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Set designer

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

Annual Salary


Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

40 to 42 variable

You could work: freelance / self-employed; managing your own hours

Future employment

There will be 1% more Set designer jobs in 2026.
In your local area

Day to day tasks

You may:

  • study scripts and discuss ideas with the director
  • communicate your ideas to costume, make-up, props and lighting designers
  • work out problems like lighting and scene changes
  • research historical, contemporary or futuristic details to get the right look for the production
  • create effective designs within the available budget
  • sketch design ideas to produce a storyboard
  • build and photograph 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.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • working towards this role

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

  • fine art
  • interior design
  • architecture
  • 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
For more information

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
  • level 3 Diploma in 3D Design and Crafts
  • level 3 Art and Design

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
For more information

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 work 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 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 as a set designer from ScreenSkills and other creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

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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:

  • 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
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
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