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Creative arts

The visual and performing arts are as old as civilisation itself. Years ago, creative talent used to be nurtured by patrons who would sponsor the development of individual artists and overall artistic technique. These days, many choose to pursue their passion through formal study. Browse Creative arts courses by state
So far as academia is concerned, this is one of the newer fields of study. While university is an option, some of the most established providers with the best reputations are specialist private providers, and many courses are available in the vocational sector.The rebranding of creative arts as the ‘creative industries’ in some institutions has led to a shift in the profile of the field. Where the arts used to be confined to museums and galleries, the ‘creative economy’ now drives all types of business and organisations. Thanks to the digital medium, more artists now work in corporations as well as in studios, with a significant number of those qualified in creative arts working outside specialist creative organisations. This also reflects a new appreciation of the arts as a potential export industry, following the high-profile growth of Australia’s popularity as a film production entity and the internationally renowned success of many Australian artists, including actors, animators and authors.For more information about careers in this field, refer to the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, National Association for the Visual Arts and Live Performance Australia websites.If you are interested in this field you might also consider browsing through some of the specialisations in humanities and social sciences, communications and education and training.
VET study in creative arts
Courses and specialisations
VET courses in the creative arts field cover a wide variety of performing and visual arts, with courses available from lower-level certificates through to advanced diplomas. Specialisations include — but are not limited to — acting, animation, arts administration, ceramics, dance, desktop publishing, fashion design, fine arts, music, printing and graphic arts, screen and stage management. Some of these specialisations are also available in the higher education sector, so look out for pathway opportunities if your intention is to climb the qualifications ladder.
Where to study
Courses in the field are offered both at TAFE institutes and private VET providers, so you won't have trouble finding a course to suit you. That being said, some institutions may have larger creative arts faculties than others, better facilities or a better offering of specialisations, so we recommend doing your research.
Career opportunities
Many VET graduates of creative arts courses will wind up being artists (painters, jewellers, ceramicists and so on) or the technicians who support them. However, careers in the graphic design and multimedia industries are also a good option for VET graduates with relevant qualifications. In fact, VET courses are highly regarded in these fields because of the skills-based training and technology focus that characterise the sector. Other specialist occupations, such as printing, are only available to qualified VET graduates. Whichever area you choose, VET study will always do a good job at providing practical knowledge of how the relevant industry works. At certificate level you will learn basic skills, but the diploma and advanced diploma courses are the ones to look at if you’re interested in more advanced training. See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Undergraduate study in creative arts
Courses and specialisations
The following are just some of the majors you can study in this field:
  • Acting
  • Animation
  • Costume design
  • Dance
  • Fashion design
  • Graphic design
  • Music
  • Performing arts
  • Theatre
  • Visual arts
As you can probably tell, creative arts is a big field as far as courses and specialisations go. You will find that there are some broad and general areas (such as drama, music and painting) as well as some very niche areas (circus arts, for instance). At the undergraduate level, you can find yourself studying anything from art theory, cinematographic make-up, costume design, musical theatre and fashion to illustration, photography, silversmithing, theatre crafts and vocal studies.
Where to study
So, where do you go to become an animator, graphic designer, photographer, opera singer or circus performer? Universities are one option, although they have not always been the traditional territory for visual and performing artists. Some have inherited or incorporated specialist colleges of art or performing art, which date back many years. Some of these specialist schools are among the most prestigious in the country, whether for visual arts, dramatic arts or music. This is one of the fields in which small, specialist private providers are often the brightest stars in the education galaxy. Entry to some institutions may be difficult.This is not a field where you’ll be in lectures all day long, meaning that the physical infrastructure, experience of teaching staff and opportunities to exhibit and perform are going to be vital. Make sure you check out what’s on offer at each institution. Courses will often include activities such as performances and studio and gallery visits. Some specialist institutions even have their own resident artists and galleries, which immerse and nurture students within a real artistic community.See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
Most people in the visual and performing arts industry work in backstage roles that range from film design and sound production to administration, so there are courses to reflect this side of the business as well. If you’re concerned about getting a job and ensuring a secure future, you might consider something like graphic design, which is artistic but still gives you the chance to work outside the arts in businesses or private firms.As an additional incentive to study in this field, the ArtStart program provides financial help to creative arts graduates to establish a career in the industry. Graduates are eligible to apply for grants of up to $10,000. Applicants must have finished a creative arts course (at certificate IV level or above) within the last three years or be nearing completion upon application, completing their course before the project start date for each ArtStart round. Bodies such as Creative Partnerships Australia also work to increase investment in the arts and cultural sector.We know this won’t deter you, but keep in mind that creative arts is a small field with few employment options. In 2014, 56 per cent of creative arts graduates were still looking for work four months after course completion — more than in any other field. Job prospects might differ between specialisations and perhaps also across different institutions, but probably not by much. Interestingly, university graduates from this field are not satisfied with their experience overall, but rate the quality of teaching highly. Almost a third of undergraduates go on to further study. Graduate starting salaries are below average at $43,113.See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Postgraduate study in creative arts
Courses and specialisations
As you would expect, many of the specialisations in this field focus on the practical development of skills in the visual and performing arts, such as music, theatre and painting. These traditional artistic fields are now complemented by programs in newer fields such as graphic arts and industrial design. These programs are usually practical, but there are big differences in the extent to which the various institutions demand that students both perform or practise an art or craft and analyse or comment on it. You should pay close attention to program outlines to ensure the course caters to your specific needs. Other programs are focused ‘behind the scenes’ of the industry, such as costume and set design. There are more again that focus on the theoretical side of the discipline, such as art history. Many postgraduate programs are designed for those who have already dedicated their undergraduate study to some aspect of the creative arts, but there are also programs suitable for those who have degrees from other fields. Entry requirements vary accordingly. Depending on the focus of the course, the entry criteria might be defined in terms of academic qualifications or use performance or practice track record as the sole criterion.
Where to study
The quality of programs in this field can vary, and, for many graduates, work is difficult to find. For these reasons, those contemplating further study in this field are urged to shop with particular care. Although courses are readily available at most universities and many private providers, this is one of the fields where students have very defined interests, so ensure that any course or institution you consider meets your needs. If you are interested in undertaking a research degree (along with almost half of the postgraduates within the field), you probably already know which institutions have established research programs, both in your specific area and in the wider field. Still, it is a good idea to scope out potential supervisors and the level of support that postgraduate researchers receive in the department or school you are considering. This is also a field where it helps to workshop your concepts with like-minded people, so consider finding a program that is popular among research students.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
According to the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey, those completing postgraduate programs in the creative arts field were very satisfied with quality of teaching and the skills they gained. Graduates surveyed often had trouble finding work, with 31 per cent still seeking work four months after graduation. Those who did secure work were poorly paid compared with those in other fields, with salaries sitting at an average of $64,566. See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
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