work experience and internships, but with the graduate market busier than a perfume and aftershave counter on Christmas Eve it could be an option to undertake another one. Bear in mind that though an internship is not a permanent solution to your employment dilemma, you don’t have to be anywhere once the internship is officially over. In the summer of your second year, you had to get back to uni (there was the final Freshers’ Week to attend, after all) whereas now you’re a free agent. Therefore, if the employer need you to stay on for a few months as they enter a busy period, you should seize the opportunity with both hands. It will provide more opportunities to network and will put you first in line if your employer decides they need a new member of staff.

Another option is to seek out entry level jobs, which could see you working at a graphic design agency, art gallery, publishing house or photography agency, depending on your area of expertise. Competition for these jobs is going to be very high so your portfolio and CV need to be in pristine condition. Jobs can be found on, well, job boards and make sure to sell yourself and utilise every inch of your experience, including any roles you had as part of a university society.

Finally, you could sell your services as a freelancer in your specialism, taking commission or a freelancer wage from companies or individuals who desire your services. However, starting off as a freelancer can be tough due to the fewer contacts you’re likely to have compared to the big dogs in the industry.

Will my degree do?

If you’ve specialised in a particular sector throughout your degree, and your projects have been interesting and stimulating, this will put you in great stead to finding a job. If you want to enter the art and design industry having not done an art and design based degree, you could run into a spot of bother. You will need to display that you’re just as good a candidate for a job as those who have done a specialist degree, and you’ll need a portfolio also. It’s no good swanning into an interview and claiming that you’re the next big IKEA in furniture design if you have no portfolio to show as evidence.

A high degree mark is beneficial too, but in an industry that is largely judged on ideas rather than top grades, it’s your creativity that matters. However, your degree is likely to have been marked on the quality of ideas and your creativity, so these should walk hand-in-hand with your degree marks.

Is postgraduate study necessary?

Masters degree courses are available in a variety of specialisms. They can allow you to develop on your skills and ideas forged during your undergraduate course and specialise even further. For example, if you’ve just done a degree in animation but want to be big in the game of character animation in particular, undertaking an MA in this area will allow you to focus on the construction of character and the importance of performance.

Postgraduate study isn’t necessary and with so many opportunities to get a foot in the door at entry level, further study should be thoroughly considered given the cost of such courses.