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Careers Centre

Arts administration

About this sector

You can read information about role responsibilities, salary, working hours, what to expect, qualifications, skills, work experience, career prospects and related roles on the following Prospects Job Profile:

You might also see other job profiles of interest in the Creative arts and design profiles page (which gives links to the 38 profiles in the sector).

How to gain experience/internships

There is no substitute for relevant work experience. Start to acquire it as early as you can. Use your vacations, spare evenings or weekends to help with student drama productions or concerts, look for part-time or temporary jobs front of house and in the box office, in cinemas, or in the bars and cafeterias of arts centres and theatres. The organisers of arts festivals often need temporary staff to help with administration and publicity; check out the British Performing Arts Yearbook and the The British Arts Festivals Association. Make contact with local community arts workers and find out where volunteer help is needed; bear in mind that many students gain their most valuable experience by taking on administrative responsibilities with student and amateur performances. Sell tickets, organise publicity, book outside performers - use whatever opportunity you have to gain relevant experience – but be aware that performing roles in themselves will not be relevant, and that experience with student productions alone is unlikely to be sufficient.

Temporary jobs are often the foot in the door that enables the aspiring arts administrator to demonstrate his/her creative and administrative ability and to network with other administrators. Volunteering and getting work experience can also help you discover what facet of the industry interests you most and what you are best at doing, whether it’s accounting, marketing, fund-raising, designing or other administrative processes.

Auction houses can offer paid internships – they are normally advertised via the organisations’ own websites, so it is worth looking around.

Organisations which have offered internships/seminars in the past include:

The following websites offer volunteering opportunities

Try to stay in touch with those you take any work experience with so they can keep you informed of any other opportunities that come up and so you can contact them for practical advice on how to advance your career.

If you can't find the opportunities then make them! Send speculative applications to galleries, festivals, theatres - whatever you are interested in. Using your contacts and networking can be effective ways of gaining work experience, whether it is a paid placement or the opportunity to work shadow for a day. Look at our work experience page for more information.

Finally, have a look at CareerConnect where you can sometimes find relevant vacation placements. The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies also offers bursaries for those working in museums.

How to find a (graduate) job

Although you don't need to be a graduate for a career in arts administration, the majority of administrators are graduates with practical office skills and some business sense. Your degree subject is not always significant, but can be an advantage – particularly in music administration. Vacancies usually arise when someone resigns, and posts are filled as soon as possible. Graduate entry programmes are extremely rare but not unheard of.

Though there are frequent opportunities to get into the arts sector (administrators sometimes switch jobs as they look for new challenges and employment by different types of institution), the main issue in securing a job is the sheer number of candidates applying for the same position. The vacancies that are advertised will be found in the normal media - newspapers, magazines, specialist publications and websites. As competition for jobs in the sector is always strong and many vacancies are not advertised, it is important to make and maintain contacts through events and work experience in order to hear about potential opportunities.

Most advertised jobs will ask for previous relevant experience which you may not have. Don't despair; many successful careers begin with part-time voluntary or fixed term jobs that are never advertised, but familiarity with advertisements will help you to plan your portfolio of skills so that you will, in time, have the relevant experience. Similarly, skills gained from experience of finance, marketing, fund-raising or negotiation in other sectors could provide you with the background you need, although you will have to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the arts. An option is to consider gaining experience in a different profession (e.g. administration, HR, PR, marketing) to gain the skills of an arts administrator – it can help make you more employable for such roles.


Vacancy websites:

Don't underestimate the value of making speculative applications or the importance of networking.

You may also wish to join the Arts Marketing Association (AMA) as a student member to increase your networking opportunities.

Recruitment Agencies

Relevant Postgraduate Study - is it a requirement?

Postgraduate study is not normally a prerequisite to attain an arts administration role, but it will help you develop specialist knowledge, a keener insight into the sector, and might furnish you with some industry contacts. Having a postgraduate qualification can also help you to stand out from the competition during the application stages. See here for some of the postgraduate study options in arts administration in the UK. Also see the Prospects website for further courses.

There is an increasing number of postgraduate courses in this area but you might do better to consider postgraduate study after you have gained relevant work experience. You can search for courses on the Prospects website. When choosing, be conscious of how it will be of benefit, as you will probably have to explain your choice to prospective employers who may have little experience of this relatively new area of education. Postgraduate qualifications will be of more use if you are interested in policy work at a national or international level, but research your choice of course carefully, and look at the levels of previous experience amongst course participants as well as their destinations upon graduation. Financial support is extremely limited although there may be some Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding available.

The Arts Marketing Association (AMA) supports an Advanced Certificate in Arts Marketing, in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, to provide the first accredited qualification in arts marketing in the UK. See website for details of this and other courses, as well as mentoring and networking opportunities for members.

Before deciding to take a postgraduate degree, it’s a good idea to look at the requirements of the roles you hope to work in to see whether they actually request a further degree. Also, contact alumni on LinkedIn to discover if they believe a postgraduate qualification helped them to secure a job (ask if their employers ever mentioned it being a factor in their selection). You could even talk to potential employers and ask if further study or a particular course is feature desirable in their candidates. Regardless, careers websites and most employers agree that further study is no substitute for work experience.

Key UK Resources

Online

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

General arts administration-related careers information

Professional Bodies, Trade Organisations & Journals/Magazines

Keep up to date and read Arts Professional, the leading arts management journal, for up to date news and features about the sector - also available on-line or by subscription. See also the four Arts Councils’ websites. You may also be interested in Arts Hub an online jobs, news and events information service for arts and cultural workers in the UK.

International resources

GoinGlobal

The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.

USA

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.