Careers advice and planning

Careers in arts administration

25 Jan 2023, 13:36

If you’re looking for a management role with a creative twist, then working in arts administration could be a good option for you.

Person in a gallery taking a photo of paintings with a smartphone.

There’s no typical profile for an arts administrator: the role can involve areas such as marketing, HR or finance and you could work for a wide range of creative organisations. You’ll often have the opportunity to develop new projects or work closely with new shows, but, as with many careers in the arts sector, hours may be irregular and pay can be on the low side compared to other graduate professions. This article will show the range of roles and sectors you could work in, as well as how to begin a career in arts administration.

Jobs you could do in arts admin

In smaller organisations, arts administrators will often be responsible for multiple areas of administration. However, in larger organisations you may have the opportunity to specialise in a specific area. At a more senior level, you’ll often be able to get involved with the strategy and management of the organisation as a whole. The roles you can take on include:

  • Fundraising. You can secure funding for events and shows through grants, sponsorship, membership and individual donations.
  • Education. Working in the education aspect of arts administration means that you’ll often be involved with organising shows and careers and other events in schools and developing relationships between the organisation, schools and the community.
  • Marketing, PR and publicity. Arts administration roles will often require you to market and publicise a performance or event, for example through the organisation’s website, social media, advertising, writing leaflets and programmes, working on press releases, promoting media coverage, writing emails or creating posters.
  • Programming and events. Helping an organisation to plan and organise events will often involve arranging the dates of performances, communicating with venues and producing publications for an event.
  • HR. Taking on a role in HR can include being responsible for taking on new staff, looking after health and safety and ensuring that the organisation adheres to legal requirements.
  • Finance. Working in financial administration means that you will deal with planning and managing budgets, as well as using databases and spreadsheets.

Ellie Field works in arts administration as a web content editor at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. She says, ‘My role includes writing, producing, editing and managing content on the website. The job can be very varied at times, from making small updates on the events page to producing, shooting and editing videos for the website. I also produce analytic reports for all our websites and develop areas of the website that need refreshing based on the analytical evidence.’

Specific sectors

Most organisations in the arts sector will employ arts administrators. These sectors include:

  • Music – music festivals or concert venues such as the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Theatres – theatre companies or theatres such as the National Theatre.
  • Visual arts – art exhibitions or galleries such as the National Gallery.
  • Dance – dance venues or theatres such as Sadler’s Wells.
  • Arts festivals – music festivals or fringe theatre festivals.
  • Museums and heritage – museums or heritage organisations such as the National Trust or English Heritage.

How can I get a job in arts administration?

Careers in the creative sector are usually competitive – and arts administration is no exception. There’s no set route into the area, but you can increase your chances of finding work by getting work experience or a part-time job with venues or at a festival to build experience and to get contacts in the area. Any sort of administrative experience or is useful and you can often find job opportunities by sending speculative applications to organisations.

You can also gain experience by working in a number of different sectors, for example by trying out HR or marketing even if you’re more interested in programming and events. Ellie comments that ‘Arts administration is incredibly varied: there are so many departments to try out. I started out in the education department, but I found that working in communications suited me better.’

What can I do at uni to increase my chances at employment?

There are many opportunities for you to get involved with at university that will help you to get a career in arts administration. These can include:

  • Getting involved with student drama or an arts-related society, for example by helping out with the administration for a performance.
  • Becoming the social secretary of a society to help to organise, plan and run events.
  • Volunteering for a publicity role in any society, which will help you gain experience in marketing, PR and publicity.
  • Becoming the treasurer of a society, which will give you experience of budgeting and financial administration.

Ellie’s advice to university students is, ‘Volunteer, volunteer and volunteer: the more experience the better. I started volunteering at an arts centre every summer in between years at university. Even if it’s just a couple of hours a week, just watching what people do is enough to get a better understanding of how things work. I also got an internship at my university gallery which was great as I learnt a lot and got to try a bit of everything, including installing exhibitions, designing invites and liaising with artists.’

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