Career Profile: Set and Exhibit...

Career Profile: Set and Exhibit Designers

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

If you go to a movie, a play, or a museum, you might barely notice the background, but it is very important. It helps give people the context of the story and makes it seem real. Set and exhibit designers work with directors, producers, and other professionals to prepare sets or exhibits to help people appreciate and understand what they are seeing.

Becoming a set and exhibit designer usually involves getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the fine arts. Normally, this training takes at least four to six years of studying after high school. Some people might be able to get a job without these qualifications, but having a background in the theory behind set and exhibit design is helpful. For example, people can use what they learn about the history of the set and exhibit design to do something unique and interesting. This can help them stand out to employers and make it easier to get jobs.

Besides learning the basics, set and exhibit designers might specialize in a particular era or type of design. One person might choose to work mainly with sets related to the Renaissance era in the 1500s or to work mainly on exhibits related to animals or the climate. However, general knowledge is still important.

In high school, people can already start to prepare for this job. Art or theatre classes are useful, as well as possibly mathematics for learning to calculate spaces and amounts. English or history classes can also help people understand the important features of each project and to communicate clearly.

Set and exhibit designers can work in a variety of places. Often, they work in film, video, television, and theatre. Exhibit designers are most likely to find work at museums or retail stores. Someone who can do both will have the best chance of finding work, but even some smaller cities or towns can have a few jobs in this field. Cities or towns with several museums or theatres are the best places to find work. Salaries usually start at over $70,897 per year and can rise to more than $94,000 per year, depending on the type and location of the job.

People working as set and exhibit designers should be able to work with others but also to work alone. The first part of any job involves consulting the people at the theatre or museum to learn what they want. Next, the set or exhibit designer might conduct some research about the place or era being portrayed. Accuracy is important so that the set or exhibit looks as real as possible. For example, having a modern car in a set portraying a scene from the 1930s would look wrong. Having the details right helps the audience experience the play or the exhibit more fully.

Daily work for a set and exhibit designer can vary, depending on the situation. Some people in this field spend much of their time in an office, making drawings and measurements for the set or exhibit. Others might be very much involved in putting the different parts together and might sometimes need to lift heavy objects. Either way, they should be available to help solve any problems that arise.

Working as a set and exhibit designer can be an exciting job for people who are creative and able to work with others. You can already start to prepare for this career.



Associated Designers of Canada. “Raising the Profile of Live Performance Design in Canada.” https://designers.ca.

Owl Guru. “What Does a Set and Exhibit Designer Do (including Their Typical Day at Work).” https://www.owlguru.com/career/set-and-exhibit-designers/.

Talent.com. “Set Designer Average Salary in Canada, 2024.” https://ca.talent.com/salary?job=set+designer.

University of Manitoba. “Theatre, Set and Exhibit Designers.”


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