Career Path Options for a Set and Exhibit Designer

The average value of the Bachelor degree needed to become a Set and exhibit designers is $959,324.00.

Points of Interest

  • Set and exhibit design is a small field of occupation with stiff competition.
  • Approximately 33% of set and exhibit designers are self-employed.
  • There are approximately 1,000 new job openings nationwide, per year for this field.
  • Approximately 14% of job holders for this field have earned an Associate’s degrees, 60% have a Bachelor’s degree, and 15% hold post-graduate degrees.
  • The average annual salary for this field is $45,500.00.
  • This field is expected to grow by 14% to 19% between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than average.
  • Additionally set and exhibit designers are often hired to fill jobs in related fields.

Nature of the Work

Set and Design Exhibitors conceive, plan, organize, and prepare sets or exhibits both indoors and outdoors for a particular space, and according to the requirements of a script or a specific display. Theater, television, and movie set designers create sets and acquire the props appropriate for various scenes, time periods, and moods as specified by a director. Exhibit designers create displays to convey specific information in an organized manner for museums, trade shows, and culture centers.

This profession requires a keen attention to detail as well as creativity. It also requires excellent skills in sketching, construction, computer, math, and research as well as oral and written communication skills, and the ability to work well alone and with others. Successful Set and Design Exhibitors need to be not only artistic but analytical as their duties often include creating and adhering to a budget, researching time period data, scale drawing and model creation, and problem-solving. This occupation also requires one to possess excellent physical condition and stamina as well as coordination and flexibility.

set exhibit designers

A Set and Exhibit Designer’s duties include generating ideas, drawing, soliciting feedback from a director or supervisor, making any adjustments necessary, renting props, and constructing or hiring contractors to build the final set. Their responsibilities additionally include following a set time-line in order to meet a specific deadline as well as disassembling and properly storing the exhibit for future use. Set and Exhibit Designers must also keep in mind things like space limitations, floor plans, and satisfactory operation of any props or special effects as well as traffic flow patterns, and safety issues. This profession may work part-time or full-time, be self-employed or work for a specific company or organization. Working weekends and long hours may be required to adhere to a construction time-line, and this occupation may involve a certain amount of stress in order to meet set deadlines.

The working environments for this profession vary. Set and Design Exhibitors work in both indoors and outdoors, in offices or studios, at a variety of locations such as theaters, movie or television sets, trade shows, and fairgrounds or at one set location such as a museum or cultural center. Travel is typically required for this profession. Some Set and Design Exhibitors may be required to travel from an office or studio to a local theater or movie set, while others travel throughout the world creating displays as employees of an exhibit company.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

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While a handful of employers hired high school graduates or those holding associate degrees for jobs in this field, the majority of employers require a Bachelor’s degree for entry level positions. Approximately, 200 colleges and universities nationwide offer approved programs in art and design for this field. Programs are available both online and on campus. Most of the four-year programs offer either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree upon completion. Advancement to managerial or supervisory positions for this profession is achieved through post-graduate degrees and/or experience.


Competition for employment in this field is and will continue to be strong in the traditional industries such as motion picture companies, theaters, and museums. Those with post-graduate degrees or extensive experience will likely move to the front of the line for jobs in these well established companies within these industries.

However; the budget constraints of some theaters, museums, and movie companies combined with 2010 economic situation will open doors for newcomers willing to work for less while building their portfolio. Set and Design Exhibitor employers look for not only creativity but attention to detail, sketching, CAD (computer-aided design), and problem-solving skills as well as a strong ability to communicate verbally. Jobs for Set and Design Exhibitors may be advertised under a variety of titles. These include:

  • Artist
  • Curator
  • Exhibitions Curator
  • Museum Curator
  • Art Coordinator
  • Display Coordinator
  • Art Director
  • Art and Exhibits Director
  • Set Decorator
  • Designer
  • Room Designer
  • Stage Set Designer
  • Set Designer
  • Miniature Set Designer
  • Installations Designer
  • Stage Scenery Designer
  • Scenic Designer
  • Display Designer
  • Exhibit Designer
  • Exhibits Manager
  • Production Manager
  • Show Design Supervisor
  • Scenic Arts Supervisor
  • Television Scenic Design Supervisor
  • Presentation Specialist
  • Exhibit Preparer
  • Historical Society Window Dresser
  • Design Chief
  • Food Stylist

Job Outlook

Set and Exhibit Designers held 11,000 jobs in their field during 2008. New jobs for this field are expected to increase by 14% to 18% between 2008 and 2018. This means that about 5,100 new job openings are anticipated nationwide for individuals qualified in this field. The best prospects for employment for this field will be found in major cities because of the existence there of numerous trade shows, theaters, museums, cultural centers, exhibit companies and movie studios. Cities like New York, Washington D.C., Houston, Denver, Phoenix, and Orlando will most likely present the greatest number of job openings for this profession.

Employment for this occupation has typically been highest in Performing Arts Companies, Professional Scientific and Technical Services, Motion Picture and Video Industries, Museums, and Historical Centers. However; qualified Set and Design Exhibitors can increase their potential for employment by considering the following industries: \

  • Cultural Sites
  • Sporting Events
  • Trade Shows
  • Zoos
  • Private Design Companies
  • Historical Societies
  • Libraries Additionally, establishing a design and exhibit company of your own will open doors to jobs with museums and theater companies on a limited budget, and who prefer not to incur the cost of retaining in-house Set and Design Exhibitors.


According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics available jobs for this field are expected to rise by 14% to 19% between now and 2018. Though current economy trends have shown a recent 4% unemployment rate for this profession the public rediscovery of the arts and theater are expected to bring about new jobs in all areas of the arts, including Set and Design Exhibition. However; the fact that competition is stiff for this profession and that the number of jobs available each year is still limited, should be kept in mind.


According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary in 2009 for this profession was $21.83 per hour and $45,400 annually. The salary range varies by industry as well as by geographical area. Set and Design Exhibitors retained directly by a company or organization generally receive benefits such as holiday and sick pay, paid vacation, health insurance, and retirement benefits. However; it is important to keep in mind that approximately one-third of current job holders in this profession are self-employed.

Related Occupations

  • Architects
  • Graphic Designers
  • Audio-Visual Specialists
  • Museum Technicians and Conservators
  • Art Directors
  • Construction and Building Inspectors
  • Commercial and Industrial Designers
  • Fashion Designers
  • Interior Designers
  • Costume and Wardrobe Specialists
  • Producers and Directors
  • Industrial Designers
  • Art Directors
  • Landscape Architects

Sources of Additional Information