How to Become a Movie Set Designer
Movie Set Designer Careers & Degrees

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Movie Set Designers use their creative talents and experience in order to create a setting for many kinds of films.

Their work is important in order for movies to have realistic scenery that matches the story’s plot, location and era.

Movie Set Designers produce all their designs and construct sets during the preproduction stage.

This stage is the planning phase of a movie that needs to be completed before filming begins.

Other duties that are completed in the preproduction stage include budgeting, scheduling, casting, costume and movie set design and construction and finding the location where a set will be constructed.

In addition to fulfilling educational requirements, candidates should have some inherent skills in order to become a Movie Set Designer .

Some helpful skills that can help candidates succeed in this career include having some artistic abilities, the ability to do research on historical and architectural facts and the ability to create ideas after reading a movie script.

Students who want to become a Movie Set Designer should read the following information regarding this profession’s education requirements, a general job description, salary and wage information as well as the industry’s future job outlook.

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Education Requirements to Become a Movie Set Designer

There are no specific requirements in order to become a Movie Set Designer.

Candidates who have acquired a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution or any other form of formal training are looked favorably upon by employers.

However, in the entertainment industry, candidates who have a combination of experience, creative talents and the ability to network are successful in building a career.

For students who want to become a Movie Set Designer and want to attain formal training, there are several ways they can gain experience.

Several universities and colleges offer film and design courses; students can major in a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts.

Some majors students can choose include film studies or art.

Some colleges, universities, technical schools and independent institutions specialize in providing courses and programs in film.

The American Film Institute (AFI) provides training opportunities for a variety of film specializations including Production Design.

The Production Design program at AFI offers courses that develop a student’s ability to visually and physically create a setting that compliments and enhances a movie’s storyline.

During the program, students will learn how to analyze and grasp the basics of a script.

Visit AFI’s website to learn more information about their Production Design program.

Movie Set Designer Job Description

A Movie Set Designer has to know what type of set design and construction is appropriate for the type of movie they are working on.

In order to figure out what type of design they must sketch, they would first have to read the movie script.

A Movie Set Designer will study the script in order to determine the plot, the year and era the movie script is set in as well as the geographical location.

They will have to research all this information in order to create an accurate set.

One important aspect would be to research architectural styles in order to design accurate building facades.

If the geographical location is completely fiction, they will have more liberty to be creative.

For example, Movie Set Designers working on a Sci-Fi movie located in space would have more creative liberty than someone creating a set for the Wild West.

After drafting a design, a Movie Set Designer would meet with the director in order to get approval.

Once approval of the set design has been approved, a Movie Set Designer would oversee the physical creation of the movie set according to budget specifications.

Movie Set Designer Salary and Career Path

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides detailed information on the film and movie industry as a whole which includes Movie Set Decorators.

The wage and salary for all film and movie industry employees is approximately $32,000 per year.

Exact annual wages will depend on how long a design job will last as well as how many jobs a Movie Set Designer will have per year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the film and movie industry will grow by about 14% through the year 2008 which is considered higher than average.

Competition in the entertainment industry is stiff.

However candidates can rely on their networking capabilities, educational background and experience to find jobs.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$62,480
$30K
$38K
$62K
$78K
$105K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$49,270
Arizona$42,130
Arkansas$39,870
California$66,070
Colorado$46,070
Connecticut$59,190
District of Columbia$76,130
Florida$49,310
Georgia$49,100
Hawaii$83,260
Illinois$49,500
Indiana$44,770
Kansas$38,830
Kentucky$43,280
Louisiana$50,110
Maine$50,630
Maryland$67,500
Massachusetts$61,090
Michigan$46,910
Minnesota$56,540
Missouri$51,270
Nebraska$60,010
Nevada- NA -
New Hampshire$53,820
New Jersey$56,620
New Mexico$56,740
New York$85,760
North Carolina$57,740
Ohio$51,300
Oklahoma$39,520
Oregon$67,010
Pennsylvania$47,860
Tennessee$52,010
Texas$41,880
Utah$49,760
Virginia- NA -
Washington$44,060

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $85,760.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $85,760
Hawaii - $83,260
District of Columbia - $76,130
Maryland - $67,500
Oregon - $67,010
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Set and Exhibit Designers, OCC Code 27-1027, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a movie set designer?

Movie set designers are in charge of designing and creating sets that appear in movies or television programs.

When creating a movie set, designers usually start by reading the script.

Afterward, they produce plans and models and prepare cost estimates.

They may also be called to attend rehearsals and to meet with the companies that construct the sets.

Movie set designers are typically hired by film production companies or by television companies.

Set designers need creativity and technical skills but should also have good communication skills, as they work alongside directors, producers and other members of the staff.

QuestionHow much does a movie set designer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for set designers who work in motion picture and video industries was $74,230 as of May 2018.

The annual wage of a movie set designer depends on a variety of factors, including his or her employer and his or her reputation and level of expertise.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a movie set designer?

Although there are no formal educational requirements for this profession, a degree in theater studies, 3D design, architecture, or landscape architecture can help you start a career in this field.

How much you will have to pay for your education depends on the university you choose and the program itself.

For example, a four-year bachelor’s degree in architecture can cost you anywhere between $60,000 and more than $240,000.

Post-secondary certificate and degree programs in design, interior design or set design are also available and can be less expensive.

Two-year associate’s degree programs in interior design cost, on average, around $40,000.

QuestionWhat is the demand for movie set designers?

The demand for movie set designers varies depending on the industry and the local film industry.

As the demand for movies continues to grow, more designers will be needed to design the sets.

If you want to start a career in movie set designing you should expect strong competition and getting a relevant degree from a reputable school and building a strong portfolio will give you an advantage over your competitors.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a movie set designer?

There is no clear recipe for building a career in this field and how much time you will need until you are ready to be employed as a movie set designer depends on a variety of factors.

If you want to join this profession, there are many educational paths available for you, some that get you ready for entry-level employment in 2 years and others that may take more than 4 years.

Getting a bachelor’s degree in architecture, 3D design, graphic design or a similar field can equip you with the technical skills but you may also need a few years of work experience before being ready to work independently on projects.

A bachelor’s degree can typically be obtained in about 4 years.

Earning an associate’s degree in design or interior design is another educational path that can help you join this profession.

Participating in an internship in college can give you the experience you need to get entry-level employment in this field.

Working as an assistant for an experienced movie set designer is another way of learning the ins and outs of this profession.

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