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Looking for a job that will help you flex your creative muscles? Well, the good news is: there’s plenty of work to be found. The creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy, contributing more than £50 billion to the economy every year. (NESTA 2011). The influence of art, design and media has never been so important in everyone’s lives.

But how do you get started? Do you know what kind of degree might you need, how you can get work experience and where can you find an outlet for all your creative work?

We’ve been looking into what’s required to get a headstart on working in creative industries such as fashion design, architecture, graphic design and the arts. With the help of our friends at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) we’ve uncovered some of the key skills you’ll need to consider.

Life skills

First of all, think about what you can already offer. No matter what degree you are going for, there are certain life skills that will help you gain a place and - once you get started - help you to succeed. To make your mark in the creative industries, you'll need a skill-set that includes entrepreneurship, teamwork, problem-solving skills and an ability to think critically and objectively.

The right course will help you develop these attributes further - so you're not simply learning what you need to pass the course, you're also developing as a person to become more attractive to potential employers.

What to look for in your course

Creative degrees span a number of subjects, so it's crucial to visit the institutions you're considering so you can get an idea of how it's set up. Make sure you go to open events and see for yourself all of the different work that students create and the facilities that you’ll have to practice on.

You need to make sure you’ll have the right mix of theory and practice and you’ll want to ensure you’ve got access to industry-standard facilities. For example, some of the facilities on offer at UCA include:

  • Industry-standard Gerber suite for fashion-pattern cutting
  • High-end computers loaded with the latest software for animation, architecture and digital design
  • Extensive photography facilities including darkrooms, studios and a range of film and digital photography equipment
  • Workshops for ceramics, glass, wood and metals
  • Studio spaces and workshops for painting, sculpture, fashion and filmmaking
  • Journalism and broadcasting facilities including a TV journalism room with live news feed, a TV studio with viewing gallery and radio suites.

UCA is running a number of open days throughout January

In the workplace

Although there is work to be found in the creative industries, you’re likely to come up against fierce competition for any vacancies. Key to making yourself stand out is a course that will give you workplace experience. Before deciding on a course, find out what kind of industry exposure you can expect.

Universities such as UCA will regularly invite visiting lecturers from across the creative and commercial world. This ensures that you’re learning from a wide variety of experts – and hearing from many different points of view and perspectives.

On top of that, UCA’s lecturers are closely connected to their respective industries and each is an active practitioner in their field. Being involved in a lecture with someone who’s still working in the business is enormously rewarding – and also relevant to the industry as it is right now.

A ‘must-have’ for the majority of students will be the opportunity to undertake a work placement. Getting work experience during your studies is a fantastic way to make contacts in industry and is a great addition to your CV, so find out whether your chosen university will help you to find a placement and offer advice on the right one for you.

Students at UCA work at all kinds of companies, including global brands such as Alexander McQueen, Apple, BBC, Nike, Tate Modern and Versace.

Naomi Hiscoe began her career with a year's work experience in Australia
Your work placement might be further afield than the UK, too. Naomi Hiscoe began her fashion career studying for a degree in European Fashion Design at UCA Rochester. The course allowed her to undertake a year’s work experience in Australia, where she built up her portfolio with a variety of businesses, from shoe designers to milliners.

Upon graduating in 2004, Naomi was offered a full-time fashion design position at Discovery Group, which was one of the companies she had visited for work experience.

Of her seven years working in Australia, she has spent nearly six working for the iconic Australian brand, Sportscraft – designing womenswear and being heavily involved in the Olympics, which has allowed her to continue travelling.

"Having work experience on my CV opened so many doors as I already had industry experience before entering my first job," says Naomi.

Want to find out more? Download UCA's guide to creative careers.