If, a few years back, you showed an interest in pursuing a career in multimedia arts, everybody wanted to be your new best friend. After all, not only was a flashy job guaranteed, but with it came a truly enormous pay packet. Since the market has slowed down, however, vacancies are harder to come by.
"All the more reason to get really good postgraduate training," says Jill Arnold, new media contract manager at Recruit Media. "There are still great jobs out there, ranging from Web designers to project managers, but the difference is that employers can now afford to be more fussy about who they take on."
Another reason for getting a firm grounding is that jobs require an increasingly high level of skill and knowledge. "This field has become very sophisticated during the last 18 months," says Arnold. "While some people assume that multimedia art simply involves putting flashy graphics in front of an application, it actually involves integrating the interface with the content and product. You therefore need a real knowledge of how technology and art can work together for a particular purpose, as well as being commercially savvy. Today's companies want to know that new media will add something to their bottom line."
So how do you get this balance of skill and knowledge? Increasingly, graduates are turning to postgraduate courses in multimedia arts.
"MAs are now offered by several universities and each has a very individual flavour. So you come out of your course in the knowledge that you have a fairly unique package of skills, knowledge and experience," says Steve Symons, programme leader of the MA in Multimedia Arts at Liverpool John Moores University.
Some courses are geared towards careers in the digital games industry whereas others are broader in their focus, showing how multimedia art can be used in a range of ways – from within schools to electronic publishing. Likewise, some courses are taught whereas others are research-based.
Like many multimedia university departments, Liverpool is involved in a partnership with industry and the result here is the International Centre for Digital Content (ICDC). "ICDC is built on partnerships with commercial companies, the local council and the educational community," explains a spokesperson.
Course leaders welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds, although most graduates tend to have a degree in art and design or technology. "We deliberately recruit students with a range of histories – even social sciences – because a growing number tend to go back into that field and use their new skills to open up its possibilities," says Paul Simon, programme leader of the MA in Creative Technology at Salford University.
Simon Redman, programme leader of the MA in Digital Games at Liverpool John Moores University, is among many multimedia art course instructors who report that students are walking out of their MAs and into a job quite literally the next day. And because there is an emphasis on making these courses industry-relevant, he has had positive feedback from the companies in question.
"The employers felt they were totally geared up to their new role," Redman says. "For instance, we focus a lot on team-working within this course. Many postgraduate courses involve students working in isolation whereas that's not how it works in the digital game world. Employers want to know their staff will be able to work effectively within a team and understand the issues and problems faced by every member of that team."
The chief criteria for all multimedia MAs are interest and determination. Stephen Boyd-Davis, course leader of the MA in Design for Interactive Media at Middlesex University, says: "We want people who are curious and passionate about how multimedia arts can change their world. If someone is, say, interested in film-making, we'd want them to say at interview, 'I feel that multimedia arts will change everything I used to know about film-making and I want to start learning how'."
"Courses are intensive and demanding," says Karen Browne, who is currently doing an MA in Multimedia Arts at Liverpool. "So you need to be confident and motivated. But it's well worth it. It's one of the most fascinating areas of our new age and one with endless career possibilities."Reuse content