Explore your career options

  • Explore your career options

Destinations of QUB Arts graduates

A survey of graduates six months after graduation reveals that QUB Arts graduates have recently gone into the following roles:

Drama– teacher, audience development assistant, marketing executive, analyst.

Film/Production– camera trainee, junior editor, assistant videographer, film instructor, blogger.

Music – music lecturer, music tutor, singing teacher, theatre group accompanist, sound engineer, trainee teacher, trainee accountant, digital banking advisor.

As with all programmes at all universities, some graduate destinations 6 months after graduation are not graduate level work. There can be many reasons to explain this including saving for further study, getting relevant work experience, self-employment or wanting to take some time-out. 

Portfolio Careers– arts graduates often develop their careers by working on a range of projects to build their portfolio. Networking is essential for finding work, as is contacting potential employers speculatively to be considered for new projects. It is also important that freelancers add to their portfolio of skills so that they can deliver to a variety of projects.

Making time for good career planning, reviewing these careers resources and taking advantage of opportunities to Go Further will help to ensure that you fulfil your career potential. If you wish to book an appointment to discuss your options and plan your career you can do this through MyFuture.

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Where have previous Queens Arts graduates gained employment? 

As is common in the arts sector a number of graduates are self-employed or working freelance, in particular Music graduates. Typical employers include; The Lyric Theatre, The Lowry Theatre Group, Acorn Film & Video Ltd, Camlin Group, Kaboom Post Production, Audiences NI, Queen’s University, various schools and colleges.

Other employers who have recruited arts graduates include; Visit Belfast, The Steensons Ltd, Deloitte, Allen and Overy, Market Resource Partners, Hill Vellacott, Santander, Icon Connect.

“Thinking outside the box” – Mash Direct recruited a Film Studies graduate as a videographer!

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Acting

There is no single route to becoming an actor. Involvement in drama through university, youth theatre or amateur dramatics is essential. Experience as an 'extra' offers an insight into work in the profession and could provide a useful network of contacts. Work as an extra can be found through agencies such as The Extras Dept and Uni-versalExtras Ltd. Getting involved locally will also help you start to make industry contacts. For example, join the university drama society, volunteer at a local theatre, ask to sit in on rehearsals or shadow a professional.

Actors can find employment in reparatory companies, commercial theatre, fringe theatre or small theatre groups. Theatre in education companies and youth theatre groups engage young people in theatre and drama activities often linked to the national curriculum. A teaching qualification and/or experience may be beneficial. 

TV and film companies offer fixed term contracts and the internet is a growth area for acting, either through 'viral' marketing videos or extra online content related to films and TV programmes. Some video games include acting opportunities using 'motion capture' technology. 

Museums, heritage organisations and tour companies increasingly employ actors as living history interpreters, which may involve role-playing a character from history and talking to visitors. 

It is essential to be proactive and establish a network of contacts, as few vacancies are advertised. You must be prepared for the ups and downs and the lack of security, which is inherent in the profession. Most actors spend time in other types of jobs and so have built up a range of transferable skills, which may help them move into related careers, such as teaching or lecturing, drama therapy or training. Some use positions as marketing or box office staff at theatres to support their acting career while working in the same or similar environment.

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Arts Administration 

Arts administrators work in a range of organisations such as arts festivals and centres; community and disability arts organisations; dance companies; local authorities and arts councils; theatres, galleries and museums.

The type of work will differ greatly between organisations depending on the size and service provided. Many of the above rely heavily on funding, which then affects the staffing structure they can maintain.

It is important to get experience in arts projects and events while at university. For example, promoting a drama society; writing reviews of productions; organising and gaining sponsorship for events. Consider volunteering or taking a temporary job as your first step into an arts administration career. This may provide a platform from which you can demonstrate your creative and administrative ability and allow you to network with other arts administrators.

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Community Arts 

Pre-entry experience in the field of community arts is important and a portfolio of experience in delivering projects may be sought when applying for jobs. Many community arts groups and initiatives rely on volunteering and it may be possible to get involved in a range of projects in a voluntary capacity or through internships.

Regional arts councils hold lists of local community arts activities, organisations and events:

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Film and Television Production 

Starting your career in film and television production can be challenging as there is strong competition for roles. Work experience, whether paid or voluntary, is essential for building your CV and portfolio.  Continuous learning and networking are important to finding and securing roles, as is a proactive attitude.

Many people in film and television start out as runners, supporting production staff on film and television sets. This is a good way to learn about the production process and gain valuable contacts in the industry. Also, make use of the projects you can take on at university to build your portfolio.

It is helpful to develop a portfolio, showreel or soundreel of your work that you can send to companies to illustrate your talent. Entering competitions such as Jameson First Shot and showcasing your material at festivals and other events are also ways to get yourself noticed.

Potential employers are mostly broadcasting/film/video production and post-production companies, along with a small number of opportunities in animation and interactive media.

Large television production companies include BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Sky. A wide range of small-scale film and television production companies are listed in media directories, such as: The Knowledge and Kays. Locally NI Screen lists local production companies.

Besides film and television production companies, job opportunities can also be found across a range sectors including corporate business, charities, universities, marketing , advertising and other creative industries. 

Jobs directly related to your degree include: 

Broadcast engineer

Cameraman

Film/video editor

Location manager

Lighting technician

Programme researcher broadcasting/film/video

Television/film/video producer

Television production coordinator

Sound technician

Runner

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Media

A good way to get relevant and practical experience in this area is through the MEDIA (Media Employability Development In Action) Programme, available to AHSS students in first and second year. The Gown and The Tab are also opportunities to write and be published.

Broadcast Journalist- research, investigate and present news and current affairs content for television, radio and the internet.

Broadcast Presenter- the public face, or voice, of programmes broadcast on television, radio and the internet.

Commissioning Editor- identify books or media products to publish in order to build up a publisher's list, commission work by finding authors or responding to book proposals, rather like that of a buyer.

Editorial Assistant- requires excellent grammar and communication skills and a keen interest in publishing.

Lexicographer- write, compile and edit dictionaries for both print and online publication. These include English for native speakers, English for learners of English, technical, e.g. law and bilingual, for native speakers or learners of English.

Magazine Features Editor- responsible for the content and quality of their publication and ensures that stories are engaging and informative.

Media Planner- identify which media platforms would best advertise a client's brand or product. They work within advertising agencies or media planning and buying agencies.

Newspaper Journalist- research and write stories for national, regional and local press. On smaller newspapers journalists have to multitask; they may work on layout, photography and sub-editing as well as write stories.

Programme Researcher- provides support to the producer and production team, including contribute ideas for programmes, source contacts and contributors, collect, verify and prepare information for film, television and radio productions.

Writer- you will need to be creative, organised and disciplined and possess excellent research skills along with a passion for the written word.

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Museum/Heritage Roles 

Roles in this sector are difficult to secure and those that do come along attract a lot of applicants. The key is to build as much relevant voluntary experience as possible, network and proactively seek out opportunities. Further study is usually required for many of the specialist job roles in this sector which include Archivist, Curator and Conservator. The Museum Jobs website will give you an idea of the type of job roles within the sector and qualifications and experience required. For local opportunities keep an eye on the Northern Ireland Museums Council

Museum education officer- deliver programmes of learning and participation, work both within galleries and museums and also in a community context.

Museum/Gallery Curator- manages collections of artefacts or works of art. This includes dealing with the acquisition, care and display of items with the aim of informing and educating the public.

Museum/Gallery Exhibitions Officer- responsible for planning, developing, organising, marketing, administering, producing, buying/sourcing and maintaining individual permanent or travelling exhibitions.

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Music/Drama Therapy

Music and drama therapists use their talent creatively to help their clients address social, emotional or physical difficulties.

Professional registration is dependent on successfully completion of a postgraduate qualification approved by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). Other requirements include evidence of sustained interest and engagement in music and/or drama and significant relevant work experience, paid or voluntary, with children or adults in a caring role.

Many music therapists and drama therapists work freelance or are self-employed. Their clients may come from a range of backgrounds, seeking different types of therapeutic support for specific or general issues. Work can be found with prisons and probation services, psychiatric hospitals and day centres, services for adults and children with learning and emotional difficulties.

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Music Performance

Competition is tough in the music industry, but a love for your style of music combined with the determination to succeed should improve your chances. Whatever your genre of music, you'll need to get practical experience. Get involved with relevant orchestras, choirs, music societies, bands and solo musicians at university and in your local area. Although some jobs and auditions are advertised in the music and entertainment press, one of the most common ways to learn of vacancies is via word of mouth and networking. Introduce yourself as much as possible, making the most of your professional contacts and keep up with social media to promote yourself. The Big Music Project is a good source for internship opportunities in Northern Ireland and nationally. Other vacancy sources include:

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Music Technology/Audio Production

Practical experience is usually a pre-requisite to securing work as a sound technician. Part-time work or placements can be found in recording and editing studios, or community and hospital radio stations. You can get involved in projects such as doing the rigging and sound for amateur theatre or local musicians. Anything that helps to create contacts in the industry will be useful. Many sound technicians are freelancers and work across different sectors of the sound industry. It is important to make your own contacts by networking and making speculative applications. Attend media events and conventions to network with people in the industry and develop useful contacts. Specialist directories that provide useful contacts when making speculative applications for freelance work include: Kays, KFTV, Pact- Find a Member

Gaming- Prospects

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Research

If you are interesting in contributing to the body of knowledge about your subject, a career in research is worth considering. Research Councils UK have a collection of case studies of researchers which give an insight into life as a researcher and the different career paths some researchers take. An Academic Career provides more information about this career route. A postgraduate qualification (most often a PhD) is likely to be required.  Jobs and some PhD studentships can be found on Jobs.ac.uk. More PhD opportunities can be found on findaphd.com.

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Teaching

In Schools: A recognised teaching qualification is essential to find work in this area. The Department of Education Northern Ireland has general details about Initial Teacher Education (which includes the PGCE). The Universities and Colleges offering the training also have information on their websites which include how to apply and the closing dates e.g. Queen’s Initial Teacher Education (PGCE) information.

Get Into Teaching offers support for graduates wanting to teach science subjects in GB and offers a fully funded subject knowledge enhancement course (SKE) before starting your training if you want to specialise.

PGCE courses are competitive to get into so interested students are recommended to: 

  • Gain experience of working with young people of the age group you hope to teach – usually gained through voluntary work.
  • Get an insight into what work as a teacher is like by trying to arrange to speak to a teacher to ask them about their job, and/or try to get some classroom observation experience. You may also be able to arrange visits through personal contacts or with schools where they were once a pupil. It may be possible to arrange with a local school via a speculative application.
  • Keep up-to-date with what’s happening in Education via the Times Education Supplement and the Guardian’s Education section.
  • Apply early.
  • These interview tips are useful when preparing for the course interview.

The Teach First Leadership Development Programme recruits high achieving graduates to work as teachers in some of the most disadvantaged schools in England and Wales.  Its 2 year programme combines this work with business skills training, internship and mentoring opportunities. At the end of the programme around 50% stay in the teaching profession in a leadership position, the other 50% are readily employed in a variety of business areas.

The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme is an official and prestigious Japanese government scheme that sends graduates to Japan in order to promote international understanding at grass-roots level and to improve foreign language teaching in schools. Although participants teach English to school pupils, applicants for the programme can come from any degree discipline providing they hold a full UK passport.  It is a tough application process that begins in the October preceding the departure the following summer.

The TET (Teach English in Thailand) programme offers students and recent graduates a 9 week placement opportunity as a Teaching Assistant in Thailand.

In Colleges: Further Education Colleges will sometimes hire people to teach without them having teaching qualifications. These teachers will often be expected to work towards a teaching qualification and will be expected to have other relevant (vocational) qualifications and experience to offer. Colleges list job vacancies on their own websites. You can find a list of colleges on the Department of Education Northern Ireland website.

In Higher Education: University lecturers will normally be expected to have or be working towards a PhD. An Academic Career provides more information about this career route. Jobs and some PhD studentships can be found on Jobs.ac.uk. More PhD opportunities can be found on findaphd.com.

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Theatre

Roles in this area are difficult to secure. Networking is a key factor in getting work, many jobs are filled through contacts made while working, so keep a list of contacts you make in the field and stay in touch on a regular basis. All theatre experience is useful and you can learn more about the organisational structure by working with the front-of-house team, perhaps as a steward or box-office clerk. Consider other roles in the wardrobe department, with the stage crew, or in the lighting or sound departments to get experience.

For local opportunities keep an eye on Arts Council of Northern IrelandNationally, Arts Jobs online and The Stage will give you an idea of the type of job roles within the sector and the experience required.

Theatre Director– has responsibility for the overall practical and creative interpretation of a dramatic script or musical score. Most directors are usually employed on a freelance or fixed-term contract basis. They can be employed as artistic or resident directors in repertory companies.

Stage Manager- coordinates all aspects of a theatre company to ensure the successful delivery of the performance. They manage rehearsals, actors, technicians, props and costume fittings, and liaise with front of house staff and the director. They are employed by a range of employers from small touring companies to medium-sized repertory companies and large-scale commercial theatres, such as those in London's West End.

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General Graduate Options

Approximately 50% of graduate vacancies are open graduates of any subject. Some may require some additional, specialist, post-graduate training but some do not. The list is extensive but includes fields as diverse as accountancy, IT, housing management and recruitment consultancy. 

Understanding Graduate Schemes

There isn’t a strict definition, but graduate schemes tend to be defined by the following criteria:

  • Operated by large organisations e.g. Civil Service, NHS, PwC, GSK
  • Fixed term– usually 18 months – 2 years. Most people are offered permanent jobs with the organisation at the end of the fixed term. These are jobs with some additional study/support elements.  Many operate a rotational system so that graduates spend some time working in different departments.
  • Well paid– they usually have better pay and benefits than other graduate options.
  • Competitive– when you hear in the media c.80 people applying for every graduate job, it’s generally graduate schemes they are talking about. Some organisations set entry requirements of 2.1 or above and some set UCAS requirements. There is also usually a long recruitment process.
  • Timeline– most (but not all) are open for applications in autumn and many (but not all) close by December.
  • Graduate schemes are not the only route to a graduate job! Most graduates find graduate level work outside of graduate schemes.

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How do I make a decision?

There isn’t one right way to make a career decision, but there are a few things worth doing and worth considering in order to make an informed choice: 

  1. Don’t think you have to choose just one option – instead a shortlist of preferred options can be a useful strategy. Transferable skills can be gained from any type of work experience, so even if your work experience relates to one area, that won’t restrict you from moving into a different area.
  2. Think about what is important to you and look for evidence of those things when exploring your options. Look at the Relevant Job Websites for career areas that interest you to see how many job adverts you can find for that type of work you are looking for. 
  3. The above are just a few of the options related to your degree area. It isn’t a comprehensive list.  Spend some time exploring the Other Useful Websites to find other job titles and areas.
  4. Use social media platforms such as LinkedIn to develop your professional network. Look at LinkedIn’s alumni tool (Topic 5 on the LinkedIn for students website) to see the career paths of alumni on LinkedIn.
  5. Speak to potential employers at on campus events (including fairs and employer presentations). Keep an eye on MyFuture for these opportunities.
  6. Need more information– approach any contacts you have, or speculatively approach potential employers, to set-up an information interview.
  7. If you’ve managed to successfully make use of an information interview, you could ask for a brief period of work-shadowing, i.e. observing someone while they work.  As little as a few hours of work-shadowing can give you a real insight into a role and it is often easier for an employer to agree to this than it would be to agree to a period of work experience.
  8. Still can’t decide? Sometimes you can only truly get a feel for whether a certain job is for you by trying it out.  Short-term work experience for students is a great method for trying-out different jobs - see "What can I do to Go Further?" to find relevant opportunities.  If you are a graduate, remember, even a permanent job isn’t necessarily a job for life! 

If you’d like to discuss any of this with a Careers Consultant please book an appointment through MyFuture.

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