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Art and design graduates: what to expect after graduation

Career opportunities for art and design graduates: find out about the options for job contracts, self-employment and portfolio working.

Graduates from art and design disciplines enter a diverse range of industries in the months immediately after graduation, ranging from private sector employers (eg marketing, sales and advertising) to public sector services (eg education and culture).

Statistics collected by universities show that art graduates’ first destination after university may be a short-term or interim choice as they explore the options during this early period. Graduates from these disciplines tend to secure their preferred option at a later stage compared to their peers in other disciplines. In particular, many art and design graduates work part time while developing their creative work or will combine employment with further study.

Graduates of fine arts and applied arts and crafts often pursue postgraduate study combined with self-employed practice as designer-makers. This reflects the need to pursue study within a short time of completing a degree, usually to develop specific vocational or technical skills. Those with specialist vocationally related design degrees secure longer-term full-time employment contracts locally and outside Ireland. However, they will still need to develop skills that secure employability. ‘Portfolio working’ is becoming the norm, and artists and designers are adept at finding ways to keep sight of their artistic objectives while locating the money to pay the bills.

Types of job

Fine and applied arts and crafts graduates move into practice as artists, painters, and arts and craft designer-makers, as well as teachers or art technicians. More vocationally-specific design graduates progress to interior designer, junior designer, product developer or buyer where interior/spatial, product or industrial design have been degree subjects. Graphic design and communications graduates are employed as creative and graphic designers, illustrators and artistic directors.

Not surprisingly, given the flexibility and need for collaboration with other professionals, media, art and design graduates find employment outside conventional arts and design employers. Some typical employers include retail outlets, community, educational and training providers, specialist publishers, web and multimedia design services, media communications companies, and advertising and publishing companies.

Training and development

Most artists continue to practise, possibly combined with temporary and part-time employment, while pursuing further courses for their own professional development. Examples of further training following a primary degree are teacher training; computing and multimedia; higher degrees in fine arts and culture.

Alongside your creative skills, professional development is becoming increasingly important. You will need to develop expertise in professional practice – everything from pricing, to marketing and copyright, to what to put in a contractual arrangement. Project management and people management skills are also useful, as groups of artists and designers increasingly manage short-term initiatives funded by local public sector and private sector sponsorship.