Creative Workforce - Creation - Overview

With limited artistic job opportunities, many of Australia’s 140,000 creative arts graduates go on to other careers

In 2009, the ABS reported that almost 77,000 Australians aged 15 to 64 had a non-school qualification in ‘Visual art and crafts’ and 63,000 in ‘Performing arts’.[1] Performing arts graduates include music (59 percent), theatre and drama studies (26 percent) and other performing arts graduates. Of those qualified in visual arts and craft, 36 percent had a qualification in Fine Arts, with other common qualifications including Photography (21 percent) and Crafts/jewellery-making/floristry (20 percent).

Whilst adopting a wider definition of ‘visual art and craft’ than other sources, these figures confirm that significant numbers of Australians are qualified in visual arts. The ABS estimates that the number qualified in ‘visual art and craft’ is similar to ‘architecture and urban design’, and higher than the performing arts.

When compared with estimates of those practising professionally, these figures suggest that many arts graduates go on to careers in other industries. Relative to Throsby and Zednik’s research, visual arts graduates appear to be less likely than performing arts graduates to become practising professional artists.

[1] Non-school qualification refers to educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education.


While most artists see themselves as ‘established’, many are still in the process of becoming established

Most practising professional artists surveyed by Throsby and Zednik considered themselves to be established (41 percent were ‘established’, 23 percent were ‘established but working less intensively than before’). However, one in ten said they were ‘starting out’ and a further 27 percent said they were in the process of ‘becoming established’. [1]

Musicians and composers have the highest proportion of established artists (they also have higher average ages than many other groups of artists). Visual artists and writers have the highest proportions of emerging artists.

The first big professional engagement, solo show or publication was seen as the key moment of establishment for many artists (42 percent of established artists).

[1] Artists were asked to self-select their degree of establishment at present