Graphic Design Career Guide

Gaining Experience

Graphic design

Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferable skills, which will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to this area of work. Employers also expect a good knowledge of design software, such as Quark, InDesign or Illustrator plus photo-editing software, including PhotoShop. Participating in relevant competitions and exhibitions can help you to promote yourself and build up your contacts.

Read on below for more information about the types of opportunities that might be available, as well as advice on how to approach your search for work experience.


Types of opportunities

Internships (usually a fixed period or a limited amount of time), will give you a more hands-on experience. Many employers will treat internships in the same way as full-time employment, so when a job role asks for 'at least one year’s experience’ you can include this type of experience.


Find out more about internships

Placements will give you a long-term look at an organisation, and help you to build contacts and experience. On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a one year work placement or self-employment placement; should you choose to undertake either, your first point of contact is your placement office in your faculty.

Search for placements at:


Learn more about taking a placement


Many students from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Arts choose to take a Self-Employed Placement. This allows you to work for yourself during your placement year and receive support from the University's Student Startup Team. You will have access to funding opportunities, networking events and workshops.

Learn more about Self-Employed Placements 

It is worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience - this could be a valuable way to build up your skills and knowledge in this field. Our Volunteering Bank provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies, listing roles such as:

  • Graphic Design Volunteer with Southsea Cinema and Arts Centre (Portsmouth Film Society)

  • Ships’ Badge Crafter/ Painter Volunteer with Boathouse 4

Learn more about our Volunteering Team



Speculative applications

You might find it tricky to find advertised opportunities within the graphic design, so a speculative approach could be crucial for you to secure some work experience, which is where you approach employers yourself to enquire of any suitable opportunities. They involve sending a CV and cover letter to an employer to ask if they can offer any work experience, even if the company is not currently advertising placements or internships. Submitting a speculative application shows your interest in a specific company and your willingness to go above and beyond to develop your skills and understanding of the industry. 

Directories that will help you locate companies to target as part of a speculative approach in graphic design include:

Student using Wacom Animation and Illustration Tablets in CCI Eldon Building

Tips to build experience:

  • Explore the various areas within the graphic design sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
  • Get involved in relevant university or external groups. This is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
  • Speak to your tutor or other members of faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you, as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
  • Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our guide to Networking and Social Media.



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