Set Designer

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Set designers design and organise sets for theatre, ballet, opera, and television or film productions. They find suitable locations if filming outdoors. They read the script and plan the set design that best suits the production.

In film they can be called production designers and in theatre, stage designers.

The Work

You could be:


Pay rates vary, depending on:

Starting salaries for set designers might be between £15,000 and £20,000 a year.

However, most set designers work freelance. They charge a fee, which varies depending on the work and their reputation. There are guidelines on the website of BECTU and other unions which might help you negotiate a freelance rate of pay.

The latest guidelines from ITC (Independent Theatre Council) and Equity recommend the following for 2019/20:


Workforce Employment Status

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Getting In

Applications for the RCS go through UCAS Conservatoires.

All applications to Art Schools (Duncan of Jordanstone at Dundee University, Edinburgh College of Art at Edinburgh University, Glasgow School of Art, Gray's School of Art at Robert Gordon's and Moray School of Art at UHI) are through UCAS, with some courses having a closing date of 15th January and others having the closing date of 24th March.

There are very few permanent jobs and entry into this career is very competitive. You might find them advertised in the specialist press, online and through the BECTU website, but many posts are filled by word of mouth. A lot of set designers work freelance.

What Does it Take?

You should be:

You should have:


Training is through experience, on the job.

Getting On

Getting work as a freelance set designer depends on becoming well known and established. This can take some time. You might need to take other jobs to make an income. Building up a good portfolio of work and making personal contacts are most important in getting work.

More Information

The Creative and Cultural Skills website has a careers section called Creative Choices which includes information on working in the theatre and set design.


Courtesy of Royal Opera House


The following organisations may be able to provide further information.

BECTU Scotland (Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union)
Twitter: @bectu

Chartered Society of Designers (CSD)
Tel: 020 7357 8088
Twitter: @csdminerva

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 020 7015 1800
Twitter: @CCskills

Creative and Cultural Skills is the Sector Skills Council for advertising, crafts, cultural heritage, design, music, performing, literary and visual arts.

Society of British Theatre Designers (SBTD)
Tel: 07809 721047
Twitter: @weareSBTD

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