Saying you want to study a creative degree is often met with scepticism. It can be seen as an “easy” route and an unrealistic way of earning a living. Last year, the Onward thinktank advised the government to steer students away from creative degrees, arguing that graduates tend to earn less than their more academic peers and are less likely to pay back their student loan. However, this is a linear way of looking at the value of a degree, equating this with earning potential and not realising that a fulfilling career isn’t necessarily one which pays well.
However you decide to look at it, you can’t escape the creative industries. Everybody consumes the arts each day, from the TV and radio we listen to, right down to the graphic design on the label of our tin of baked beans.
Think about it…
Who is your favourite band? What is your favourite TV programme? Favourite film? Book? Now imagine how many people it takes to produce each of those things. Just for a film, say, you have the scriptwriter, agents, actors, set designers, cinematographers, make-up artists, costume designers… the list goes on. Now imagine not being able to have any of your favourite media because, when these people were at school, their elders discouraged it, telling them a creative degree wasn’t going to get them anywhere, and instead they should choose a ‘sensible’ career, like law or engineering. Imagine just a week of not being able to consume anything from the creative industry. What would you have to go without? Television programmes, films or cinema, music, magazines, art on the walls, books, drawings, dance, videos, and much more. Life would be pretty dull.
So, while we need people in more ‘academic’ careers, we also need people in the arts. Creative professionals are vital to day-to-day life and it’s important to get the right training. Here’s a look into the different sectors and tips for picking the right university to ensure you’re on the right track after graduation.
You can study drama or an acting-based degree in most universities and this saturation can make it hard to know where to apply. Acting is a difficult career to break into and doing your research will set you at an advantage. In general, there are five top schools to study at:
- Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)
- London Academy of Performing Arts (LAMDA)
- Guildhall School of Music and Drama
- Central School of Speech and Drama
- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Studying at one of these will grant membership with Spotlight, the industry’s leading casting platform. Membership will make it easier to find acting jobs.
There are a growing number of universities offering this degree. To get an idea of which course might suit you there’s a few details to check:
- Form of writing: if you already know which form of writing you like best (script, prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc.) then look at the modules on offer and which ones will most benefit your style. If you’re unsure on what your primary form may be, look for courses that offer a good groundwork of all in the first year.
- Look at the lecturers: find out who you will be taught by and do some research into them as a writer. Generally, if someone has work published, they are going to have more experience and can give you better advice about the industry.
If you want to study music, it’s likely you’ve considered if it should just be a hobby. However, it is possible to sustain a career in the music industry, whether that’s as a teacher, performer, session musician, producer, or studio technician. To be successful it is important to learn as much as you can and so a degree is helpful.
- Before you apply: it is a good idea to take music exams, so the university has evidence of your ability. They’ll usually look for qualifications from The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) or The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM).
- Practise performance: play your music to an audience, even if it’s just to your parents, siblings or friends. This will help with nerves when you come to an audition and improve your confidence.
- Look at the lecturers: check if the people teaching you are relevant to the sort of music you want to make. If the university has a high proportion of lecturers from classical backgrounds, and you want to go into commercial music, you may want to apply somewhere else. It is also useful to see if the on-campus music facilities will cater for your genre and style.
Fine art gives you the opportunity to express yourself through a range of mediums and explore new techniques, materials and theories. Fine art is taught in many universities and often to a very high standard, which can make choosing the right course difficult.
- Facilities: find out how much access you have to the university’s art studios and whether you can use them and the resources outside of lesson time.
- Modules: research each university to find out the modules they offer, and which ones might suit you best. These can include art theory, sculpture, 4D art (e.g. film and performance), and print.
- Location: while some universities might seem higher in the league tables, it’s important to get a sense of the place you will be living for 3 years. Try to pick a university location that will help to inspire your work and really spark your creativity.
Creative degrees often have high competition and limited spaces. They are not a ‘cop-out’ option and require determination to succeed. It’s important to remember that art is subjective, and one interview/audition panel may think you’re the perfect candidate, while another may turn you down. Doing your research and having an idea what the industry will be like after graduation will set you up well and give you the confidence to embark on a creative degree. Of course, some people make it in creative industries without formal training but having a good education of a subject does help! You should not be discouraged from pursuing a career that incorporates something you enjoy. After all, as the oft quoted saying goes, ‘choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.
Jessie Parker joined the team as Editorial Intern in 2020. After completing a degree in Creative Writing and Publishing, Jessie has recently had her creative non-fiction book published.