Beyond Halloween: Exploring Career Paths in Makeup and Costume Design

If you’ve been on social media this month, you’ll likely have come across the vast number of tweets and posts showcasing people’s makeup and costume A-games in preparation for Halloween.

From special effects makeup to one-of-a-kind costume ideas, this time of year draws out the talents and skills of many people training and working in the dynamic world of makeup and costume design

Far from just a hobby that can be used to trick-or-treat once a year, makeup and costume design is in fact a highly specialized field, employing many creative individuals with a wide variety of experiences, education and expertise.

So if you’ve got a knack for art and design, or a creative teen at home considering this career path, read on for highlights of the rewarding opportunities in makeup and costumes.

Making a Living in Makeup and Costume Design

Much more than just a Halloween trick, makeup and costume design are both broad career fields with plenty of opportunity for challenging, creative jobs.

In the professional makeup industry, a trained makeup artist can work in-store or for a cosmetic company, in a salon or spa, or even as a freelance agent. And if designing makeup is your passion, there are many ways to work for companies developing and selling makeup, from both the research and creation phase through to marketing and sales.

Within the film and theatre industry, there are just as many, if not more, options: theatrical makeup artists for both the screen and stage are always in demand. And there is a whole other field for makeup artists who specialize in special effects: occasions such as Halloween come to mind, but special effects makeup is also a big part of many movies, commercials and stage productions, special events and even advertising.

Likewise, the world of costume and fashion design provides a variety of career choices. Both the film and theatre industries require professional costumers for both design and staging. In the fashion and theatre industry, there are jobs as “drapers” – the people responsible for taking costume designs and making them into wearable realities for an event or production.

Costuming experts can also be employed as textile consultants in the fashion industry, or in the academic arena as researchers, teachers and in-house experts on historical costuming and dress.

Lastly, there are many rewarding opportunities at magazines, newspapers and across social media to write and blog about makeup, fashion and costume design – all viable ways to make a living talking and writing about something you love.

In a nutshell, there is no shortage of interesting jobs in makeup and costume that pay well, offer good benefits, and allow you to pursue your passion while making a living.

So if you’ve got a talent and interest in makeup and fashion, education and hands-on training is key to getting your foot in the door to this exciting career path.

Becoming a Makeup and Costume Expert

There is no shortage of choices in Canada in terms of degrees, diplomas and certificates to get your post-secondary training and education in makeup and costume design.

You can choose from online courses and certificates to community college diplomas to 4-year university degrees – your task is to decide where you want to go after high school, how long you want to train for, the tuition fees you can afford to pay, and of course, what you want to specialize in.

For example, on the West Coast, the Vancouver Film School offers a post-secondary diploma in makeup and design for film and television while private institutions like the John Casablanca Institute provide industry-focused courses and diplomas in both makeup artistry and design.

Not surprisingly, Ontario and Quebec offer many options as well. Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and LaSalle College in Montreal both offer certificates in costume production that can be completed in a little as 3 semesters. Likewise, in Toronto, the National Theatre School of Canada has professional programs dedicated to set and costume design, while the city’s College of Makeup Art and Design has degrees specifically geared to special effects makeup.

There are also university programs to consider. For example, Dalhousie University in Halifax offers a 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre, with an opportunity to specialize in costume and set design among other things.

The bottom line is that depending on your interests and career goals, chances are good there’s a nearby program at a college, university or even online that can give you the training and education you need to purse them.

Saving for an education in makeup and costume design: the RESP advantage

 The costs for a post-secondary education in makeup and costume design will vary depending on the school you choose, where it’s located and the length of the program you pick. Your tuition fees could be anywhere from $2,700 per term like at Fanshawe College to up to $10,000 per year for a four-year theatre degree program like the one Dalhousie University offers.

Either way, having a plan to save up the money for your education after high school, so it’s there when you need it, is the best strategy.

Using a dedicated savings vehicle like a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) allows your family to do just that. With an RESP, your family can put aside an amount every month or year that works for your budget, and watch it grow tax-free until you’re ready for college or university.

Plus, the added benefit of an RESP is the matching government grants you’ll have access to, adding even more value to your future education savings.

As with any education and career path you choose, a little research and advance planning on all your options is the best place to start. Figuring out what you like to do, and where you can go to study in that field, will help you the sort out the costs of tuition and how much you need to save.

With makeup and costuming, the sky is nearly the limit. This broad and creative field is changing and growing daily in the digital age, so there is nothing spooky or frightful at all about pursuing these creative arts as part of your future education and career plans.

Carmen Kinniburgh

Carmen Kinniburgh is a freelance writer and editor exploring topics and ideas about parenting and families, Canadian science and research, health and medicine, as well as travel and lifestyle. Born and raised in Alberta, Carmen has also lived in Southern Ontario and Manitoba, where she worked in professional communications for a university and a national health charity. Currently living in Thunder Bay, Ontario, she gets all her best ideas and insights for Parentwise from her own three delightfully precocious children.

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