Design

Set designer

Set designers design and create the setting for a television, theatre or film production.

Annual Salary

Variable

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

Variable

3%
Future employment

There will be 3% more Set designer jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

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

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.

You'll usually need:

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

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.

You'll usually need:

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

Apprenticeship

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

You'll usually need:

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

Other Routes

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

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

Variable

Starter salary: £200 to £500 a day (runner)

Experienced salary: £600 to £1000 a day (junior draftsperson)

Most set designers work on a freelance basis. Freelance rates can vary widely based on the type of production and your track record.  

The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) can give you advice on pay rates.

Variable

Your working hours could be long and include evening and weekend work.

You’ll work in a studio, an office or from home. You may also travel to attend meetings with theatres or film and TV production companies.

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

Creative Skillset and Creative Careers has more information on relevant courses and becoming a set designer.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need

  • creativity and imagination
  • strong practical skills like drawing and 3D model making
  • excellent attention to detail
  • the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
  • research skills
My top 5 skills from the skills bank
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