Screen and broadcast students face uncertain employment future

More than half of those seeking a career in the screen or radio industry will be out of work at some point, a survey of past students of  the Australian Film Television and Radio School suggests.

The study of 734 former students found that 52% of them had faced industry unemployment at some point in their career while less than 20% are now in a permanent full time roles. The Sydney-based AFTRS is Australia’s national screen arts and broadcast school.

The results suggest that 37% of AFTRS’ alumni are currently doing work outside of the industry to make ends meet.   

Of those who had faced unemployment, 21% had only one period of industry unemployment; 41% said they’d had between two and four periods out of work; 37% had had five or more periods out of the industry.

Periods out of the industry varied, with 26% only seeing two to four month breaks between work, although 17% were out for more than two years.

A total of 49% of those currently working in the industry had an income of less than $60,000.

Of the sample, 41% said their current status was freelance, 17% were permanent full-time, 12% said they ran their own company, and a smaller portion were sole traders or casual.

Currently, 46% of those in the industry were receiving most of their income from creating and producing film, TV radio or new media while 11% were creating and producing content for advertising or corporate communications, 10% from education in a relevant field, however 19% said most of their current income was from an area not connected with the media and entertainment industry.

The survey did suggest, despite the challenging industry landscape, students felt adequately prepared for the industry on finishing their studies.



  1. Stephen Murphy
    26 Jun 12
    5:43 pm

  2. Interesting article. Interesting how the headline says “screen and broadcast students” and the first par refers to “those seeking a career in the screen or radio industry”, but the report from which you selectively quote statistics is only about AFTRS graduates — not about students of other institutions or indeed anybody “seeking a career” in the industries. Interesting, too, that you quote certain statistics to suit your spin rather than the more positive findings of the report itself.

    Leaving aside the statistics, I’m so glad you’ve finally solved the problem of predicting the “uncertain future” (as opposed to the certain one) through reporting selective past results. Many politicians and financial institutions would love to hear about your approach to this tricky problem.

    Now, how about a report on the statistical success of those “seeking a career” in journalism?

  3. mumbrella
    27 Jun 12
    9:49 am

  4. Hi Stephen,

    I disagree that there was anything selective about how we reported the study – although we did choose not to follow the angle promoted in the press release which we did not feel gave as full a picture as the report itself.

    This is a report on a study carried out by AFTRS. I’m afraid it didn’t cover journalism, although were such a study to be carried out, I’m sure we’d be keen to report that too.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  5. Artur Kade
    3 Jul 12
    5:08 pm

  6. Schools need to prepare students better for tough conditions. Developing technical skills is important, but students also need to be resourceful and acquire business/commercial acumen to help them expand their options for work.
    Media students need to know how to create and sell their work. As the Director of Participate Film Academy, which focuses strongly on experiential learning, I see students work on a full length feature from initial concept through to theatrical release, acquiring valuable know-how, people and project management skills and experience as negotiate their way through the internal/external stages and roles, issues and problems that this encompasses. I see them develop the skills, confidence and understanding of the industry/markets, and be inspired to create their own opportunities.
    Many Participate alumni work in mainstream media companies – and many more have formed their own production companies and are developing original projects. Whichever career path they take, it is satisfying to see so many rise to current economic challenges and take independent steps to build careers.

  7. Lisa
    4 Jul 12
    7:45 pm

  8. I thought that this has been a well known fact for a long time now due to the size of the AFaTI and the chronic insularity of the industry.

    Was the old joke from the 80’s was that if you wanted to get a job in a production house or network you had to wait for someone to die and then they were usually replaced by their son and so on and so forth.

    And seeing the names, both in front of and behind the scenes that are actually accepted by the major networks and funding bodies are consistantly the same, nothing much has changed since- its still the big boys club.

    So much for the solid support of emerging talent as so many organisations claim to do, so as with most Aussies-from the likes of Kylie M, Anthony L, Lisa L, Isla F, Melissa G to name a few , to make it in Australia, you must become celebrated overseas first and then Aust will claim you as their own and say they believed in and supported you from the start.

    So students, expect to become and remain unemployed in your chosen profession, unless your lucky enough to have the dollars to take you overseas immediately after graduation and saturate the airwaves over there with your talent, or, you are the great nephew of the studio janitor who just died. Or you might want to consider studying for a career working in…………….Centrelink- it would be cheaper to study and you would be continually employed. Oh the irony of it all.

    And does this not sound quite right to anyone else-“The results suggest that 37% of AFTRS’ alumni are currently doing work outside of the industry to make ends meet………..”

    “……………….however 19% said most of their current income was from an area not connected with the media and entertainment industry.”
    37% to 19% is a big difference.

  9. The Worst of Perth
    4 Jul 12
    10:42 pm

  10. Stephen Murphy, it’s even worse for journalism students. They are still being taught journalistic ethics in courses! Imagine the laughs that gets when they apply for a job. Broadcast hopefuls are relatively better off in that at least they never get to hear about ethics.

  11. Craig
    5 Jul 12
    5:49 am

  12. And this compares relatively to other professions how?

    The percentage may be bad, or it at be good. Without comparisons to other professions who can tell.

    Maybe these figures should be celebrated for how high they are.

    This is not the standard of journalism I expect from Mumbrella.