Working in arts, craft and design with GCSEs (or similar)

With GCSEs or similar in addition to your talent, you may be able to get a trainee or apprentice job in a design studio or craft workshop. Or you might want to use your skills to set up your own studio and sell your work.

Either way, a portfolio showing off your work and skills is really important. You may be able to get your first job in the industry without studying at college or university. However, most people will have done a degree or similar to gain experience and develop their talent.

Example jobs

Graphic design trainee

Supports more senior staff to produce design work.

Trainee furniture maker

Supports more senior staff to design and produce furniture.

Fine artist or sculptor

Creates their own 2D or 3D art for sale.

Illustrator

Creates images to show different concepts, facts and feelings.

Trainee glass blower

Supports the design and creation of glassware.

Case study

I design the look of packaging and all marketing materials. This includes anything that's printed, for example, logos, brochures and exhibition panels.

Jake, senior designer at a graphic design company

Approximate pay levels

Figures supplied as a guide only

Many people work freelance or are self-employed. This means that you will only be paid for the hours you work.

If you work for yourself, you will only be paid when you sell your work. It's common for people to do a number of different projects or jobs at a time to earn a living.

pay levels graph

Typical working conditions

You might work in:

  • your own studio or workshop creating your own designs, items or pieces, selling your work in shops or at fairs
  • a company’s studio or workshop producing work under instruction or for a client
  • in an office, designing things on a computer
  • in different locations, running community projects.

Many people in the industry are self-employed or work freelance. You would need basic business and sales skills to help you do this. Hours may be long or irregular.

Qualifications needed

  • In design, many employers will expect a degree or foundation degree in a relevant subject.
  • However, GCSEs or similar in a relevant subject along with a great portfolio showing your work may be enough to get a trainee or junior role.
  • In arts and crafts you may be able to start work on the strength of your portfolio and skills alone. But many people in the industry will have done a degree or similar.
  • Employers will also want to see good English and maths skills, as well as experience of using relevant software.
  • You might want to think about further study at university or college to develop your talent.

Career path

Career paths in this industry are flexible.

  • Many people continue to gain new skills and study new techniques throughout their careers.
  • Progression and an increase in pay will come with experience.
  • You might want to work your way up in large design agencies. Or you might want to set up your own studio or workshop.

Useful links

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Design Council

Creative Choices

Creative Skillset apprenticeships