Set designer

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Set designers design and create the settings for commercials, television, theatre and films.

Salary range: Variable

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How to become a set designer

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
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University

You can study for a higher national diploma or degree in a relevant subject, like:

  • fine art
  • interior design
  • 3D design
  • theatre design

Several universities, colleges and drama schools also offer courses in performing arts production or design for film and television.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

More information

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College

You could learn some of the skills you need for this job through a college course like a Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Production Arts.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course

More information

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Apprenticeship

You may be able to get into this job through a creative and digital media advanced apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

More information

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Work

You could start as a set designer’s assistant, art department trainee, prop maker or a runner in film or TV and work your way up.

Volunteering and experience

You should find practical experience and build a portfolio of your design work to show to potential employers. You can get relevant experience by getting involved in:

  • student theatre or film
  • local amateur or community theatre
  • low-budget independent films

More information

Career tips

A DVD or online portfolio showing sets you’ve designed for amateur theatre, school plays or films would be useful.

Further information

You can find out more about working in set design from Creative Choices.

You can get more information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • studying scripts and discussing ideas with the director
  • communicating your ideas to costume, make-up, props and lighting designers
  • working out problems like lighting and scene changes
  • researching historical, contemporary or futuristic details to get the right look for the production
  • creating effective designs within the available budget
  • sketching design ideas to produce a storyboard
  • building and photographing scale models

Working environment

You could work in a theatre, in an office, on a film set, in a creative studio, from home or at a film studio.

Your working environment may be physically demanding and outdoors some of the time.

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Career path and progression

With experience, you could work on larger and more prestigious film, TV and theatre productions.