Careers in Arts

 

In brief

The arts sector offers a large variety of roles within industries such as creative arts, design and crafts, performing and visual arts, libraries, museums, galleries and heritage. LSE graduates can be found working as museum curators, arts administrators, heritage or theatre managers, and historians.

Roles are often specific to each industry and require a relevant qualification. However, some are open to graduates from broader backgrounds, including management, marketing, communications, history, geography or anthropology.

To work in the sector as a graduate, you will need previous relevant experience gained through volunteering or internships.

Where can you work?

  • Museums and Heritage– thereare around 2500 museums and thousands of galleries in the UK, ranging from large publicly-funded institutions to smaller, privately financed ones. Large well-established organisations regularly hire graduates, for example English Heritage, National History Museum, National Galleries of Scotland. Several useful websites allow you to explore this sector and its employers further, including the Museum Association, Museums.co.uk, the National Museum Directors' Council and the Institute of Conservation.
  • Creative arts, design and craft – smallcompanies or micro-businesses are typical of the creative arts sector. To explore these organisations further, the following websites will be useful: for creative industries, cultural education and arts – the Creative Industries Federation; for the design profession – the Chartered Society of Designers and the Directory of Design Consultants.
  • Performing arts – there are two main types of theatre in the UK: repertory theatres, which have a resident company producing its own work and presenting plays from a repertoire; and non-repertory or receiving theatres that buy in plays and other productions. As well as West End, national and regional theatres, typical employers include arts centres, dance companies and opera companies. Professional bodies include the Independent Theatre Council and UK Theatre.
  • Libraries and information management – there are thousands of libraries in the UK, both public and private. Employers include local authorities, community organisations, charities, educational institutions and commercial organisations, such as law firms. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals provides useful information about library careers.

Useful Websites

Most of these pages include industry information, members’ directories and/or job vacancies.

CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities. Covers creative arts, design and crafts, libraries, museums and heritage, and theatre and performing arts.

Arts Council England – government-funded body dedicated to promoting the performing, visual and literary arts in England.

The Guardian Jobs – arts and heritage jobs, including work in music, events, theatre and museums and galleries.

Arts Council England jobs – job opportunities within the art and culture sector.

Museums and heritage

Museums Association ‘find a job – job opportunities in museums.

Creative arts, design and craft

Creative Industries Council – joint forum between the creative industries and government, focusing on access to finance, skills, export markets, regulation, intellectual property (IP) and infrastructure.

Creative Choices – gathers resources useful to those who want to work in the creative sector.

Creativepool – a network of creative industry professionals and companies.

Creative Access – helps young people, from BAME and under-represented communities throughout the UK, to access creative careers.

Creative and Cultural Skills – industry insight on a range of creative sectors.

Hiive – a professional network for creative people, including vacancies and a platform to showcase self-employed people’s work.

Creative Opportunities – jobs and internships website from the University of the Arts London, aimed at students and graduates, and open to public access.

Performing arts

The Stage – entertainment and performing arts industry news and services.

Music Producers Guild – debate, networking, news and members’ directory.

Libraries and information management

Lisjobnet.com – lists library and information jobs in a range of settings.

Useful Information

Routes in

Introduction

A career in the arts sector is desirable and therefore highly competitive. Where a relevant qualification is not needed, you must demonstrate your passion and motivation. Relevant work experience is highly recommended to help you stand out to recruiters.

As vacancies are often not formally advertised, it’s important to take a mixed approach to job searching, applying to advertised jobs, but also using and developing your network of contacts. LinkedIn is great for helping you to do this. Speculative applications are well received in this sector.

If you’re looking to gain experience

Most entrants start off by volunteering and undertaking internships. These experiences allow you to make contacts for the future, and to gain confidence and legitimacy in the sector. Getting involved in preserving a heritage site or helping at a museum, country house or archive can be valuable experience. Most of the larger organisations in the sector advertise volunteering opportunities on their websites.

If you’re early on in your career

Graduate schemes are almost non-existent in the sector, but some museums offer traineeships for assistant curators, such as the National Gallery Curatorial Traineeships.

If you have more experience

When climbing the ladder, competition is even tougher, and networking becomes crucial. Joining relevant professional bodies and attending their networking events and conferences is useful.

If you’re changing career

People can move into this sector using existing experience, e.g. from HR in a corporation to HR in a cultural organisation. For moves that involve a change in role as well, it’s often necessary to take a stepping stone approach to gaining relevant experience. This could involve volunteering or perhaps starting in a more junior position than you might be aiming for. Showing your passion, and demonstrating relevant knowledge and previous volunteering experience in the targeted sector are essential.

Not sure what to do next?

We’re here to talk over your career plans with you. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, so don’t feel you have to have it all worked out. You can book a one-to-one appointment with a careers consultant on CareerHub.

Job roles

There are a huge number of different job roles in this sector. We’ve outlined some of the major ones, with links to where you can find more information. If you can, try and talk to someone who’s doing the job you’re interested in, so you get a real flavour of what it’s like.

  • Arts administrator – plays an important part in the management and development of projects. In a small company, covers functions from marketing and managing performers and audiences, to handling finance and insurance. In larger companies, the role may be much more specific, e.g. focusing on education, front of house administration, etc. The Prospects Arts administrator job profile provides further details.
  • Museum/gallery curator – manages collections and works of art, deals with the acquisition, care and display of items, and informs and educates the public. May also deal with fundraising, marketing, public relations and running education programmes. Check out the Prospects Museum/gallery curator job profile.
  • Exhibitions officer – responsible for the planning, delivery and installation of individual exhibitions. Specifically involved in event organisation and operations, public relations and marketing, logistics and production of publications. The Prospects Museum/gallery exhibitions officer job profile is a useful resource.
  • Heritage manager – manages and conserves heritage sites such as museums, historic buildings, ancient monuments and other properties. Focuses on balancing the preservation of historically important sites with ensuring projects are sustainable from a business perspective. The Prospects Heritage manager job profile will tell you more.
  • Historian – uses documents, maps, official records and photographs to study the past and educate the public about collections or artefacts. Has an enquiring mind and excellent research skills. Typical employers include university departments, museums and heritage organisations. 
  • Theatre manager – has responsibility for business and administrative aspects of the theatre. Needs to be commercially minded to lead marketing and publicity activities. Ensures the public get the most out of their experience when visiting the theatre. The Prospects Theatre manager profile provides further details.