Our recently produced Guide to Creative Careers outlines the career options, salary brackets and vocational outcomes of graduates in the creative arts and industries. Read comments from our graduates and industry employers about the value of tertiary study and the realities of building a creative career.
Live what you love
Creative Arts and Industries graduates have been employed across New Zealand and around the world in their chosen disciplines. While there are plenty who dream of being a full time selling artist, professional musician or dancer, every student's journey is different. Many of our graduates have also gone on to successful careers in roles which require a higher level of training and understanding in the creative arts and built environment fields, be that at a managerial or administrative level, or even inspiring the next generation of creative thinkers.
Below you will find potential career avenues for creative graduates, supported by graduate and employer comments outlining why tertiary study in the creative fields is rewarding and career enhancing.
Architecture and Urban Planning
Career options include - Architecture:
Architect, architectural historian, building technologist, computer aided design specialist, interior designer, urban designer, project manager, tertiary educator.
Career options include - Urban Planning:
Urban planner or urban designer at either city or regional level, resource consent planner, environmental planner, transport planner, heritage and conservation planner, policy analyst.
We offer programmes with the greater interdisciplinarity the world is looking for to allow for career choice.
Elizabeth Aitken-Rose, Senior Lecturer
Anya Bell - Architecture Graduate at Jasmax (Christchurch)
"I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do when I left school, all I knew was that I really enjoyed fine arts and graphics. It was during a conversation with my father that architecture first came up. Once I arrived at that decision I could see that I had always been creative and constructed objects for my dolls and toys as a child.
"I spent a few weeks working on a portfolio for my application, and I would advise people thinking about studying architecture to always check out the institution you’re interested in. Speak with students about their experiences, and also try and visit architecture firms to see what they do.
"I thoroughly enjoyed university. The ability to make, being able to be creative and produce of form of special art on a daily basis was one of the most enjoyable aspects of my university experience. Also, some of the friendships I formed during those years are still key relationships I treasure today.
"I have had the opportunity to work at both the Auckland and Christchurch Jasmax offices. I have worked on a variety of scaled projects and designs. It is a lot of fun and very stimulating learning so much on a daily basis. I am comfortable with what I am earning and my potential for growth."
EMPLOYER COMMENT - ARCHITECTURE
Nick Moyes - Principal - Jasmax
"Architecture really is a vocation rather than a job. It's something you must be passionate about, as it isn't something you leave on your desk at 5pm. It goes with you everywhere; even on family vacations overseas, you often find yourself visiting buildings and admiring architecture you’ve not been exposed to previously.
"Here at Jasmax, we are lucky to attract a handful of the top graduates each year. We have close relationships with all the major tertiary institutions which allows us to be able to identify the top students, and they're easy to pick out. They're the ones buying the books, asking a lot of questions and wanting to know the answers to everything. Those are the students who have a passion for it and they just take off when they come and work in an office like ours. After the first 18 months so or, they've had a far greater exposure to all of the different aspects of architecture and tend to know which direction they'd like to head with their careers.
"The typical New Zealand architect tends to be a great generalist, as our industry is not big enough to allow specialisation. Our graduates are involved in a really good cross section of the different types of architecture, and involved from the beginning of a project (the fun design part) right through to delivery on site (dealing with contractors and such). And you need to know that whole process to understand how the whole picture comes together. And this broad exposure is great for any Kiwi architect wanting to work overseas. Because our education and experience is so well-rounded, we rank quite highly against other candidates. Travelling as a registered architect, having sat your professional competency, makes getting a job easier and equates to a higher salary. Recently Wallpaper magazine named three Kiwis working overseas in their top 20 young architects to watch, so we're definitely competitive internationally.
"I try to teach a paper at the University of Auckland every second year. The time I spend in the University really reinvigorates my practice. I find that the naivety and enthusiasm of the students is just gold, it helps to keep me current, rather than being stale.
"For high school students, you'll find the best architects are the best generalists – not necessarily exceptional at any one subject at school, but very good at a lot of subjects. A lot of what we do is about communication and relationships so diplomacy and negotiation skills are just as important. A lot of secondary schools and tertiary programmes now develop these skills through group projects. You'll develop a lot of broad, useful skills, and then it is about finding the area of architecture you want to pursue.
"While you must be prepared to work hard, being an architect is a truly wonderful job, most of us couldn't imagine doing anything else. It becomes a passion."
Megan Couture - Planner - MWH Global
"I had no idea of where, or who, I wanted to be when I was in high school. I chose to get into planning for a number of reasons; I wanted to make a difference in people's lives, and in the places they live, work and play. Secondly, planning challenges me on a daily basis. What I do on a day to day basis can change so quickly! Currently I am working on a project where I liaise closely with members of our water and waste team, however I regularly communicate with other members of our team - transportation planners and engineers, environmental specialists and other technical specialists.
"My qualifications gave me the foundation that I needed to understand the concepts and legislation that I deal with on a daily basis, as well as a theoretical understanding of what it means to be a planner in New Zealand. I would recommend to those interested in studying planning to attend a public or university lecture. This can give you some insight as to what is required, and the courses you might want to consider at high school level.
"I love my job. I love that I am challenged, and on a daily basis I am introduced to concepts that I have never heard of. I love that I have had the opportunity to travel (to Australia and Panama) and experience new cultures and ways of living. I also work alongside some of the best planners in the country, and get to pick their brains daily."
EMPLOYER COMMENT - URBAN PLANNING
Mark Weingarth - Team Leader Resource Consents - Auckland Council
"Qualifications provide a grounding and skills that are essential in our day to day works, such as interpretation of plan provisions, understanding the flow of national legislation into the rules we administer each day, how to read law etc.
“Graduates from Creative Arts and Industries bring enthusiasm in abundance, which is refreshing for the team here. There is quite an Auckland and academic focus to their degree, which is excellent for us as graduates are familiar with the District Plan as well as people currently working for the Council, and therefore fit in quickly. All graduates are put on a training program which is invaluable and provides a sound basis going forward.
“Each year over the summer months we create intern positions which are filled by current Planning students. This gives them great exposure to day to day planners. This summer’s interns were so good we kept two of them on to help with customer enquiries. Getting a foot in the door is an incredible experience that seems to have long term benefits for us and the individual in terms of their development.”
“Planning is a skill which can be applied across the world, but here in Auckland, the Council is so large and the local economy so buoyant that there is great demand for planners, especially those with experience. If graduates work hard, there are incredible opportunities to develop their careers as fast or as slow as they wish.”
Career options include:
Professional dancer, professional choreographer, artistic director, dance teacher, community dance, dance photography, dance journalism, physical therapy, dance fitness instructor, academic research.
Twenty years ago, dance only meant dancing professionally. The career landscape is much bigger now, as dance education is more relevant in diverse contexts.
Associate Professor Ralph Buck, Head of Programme
Trudy Dobbie - Dance Teacher, Onehunga College
"My tertiary experience challenged my perceptions on what dance education is. The practical work extended me as a dancer, and now I’m able to take both the practical and theoretical lessons I had and give that to the kids here. The multicultural aspects of the degree prepared me for the community I'm in now. It made me appreciate the value of different types of dance.
"I love that dance can give people significance and self-capability, the way it did to me when I was in school. I tell my students to do what they love and enjoy and they'll find a way to make it work if they love it enough.
"I was very pleased to see that having my masters qualification lifted me up two pay scales compared to an entry level teacher with only a bachelors degree. I want to teach for a long time, and would like to move into a role which assists other teachers with the teaching resources, perhaps even joining with dance companies and business to provide a better educational experience."
Sachiko Soro - Founder and Artistic Director of VOU, Fiji's first dance company
"I always had the intention of returning to Fiji and starting up a dance company, it was a great starting point for arts education in this country and we are giving careers to locals. They can start with us as a dancer and move into costume making, design, accounting, client interaction, venue management, teaching or choreography, wherever their interests lie. We have groups based in Suva and Nadi who do cultural or themed performances. We also have a research arm - we encourage our dancers to return to their villages and document their chants and traditional dances. A lot of that tradition gets lost if it isn't passed on, so we want to research that properly.
"One of the biggest things studying can do is set you up with a can do attitude. You learn a great balance of theory and practice and both of those are so important. If I can pass on how to teach, relate to people then our dancers will be more independent, autonomous and have a stronger career path. Being a thinking dancer is more important than knowing how to point your toes."
Sachiko is also a Creative Arts and Industries graduate.
Career options include:
Artist, film and video maker, cinematographer, art auction specialist, gallery manager, artistic director, graphic designer, fashion designer, curator, teacher, photographer, journalist, critic, illustrator, film set designer, community worker, advertising account manager, entrepreneurial creative.
Contemporary students undo previous notions of work within a creative career and assert new demands and opportunities.
Associate Professor Peter Shand, Head of School
Tu Neill - Film Director and Editor
"I had been heavily influenced by my friends and family and felt like the best thing to do would be something vocational like law. It wasn’t until I started taking photography that I considered there might be more out there.
"Elam offered me a wide range of skills that are extremely useful outside of an art context as well as providing a platform for those who wish to pursue a career in art. The most valuable thing I took away was the ability to strip an idea down to its most basic elements, understand it and then re-build it in whatever form you like, still being able to communicate the idea clearly and efficiently. I think most of us came away with good critical brains and the ability to problem solve, which are skills that are applicable to many different fields.
"As a film maker, I am very busy and often juggling multiple projects at various stages of development. I work on documentary films, television and commercials, between Tokyo, London and Auckland. I have only ever been a freelancer, trying to get regular work, but I have found that very rewarding after getting through the initial stages. Financially I am more comfortable now than when I first graduated. I earn more than enough money to survive."
Richard Wormley - Visitor Experience Manager - Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
"In my role I oversee 50 Gallery Assistants who are responsible for the daily operation of the Gallery, providing information about the Gallery and its exhibitions to visitors and for ensuring the safety and protection of artworks. We look for people who are knowledgeable and passionate about art and can share that with a broad cross-section of the visiting public.
"As makers, Elam graduates can offer unique insight to the crafting of artworks and the challenges of media. A qualification or proven experience in the arts sector is important - a depth of understanding our exhibitions is an advantage when you are challenged to engage with visitors who have different levels of appreciation for what's on show. There are several senior positions in the Visitor Experience team occupied by former Gallery Assistants, and they are also in other professional roles throughout the Gallery.
"We have some full time Gallery Assistants, and some part time. This provides insight into working in a large arts organisation while leaving time for studio practice or part time study. It’s an ideal choice for graduates wishing to keep their options open as they develop the trajectory of their career."
Richard is also a Creative Arts and Industries graduate.
Professional musician, music teacher (private or public sector), arranger, composer, working in radio, recording industry, conductor, arts manager, festival director, event manager, TV/film music analyst or adviser, music therapist.
The music and entertainment industry is one of the biggest in the world, but it doesn't have the traditional career path of professions such as law or business.
Associate Professor Allan Badley.
Claire Wackrow - Projects, Live Event and Production Manager
* Projects Manager - Community and Professional Development - Learning and Participation (music), Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (London)
* Orchestra and Production Manager - Heritage Orchestra / CW Productions (London)
"I realised at some stage in my last year of school that even though I had only ever thought of working in music, I didn't actually have much interest in being an orchestral violinist.
"After completing my Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours, majoring in musicology, I spent a year gigging in Auckland before moving to London. I started out as an Orchestral Assistant with Southbank Sinfonia and progressed to Orchestra Manager. Following on from this, I freelanced in project management before joining the BBC Proms team for a seasonal contract. From there I balanced a permanent role in Community and Professional Development at Trinity Laban with various concerts, production and events freelance with BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms, the Royal Opera House and Heritage Orchestra / CW Productions.
"My musicology degree provided me with the grounding and knowledge to work in a variety of roles, and I use the skills I acquired along the way almost every day. Not just the obviously helpful skills in research, writing and presenting, but also score reading, general music history and repertoire.
"Starting out in the arts can be tough, there's no denying that. I certainly had my fair share of frugal living at the beginning, although London is a very financially demanding city. But, life takes all sorts of turns, and my experience to date is a testament to keeping your eyes open to opportunities in all shapes and forms!
"I am deeply committed to the future of the arts and music education, and genuinely look forward to seeing how my career unfolds."
Lee Martelli - Director, APO Connecting (2002 - 2015) - Auckland Philarmonia Orchestra
"I manage APO Connecting, and oversee programmes, staff, external relationships and participate in our management team. I am involved in recruitment, and look for people with excellent communication, good written skills, confidence and of course, a passion for music.
"While music qualifications are not essential, it definitely helps as it shows someone can apply themselves with dedication and commitment, which are required in our roles. We have had several Creative Arts and Industries students come through our internship programme. Their broader knowledge through having taken a range of papers in their degree is very useful.
"The players in the orchestra as well as staff are all full time positions. Career opportunities for players are promoted through travel scholarships ensuring professional development opportunities. Within staff, members can raise to management positions, however this usually requires them to undertake postgraduate study.
"While a music graduate may not immediately get a full time job in an orchestra, or arts administration, they can build up a portfolio of roles over time. Networking and gaining experience through a wider exposure to different music philosophies and other musicians gives a broader education and more possibilities."
Many faculty staff members are practising professionals who can help you to plan for the future, whether you are thinking of joining the workforce or considering further study in a postgraduate programme.
Career Development and Employment Services
Find out more about the extensive career development services available at the University:
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Career development and employment services
A career in academia is professionally rewarding and fulfilling for creative practitioners, balancing personal development with the opportunity to contribute to society through teaching and research.
More information on creative careers in academia