What can you do with your illustration degree?

Discover employment and further study opportunities that you could consider once you graduate with an illustration degree, and learn how you can stand out to graduate employers.

We encourage you to:

  • undertake career planning and research
  • build your networks, meet employers and graduates
  • gain essential work experience during your course
  • attend career fairs and events
  • continually develop your skills and knowledge
  • get involved with relevant clubs and societies
  • visit the Careers Service for advice.

Knowledge and skills

An illustration degree gives you the perfect opportunity to develop and refine your studio skills and methods (drawing, sketching, photography, moving image, digital media, specialist software) which are essential to work as a professional illustrator, but you will also develop a broad range of transferable skills which are desired by a wide range of employers. These include:

  • developing high level interpersonal skills from discussing and clarifying client needs and agreeing a clear brief
  • utilising your creative and imaginative skills in order to develop visual ideas
  • working independently in order to manage your time effectively and meet deadlines
  • taking a flexible and adaptable approach in order to solve problems effectively and adapt ideas
  • entrepreneurial skills in marketing your work and running your own business/ being self-employed.

Career options

Studying illustration at University of Plymouth will open a wide range of career choices. You could look at channelling your artist talents by pursuing a career as a professional illustrator. If considering this you could take a more traditional path and create storyboards, animations, comic strips or content for video games and films, or produce drawings and designs for advertisements, commercials, website content or publications. Many illustrators are self-employed and look for freelance work, whilst others are employed by publishing companies or creative design/advertising agencies. To find out more about going freelance or running your own business check out our self-employment and freelancing page.

A less traditional path is working as a medical or science illustrator. Medical illustrators draw medical and surgical renderings, often for textbooks, medical journals, scientific exhibitions or medical advertising. This is a steadily growing area and there is an increasing emphasis on the use of animation. Since this is a specialist role, illustrators must have a full understanding of medical procedures and the mechanics of living organisms and anatomy.

You could also use your creative skills to inspire others and work as a teacher (primary, secondary, further education) or higher education lecturer. Teaching opportunities are also available outside of a traditional classroom setting and you could consider using your artist flair to engage with people as a Community Arts Worker.

Creative roles also include working as an animator, concept artist, graphic designer, multi-media programmer, printmaker, production designer, fine artist, special effects technician or fashion designer. Other roles include arts administration or managing client relationships as an advertising account executive.

When considering your options, remember that your physical and digital portfolio are essential to presenting your work to potential employers and evidencing your skills.

Many illustration graduates take the skills they have learnt elsewhere and find their way into less directly related graduate professions including marketing, the civil service and the charitable sector.


Researching your career options

With such a wide range of careers open to you as an illustration graduate, it is important to make sure you explore and research your options thoroughly so that you can make informed decisions about your future.

Take a look at Prospects, TargetJobs and the art association websites for inspiration:

Guild Society of Artists

Royal Society of British Artists

The Arts Society

Prospects – What can I do with my Illustration degree?


Employment opportunities

Below is a snapshot of what some of University of Plymouth illustration graduates told us they were doing six months after graduation. For some graduates, these jobs serve as ‘stepping stones’ to other roles by providing relevant working experience:

  • Artist
  • Designer
  • Editorial intern
  • Freelance Illustrator
  • Graphic Assistant
  • Graphic Designer
  • Junior Designer
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Marketing Designer
  • Marketing Manager
  • Marketing Team Administrator
  • Story Artist
  • Trainee Teacher


Employers

Further study

Some of the careers chosen by illustration graduates will require or benefit from further study, so this should be considered carefully. The University of Plymouth offers the following postgraduate study options related to illustration: 

You should consider the financial implications of further study as well as selecting a programme that suits your interests, learning style and future career direction. The following websites are a good starting point for exploring postgraduate options, but you may also benefit from talking to a Careers Consultant about your particular situation.

Some useful websites to help you find a suitable postgraduate programme:

Find a Masters

Find a PhD

Prospects

Careers Service support

Accessing support from the Careers Service couldn’t be easier, come along to the Careers Service Helpdesk in the Student Hub or access our 24/7 online resources.

There is a wide range of support available from skills workshops to events, placements and internships advice, 1-2-1 appointments and help getting started with LinkedIn.

Our bite-sized Skills Workshops can give your career the boost it needs. Choose from a range of topics:

  • effective career planning
  • job hunting techniques
  • finding part-time work
  • CVs and interviews
  • mastering LinkedIn
  • and more.

Workshops are delivered by the Careers Service, however they are also an opportunity to learn from your peers, share experiences and ask questions. Visit myCareer to see the full range of activities and to book your place.

Connect with graduates

Build your network and job sector knowledge using LinkedIn’s alumni tool. This will allow you to see the career journeys of graduates from your programme, the qualifications they completed, the skills they developed and employers they worked for. You can then ‘connect’ with people of interest:

  • search LinkedIn for ‘University of Plymouth’
  • select ‘Alumni’
  • filter the results by subject, sector, company or location.

For more information about the alumni tool select the LinkedIn alumni tool guide. If you are looking for help to set up or learn how to make the most out of your LinkedIn profile, select the LinkedIn guide for students or come to one of our workshops.

Other advice and guidance

Gain work experience

Undertaking work experience in your first and second years will help you stand out from the crowd when the time comes for you to complete applications for graduate employment and further study. Work experience develops valuable skills and qualities that employers are looking for and is essential for many roles. It can also help you to confirm or rule out particular career choices. Furthermore, experience in the workplace can bring you into contact with people who may be able to assist you at the beginning of your career.

You have plenty of options open to you. You could apply for work part-time around your studies, undertake volunteering or approach organisations directly to negotiate short periods of work experience. You could also improve your skills and experience by undertaking some freelance work, entering competitions, forming a collective or applying for commissions.

You could also improve your skills and experience by undertaking some freelance work, entering competitions, forming a collective or applying for commissions.


Consider an artist residency

An artist residency gives you a specific period of time, away from your usual distractions) during which you can engage in reflection, exploration, research and possibly discover new ways of working. No two residences are the same and can vary in terms of length, location and exhibition collaborative opportunities. To find out more visit: www.resartis.org/en/


Clubs and societies

Engaging in a sport or society shows employers you are engaged and seek out opportunities, it also helps you improve your teamwork, communication and negotiation skills. Committee members develop leadership, diplomacy and organisational skills and will gain experience of meetings, handling funds, and society promotion.

You may choose to join a society that is specifically linked to psychology such as ArtSoc or take the opportunity to explore the huge range of clubs, societies and sports, all of which can help you to broaden your horizons and explore new interests.


Tutor and academic support

Your tutor and other academic staff are an excellent source of support for your career development. They will have experience and contacts across industry and academia, so do approach them for advice and insights into careers you are considering. Your tutor will ultimately be writing references for your employment or further study applications, therefore establishing a positive relationship with this person is invaluable.