Miriam Firth, senior lecturer and academic lead for Assessments in the Flexible Learning Programme at The University of Manchester, and Elli Whitefoot, assistant careers, employability & enterprise manager at Leeds Arts University consider the outcomes for creative arts graduates
The Graduate Outcomes data offers data on five areas associated with the creative arts: fine arts, design, media studies, performing arts, and cinematics and photography.
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What do graduates do? 2023/24
Key data points
Just over half of creative arts graduates worked in full-time roles, around 10% lower than the overall average. However, almost a quarter (22.8%) worked in part-time roles, significantly higher than other disciplines (average 10.4%). Creative arts graduate unemployment remained consistent with the overall average (approximately 5%).
The number of creative arts graduates developing a creative portfolio (9.2%), running their own business (2.3%) or self-employed/freelancing (9.9%) far exceeded the numbers in other subjects (21.5% compared to 6.8%).
Fewer creative arts graduates went on to further study (4.5%) or were working and studying (8.6%) than the overall average (7.8% and 10.5% respectively).
Average salaries of creative arts graduates were around £23,000, which is below the overall average of approximately £27,000.
An average of 13.8% of these graduates went into arts, sports and leisure jobs (with a high of 17.3% for fine art graduates); 3.9% went into marketing and PR (with a high of 8.4% for media studies graduates); and 11.3% went into media and publishing (with a high of 25.9% for cinematography and photography graduates). These averages far exceed those of the overall average going into the creative industries.
Self-employment and portfolio careers are a significant factor in employment for graduates of these subjects, considerably more than across other fields.
Putting the data in context
Around 20,000 creative arts graduates completed the survey (10% of all respondents), of which 63% identified as female and 37% male.
Although employment appeared lower than the overall average, combined employment data of those whose main activity was 'paid work for an employer' with those who were undertaking enterprising activities - developing a creative portfolio, running their own business or self-employed/freelancing - totalled 78.8% for creative arts graduates, which exceeds the average across all subjects (76.1%). This reflects the creative industries, which reports 32% self-employment, compared with 14% across the UK workforce.1
The top occupations of creative arts graduates who were self-employed, running their own business or developing their portfolio were wholly creative. The top occupations of creative arts graduates working for an employer were primarily creative, although roles in hospitality, retail, teaching and administration also rated highly. Aside from the lateral move into teaching, this gives more weight to the argument that these graduates were working in non-creative part time roles to support a creative enterprise.
Average salaries of creative arts graduates were the lowest across all subject groups. However, low pay across the creative industries is a wider issue, with a recent report showing an overall median hourly rate of £2.60 per hour, dramatically below the UK minimum wage.2
Nonetheless, creative arts postgraduate earnings show a higher average positive increase after significant further study since graduation, with most other subjects showing an average decrease after graduation.
Student and graduate support
The data shows that self-employment and portfolio careers are a significant factor in employment for graduates of these subjects, considerably more than across other fields. As such, students in higher education wanting to move into the creative arts will need specialist support to cover not only core careers but also enterprise education as standard.
The AGCAS Creative Industries Task Group have recently launched a toolkit for creative arts careers.3
- Freelancers in the arts and creative sectors, House of Lords Library, 2023.
- Structurally f-cked, a-n Research, 2023.
- AGCAS Creative Industries Task Group, Padlet, 2023.
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