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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 2023 was £34,963
(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 0.5% more Set designer jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

As a set designer, you could:

  • study scripts, discuss ideas with the director and research details
  • communicate ideas to costume, make-up, props and lighting designers
  • work out problems like lighting and scene changes
  • sketch design ideas to produce a storyboard and create designs within budget
  • build and take photos of 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
  • an apprenticeship
  • 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

You could also do a course in performing arts production or design for film and television at some universities, colleges and drama schools.

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 do a college course to learn some of the skills you'll need for this job. Courses include:

  • 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 do a Scenic Artist Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship.

This usually takes around 2 years to complete as a mix of study and workplace learning.

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
For more information

You could start in a junior position and work your way up. For example, you could start as a:

Volunteering and work experience

You'll find it useful to build a portfolio of your design work to show to potential employers. This might include sets you've designed for amateur theatre, school plays or films.

To get experience to include in your portfolio, you could get involved in:

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

More information

You can find out more about working as a set designer from ScreenSkills and other creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.

More information

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With experience, you could work on larger 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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