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5 high earning jobs for art and design degrees

By Sean Campbell• Last updated: Nov 1, 2023
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Creativity and skill in Arts & Design can reap great financial rewards in your career, it’s just a case of knowing where to forge your path in the working world. 

While the world of career arts can be filled with unknowns, there’s a general, and frankly inaccurate assumption, that studying a degree in design or the arts will result in, well… poverty. But quite the opposite is true -- there’s a lot of money in creativity and the arts, as long as you apply it in the right area. 

Sure, you could absolutely use your skills to become a commercial solo artist. You might even become successful, rich and famous, but we can’t be sure of it. That’s not to discourage you though! If you’ve got a dream, pursue it.  

In this article however, we’ll instead deal with what we do know. We’ll take a look at 5 high earning jobs where you’re all but guaranteed a healthy salary with your arts and design degree. 

Which Arts and Design degrees can I study?

You can study Arts & Design as a degree in itself of course, but within the broader spectrum of the field, there are plenty of alternative options.  Most universities offer degrees in the likes of Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Creative Technology, Art History, Industrial Design, Fine Art, Product Design, and plenty more. 

There may well be some overlaps in terms of the modules you’ll cover within these degrees, so it’ll be well worth your time to look into the course content ahead of applying.  

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High paying careers in Art and Design graduates

S NoJobsAverage starting salaries
1Graphic Designer£23,000
2UX (User Experience) Designer£25,000
3Art Director£48,000
4Creative Director£50,000
5Industrial Designer£28,000

Also read: Most in demand jobs in UK

1. Graphic Designer

Graphic Design is the most popular career for arts & design graduates. Graphic designers conceptualise and work on illustrations, fonts, logos, website and app interfaces -- all to help your clients stand out from the crowd. 

In terms of your career options, you might find yourself working at an advertising, branding or creative company. Graphic design is also one of the most popular freelance jobs in the world, in case you want to avoid the office, and spend your days working from home or the local cafe. 

Not only does a graphic designer have a good amount of freedom in their work options, but the pay is pretty good too. In the UK, full time employed graphic designers earn around £23,000 to begin with, but this can rise to as much as £55,000 with the right promotions. 

2. UX (User Experience) Designer

User Experience (UX) Designers are all the rage these days. But what do they do? In short, they design the structure and foundations of websites and apps. Whereas graphic designers and user interface (UI) designers focus almost exclusively on how something should look, UX designers are concerned about how the user interacts with it. 

You’ll be focused on how users navigate sites and apps, why they might click on certain buttons, and how this can be influenced by fundamental design and programming tweaks.

UX Design salaries start at around £25,000 in the UK, but with experience you could be earning well north of £50,000. And if you build up a good portfolio and go it alone to work on a consultancy or a freelance basis, well… the sky's the limit! 

3. Art Director 

Sounds fancy, huh? Art directors come up with concepts, oversee design and creative teams, and make the final call on the visual aspects of a product. They might work in producing magazines, websites, apps, or well… anything else that can be looked at. 

Art directors will usually start their careers as junior creatives, and be promoted to a position of more power and influence as they grow in experience, time and performance. Like any senior position, it comes with great responsibility. You’ll need top leadership, communication and team working skills, as well as a keen commitment to deadlines and client demands.

Thankfully, with this added responsibility comes an added financial reward! The average art director salary in the UK is around £37,000, but this rises to £48,000 if you work in a major city like London. 

4. Creative Director 

Creative directors differ from art directors in the responsibilities they have, though there are some overlaps between the two roles. They’re both managerial positions of course, but the creative director is considered to be a slightly more senior position. While art directors tend to focus more on the visual side of things, creative directors oversee and steer a company or client’s overall brand image, vision and direction. 

Much like art direction though, creative directors delegate work to design teams, copywriters and other creatives and strategists. It’s also a role that you’re likely to be promoted into after working as a junior or mid-level creative -- it’s almost unheard of that someone starts out their career as a creative director. In fact, you might even work as an art director before climbing the ladder higher to a creative director’s role. 

Not only is it a cool sounding job title, but creative director’s get paid a handsome salary too! In the UK, the average creative director salary is  £50,000, but can be as high as  £100,000 if you get into the right company. 

5. Industrial Designer

This one is a lot more “hands on” than the likes of graphic design, but perhaps even more imaginative. If you’re creative and love making real life, physical, tangible products, then you might be an industrial designer in the making! 

Industrial design work comes in all shapes, sizes and forms -- you might find yourself designing high-end furniture, lighting fixtures, or even electronic products, vehicles, or medical equipment! 

One thing most industrial designers have in common though, is some technical nous -- they’re well versed in using computer aided software (CAD) for drafting their designs, and they tend to work closely with engineers, factories and product development teams. 

Given the huge variety in industrial design careers, the salary can fluctuate wildly, with an average of just over £28,000 in the UK. But like any creative and design field, your knowledge and imagination can take you much further. Perhaps you could design and create a whole new product,  improve an existing one, start your own design brand, and make millions in the process!

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Sean, a freelance writer, copywriter, and editor hailing from Ireland. He finds fulfillment in delving into the world of...Read More

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