Blog 🍎 School 18th February 2021

The International Guide to Studying Creative Arts & Design

Profile image of James Leach
James Leach

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

The work of creative arts & design graduates can be seen everywhere you look. Here’s our guide to studying creative arts and the careers it can lead to.

Think about the last gripping film or suspenseful drama series you enjoyed on a streaming platform (we’ve all indulged in a bit more Netflix and Disney Plus in the last year).

Try and remember the last beautifully designed website you used or saw (we’d love if you said it was the BridgeU website, but of course we’re biased).

Or think back to a time when public gatherings were a bit more commonplace and you went to a really memorable exhibition or concert.

All of these everyday pleasures were likely the work of creative arts or design graduates, and they’re often huge contributors to economies all over the world.

So in this latest instalment of our international careers series, we’ll explore studying creative arts and design-based subjects in a bit more detail.

We’ll look at the different careers that your students could look forward to and we’ll provide you with a brief overview of some of the specialist universities, colleges and institutions that offer creative programmes.

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Creative career paths: busting the myths

Before we go any further with this latest instalment in our international careers series, it’s perhaps worth reflecting on some of the most common myths surrounding creative arts and design pathways.

In some countries and cultures, creative subjects are perceived to be ‘softer’ subjects than those such as business, science, engineering or law. Often, they have gained a reputation for being less challenging and less likely to lead to a lucrative or high paying career.

But in actuality, creative arts and design disciplines can equip students with a lot of really useful and transferable skills for the workplace. What’s more, with a strategic and proactive approach to career planning, students can ensure that their creative passions do translate to a rewarding and highly paid career path.

Let’s quickly examine some of the common myths that sometimes surround studying creative arts & design degrees…

Myth 1: Creative degrees don’t leave students with practical skills

Some students (and sometimes their parents) may believe that creative and arts degrees are wonderful outlets for, well, creative expression, but ultimately don’t equip students with the practical skills needed for the world of work.

In truth, creative, arts and design-based subjects can help students to develop a whole wealth of skills that employers increasingly value. We’ll cover these in a bit more detail later.

Myth 2: Creative arts and design graduates struggle to land a job

Your creatively-minded students may come to you with concerns that their passions won’t translate into a good job when they graduate. Depending on what high school subjects they have studied, some of these students may feel that there are other, ‘safer’ degree programmes they should consider instead e.g. a STEM courselaw or business. 

But there are plenty of opportunities for your students to gain work experience or generally build their creative CV to help them land a lucrative job later in life. Once again, it’s a question of good planning and strategy! 

Myth 3: Creative degrees aren’t as academically challenging

Because creative, arts and design disciplines aren’t considered core academic subjects in some international curricula, this can also lead to the perception that they are somehow less challenging than ‘traditional’ academic subjects. 

The truth is that these subjects and their associated majors and degree programmes, do require a lot of hard work if your students are to become true specialists in them. 

Let’s put it this way – if creative, arts and design look easy, it’s only because there are a lot of talented people out there who make it look easy

What are creative/arts-based qualifications?

The umbrella of creative and arts covers a range of disciplines, both theoretical and practical. These include subjects and skill sets such as:

  • Photography
  • Film and animation
  • Graphic design
  • Fine art 
  • Drama & dance  
  • Creative writing 
  • Music 

Let’s quickly examine some of the common myths that sometimes surround studying creative arts and design degrees…

What can students do with a creative/arts-based qualification?

As we mentioned above, creative degrees and qualifications will offer students practical skills to excel in a number of career paths. These skills include project management, entrepreneurship, emotional intelligence, independent learning and problem-solving.  

Arts graduates can go on to work in sectors such as art and design, leisure and tourism, the media, film or television industry, the voluntary or charitable sector, education, government/politics or the tech sector (the BridgeU content team have some experience of this last job!) 

What does a creative/arts-based qualification typically look like?


Creative and arts-based qualifications will vary depending on the type of institution students choose to apply to, and the pathway they choose to follow. 

For example, many drama, dance or performance-related degrees will often have more of a practical element, especially if these qualifications are taught at specialist institutions like a drama school or a school of music. 

Some degrees may also offer work experience, and/or the opportunity to present their work at exhibitions or trade shows. 


Most creative degrees will typically be 3 or 4 years in length. This may include a year of work experience or a work placement. The only exception to this is studying towards an architecture degree, which can take 5 years.


Again, this will vary depending on the field that your students are interested in, but for the most part creative and arts degrees will be assessed through a mixture of exams and coursework. 

For example, fine art and design students may be asked to complete a portfolio of work that will then be assessed. Likewise, drama, performance or dance-related degrees may require students to put on a play, a performance or live show that will form part of their final degree. 

Studying Creative Arts & Design: Hear from Leeds Arts University & Pace University

Postgraduate options

Though a postgraduate qualification isn’t essential to get a job, there are many options. Many of these qualifications allow students to build on those skills that they developed at the undergraduate level, with postgraduate degrees often providing a greater degree of specialism. 

Here’s just one example. A student who had studied film or theatre studies at the undergraduate level may decide that he/she wishes to work towards a postgraduate qualification in editing or post-production, thereby helping to set them apart in the film and television industry. 

Where should students apply for creative/arts-based qualifications?

This will depend on what students want to specialise in. Almost every major international study destination has several specialist arts-based institutions or boasts renowned creative arts courses. 

In some countries, there are regions or areas with particularly high concentrations of arts institutions. For example, in the UK and South-East of England, there are many high profile drama schools and arts and fashion schools. 

Likewise, states in the northeast of the USA are home to several specialist institutions for art and design – these include the Massachusetts College of Art and Design & The Rhode Island School of Design. 

But of course, these aren’t the only options in their given country. Perhaps more than any other discipline, the type of institution your students decide to attend will depend on the creative qualification they want to pursue.  

How can students make their applications stand out?

It goes without saying that students applying for creative degrees will need to demonstrate their creativity – especially in the field they are interested in. Here are some questions they can consider:

  • Have they undertaken creative projects in their own time, e.g. painting, crafts, film/video projects?
  • Have they taken part in a dance or theatre performance – whether at school or independently?
  • Do they play a musical instrument?
  • Do they have any relevant digital skills, e.g. web design, blogging?

Other routes into the creative arts

We should point out that many of the creative arts subjects we’ve mentioned above don’t require a degree. There are institutions in countries like the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, that allow students to take vocational qualifications in creative and design-related subjects.

We hope that this guide will help you advise your students who are interested in studying creative arts and design-based qualifications. If you’d like information on 5 more popular subject pathways, download your free International Careers Handbook.

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