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Creative Media & Arts
From film, radio, and television to visual and performance arts, literature, publishing, music, theatre production, graphic design, and the games industry, the creative media, and arts industry is a highly varied and exciting part of the American workforce.
Known for creativity and innovation, as well as providing access to cultural and entertainment experiences, the American creative media and arts sector has a substantial global standing.
Additional subsectors within the industry include:
- Advertising and marketing
- User experience and user design
- Copyright, patent, and trademarks
- Museums, galleries, and libraries
- Music, performing, and visual arts
Career opportunities in this industry span anything from freelance and contract work to traditional employee contracts and long-term organizational roles.
You could work in the sector, in a hands-on position within your desired role, or a teaching role, educating others about the industry.
Creative employees can work directly for creative production organizations, or they may be what is referred to as ‘embedded’ in other organizations. This is where creative professionals work for non-creative companies but still operate in creative roles. For example, a graphic designer employed by a bank to help design their logo and website branding.
Some creative media and arts jobs offer opportunities to travel for assignments. For example, broadcasters, reporters, writers, editors, and others involved in film, TV, and radio programming may need to travel regionally or internationally to cover events or news.
There’s a significant degree of flexibility across the industry to apply skills and knowledge in multiple fields. Some skills and knowledge are transferable from one industry to the next. For example, broadcasters can work in radio, television, cable, and the internet. Writers, editors, reporters, producers, directors can apply their knowledge to the publishing field, radio, TV, film, and the Internet.
Entry into the sector is as varied as the roles available, so no matter what academic pathway you choose to pursue, there’ll be an opportunity to get started with a career in creative media and arts!
What You Could Do
Job roles in this industry tend to fall under one of two broader categories:
- Creative Services
- Cultural Production
Here’s a few examples of the types of roles you could pursue:
Creative Services Occupations:
- Advertising and Marketing such as Advertising Assistant, Advertising Coordinator, Marketing Manager, Marketing Coordinator, or Marketing Assistant.
- Graphic Design, such as Graphic Design, Graphic Illustrator, Animator, Graphic Art Director, or Creative Director.
- Software and Digital content, such as Web Developer, Web Designer, Software Developer, or Games Animator.
Cultural Production Occupations:
- Film, television, and radio, such as Producer, Assistant Producer, Runner, Lighting and/or Sound Engineer, Scriptwriter, Director, Radio Host, Actor/Actress, or Programming Manager.
- Music and performing arts, such as Stage Manager, Sound Engineer, Musician, Singer, Recording Engineer, Mixing Engineer, Label Assistant, or Songwriter.
- Publishing, such as Editor, Editorial Assistant, Publishing Agent, Writer, Book Printer, Children’s Book Illustrator, or Book Cover Designer.
- Visual arts, such as Performance Artist, Curator, Gallery Assistant, Gallery Manager, or Exhibition Production Assistant.
Five in-demand roles across the states include:
- Social Media Manager: Social media managers would use a mix of different social media platforms to highlight their businesses activities and products. They create a strategy to use across different media accounts and then use data analytics tools to monitor the success of various campaigns and adjust them as necessary. Social media managers need excellent communication, multitasking and time management, as well as creative flair to design and write content.
- Animator: Animators design and draw visual effects and animations for film and tv, video games and websites. They may use hand-drawn graphics, computer-generated imagery or model animation. Animators may be involved from initial concepts and storyboards through to building models or post-production editing. They tend to work as part of a larger team so good communication skills and teamwork are vital.
- Multimedia Developer: Multimedia developers combine video, graphics, sound, and software to create a complete finished interactive product, such as a game, website, or web portal. Multimedia developers discuss what clients need the product to do and then make suggestions around design ideas. They are involved in projects from the initial design stage, prototype creation, and testing to post-delivery.
- Digital Producer: Digital producers plan digital marketing or fundraising programs for businesses and charities. They create a strategy with clients for digital and online channels such as websites, apps, and social media, including costs and timelines. They need to be creative with reliable communication and technical knowledge of digital trends and relevant digital content management systems.
- Graphic Designer: Graphic designers create print and digital assets, design layout, logos, icons and infographics or develop advertising collateral. They use visual media such as drawing, painting, digital media to develop ideas for clients and businesses. They may develop a selection of assets for their clients to choose from, and help organisations to develop their overall visual representation as a business. They need excellent creative and illustrative skills, as well as an analytical mind to pull ideas together.
These job roles are only just scratching the surface.
Each segment of the industry will also include administrative or managerial functions that support the sector in vital ways.
Graduate Employment and Gender Split
Although a degree is not always essential for every career pathway into creative media and arts, it’s worth knowing what graduate employment looks like to help set your expectations and make further decisions.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers tracks graduate employment across different industry sectors.
Here’s a look at recent outcomes data for graduates in related degree programs:
- Communications and Related Programs Graduates in full-time employment: 59.1%
- Communications and Related Programs Graduates employed overall: 83%
- Visual and Performing Arts Graduates in full-time employment: 45.2%
- Visual and Performing Arts Graduates employed overall: 80.6%
Keeping in mind this doesn’t account for graduates who freelance or may have continued to higher studies; these are promising percentages!
The gender split across the industry depends on the segment of the sector you work within.
Reports indicate that the average split is fairly even:
Generally speaking, there is a slightly higher percentage of men, especially in more senior roles.
Current surveys in the sector indicate the median salaries for full-time creative roles as:
- Entry-level Graphic Designer Roles: $32,500-$39,800
- Senior Graphic Designer Roles: $64,200-$80,200
- Animator Roles: $55,700-$77,500
- Digital Producer Roles: $76,000-$91,500
- Social Media Manager Roles: $52,200-$72,000
Salaries can be pretty varied and determined by several factors, including:
- The segment of the industry you work within.
- Your job title and seniority.
- The amount of experience you have.
- Whether you freelance or are employed directly.
- Where you work, for example, not-for-profit organizations tend to have lower salaries than for-profit or larger organizations.
- Your location, for example, companies in large cities tend to pay more than those in rural areas.
The U.S. creative media and entertainment industry is known to be the largest in the world.
At around $717 billion, it represents one-third of the global media and entertainment industry, including various segments: motion pictures, television programs, and commercials, streaming content, music, and audio recordings, broadcast, radio, book publishing, video games, and ancillary services and products.
There were 5.2 million arts and cultural jobs in America in 2017, which accounted for 3.3% of jobs overall in the U.S. This grew by 1.2% in 2019, before taking a hit in 2020 and 2021 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dip in the industry job growth is not expected to last, as things begin to return to normal, and there is an increased demand for more creative events, and the media industry picks up overall.
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, workers in this industry are highly entrepreneurial. They are 3.6 times more likely than the total U.S. workforce to be self-employed. Around 60% of workers in the industry are employed in the private, for-profit sector – demonstrating there is still significant demand for more traditional career pathways within the industry.
The North American media and entertainment industry is the fastest growing industry that includes a vast range of product offerings and services and the evolving social media presence over the region.
Overall, with the expansion of increased digital services and more demand for digital everything, the industry is expected to grow in the coming decades. Traditional ways of working are merging with emerging technologies, so anyone pursuing a career across the sector will need to have a robust set of technical skills alongside creative ideas.
Qualifications and Entry Pathways
Entry pathways are varied and will depend heavily on the type of roles you want to get into.
For example, highly specialised and professional roles will typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, along with some postgraduate qualifications plus experience.
The degree major you choose will also depend on the segment of the industry you’re specifically interested in by some good programs to look at include:
- Mass Communications
- Multimedia Design
- Media and Culture Studies
- Creative Media and Film
- Graphic Design and Illustration
- Games Design and Development
- Film Studies
There are multiple ways to kick-start your career in this industry, and not all of them involve pursuing a degree.
Other pathway options might include:
- Scoring an apprenticeship or traineeship: You can work to gain industry-specific qualifications alongside your certificate of education and work experience through an apprenticeship in the industry.
- Work experience once you leave school: You can apply for work experience and school-leaver programs in entry-level positions and work your way up over time. Many organizations will also support you to gain further professional qualifications. You’ll need a robust skill set and good grades in Maths and English as a minimum.
Requirements will depend on the type of role you want and the company – so make sure you research.
Whether you pursue a degree or not, experience is always vital for this industry – and many others – be sure to seek out opportunities to gain work experience as you grow your career.
Whatever your circumstances, grades, or preferred way forward – there’s a qualification pathway that will work for you.
Best Places to Study
Where you choose to study will be dependent on a range of factors, but some top institutions to study creative media and arts include:
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- New York University
- University of Georgia
- University of Miami
- University of Wisconsin
- Florida State University
Where to Learn More
You can find out more about different creative media and arts industry segments through professional bodies and organizations that advocate for careers in the sector.
Some good places to start include:
And many more!
Each state will also have several professional organizations tohelp you learn more about the industry, network, and develop your career.