Careers in Theatre and Dance

Performer under spotlight.

To be successful in the performing arts, students must develop a range of communication, organizational, and analytical skills in addition to honing artistic and technical ability. These skills are applicable to many careers, including those in the performing arts, and open up students to exciting career possibilities on and off stage. 

But do I need a degree to perform, design, dance, direct, etc.? While it’s true, a college degree does not guarantee a position in the world of theatre and dance (as is the case with any field), study and practice are the best ways to prepare yourself for the rigorous demands of the profession, therefore increasing your chances on the job market. Within the competitive landscape of the performing arts there are many very talented people vying for each job. To set yourself above the rest requires skills honed through training, knowledge acquired through study, and fortitude developed through discipline. 

Study of Theatre and Dance provides students with skills in:

Analysis

  • Problem Solving
  • Analyzing and interpreting the emotions and motives of others
  • Understanding ideas within historical/social context
  • Comparing and contrasting ideas/information
  • Attending to details
  • Critical thinking
  • Adapting techniques
  • Integrating diverse ideas from others 
  • Forming perceptions and seeing connections

Artistic/Technical

  • Creating and performing
  • Ability to concentrate and practice intensely for long periods of time
  • Program planning
  • Detailed and accurate work
  • Working independently
  • Collaboratively developing a project

Communication

  • Public speaking
  • Communicating ideas and emotions creatively
  • Speaking articulately and listening introspectively
  • Explaining concepts
  • Making keen observations
  • Ability to give and receive criticism 
  • Relating to people of varying backgrounds

Organization

  • Self-discipline
  • Working under pressure and meeting deadlines
  • Interacting with colleagues in a team setting
  • Utilizing available resources
  • Time management
  • Creativity
  • Concentration

Career Fields

Performance

Students who study areas of performance (dance, acting, music theatre, choreography, directing, etc.) use their artistic, professional, and personal skills to work in the arts. To be a successful artist in the 21st century, it’s important to develop yourself as a “whole artist”, integrating interests, knowledge, and perspective from within the field as well as from other disciplines. Performance careers include: 

  • Actor: Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional, Cruise Ships, Tours
  • Acting Coach
  • Dancer (Company, Commercial)
  • Director
  • Choreographer
  • Movement Coach
  • Voice and Speech Coach
  • Dialect Coach
  • Fight Director/Choreographer
  • Teaching Artist
  • Voiceover Artist
  • Dramaturg: Stage and Media (i.e., film, video games, theme park entertainment)
  • Playwright

Business

Students of theatre and dance often find careers focused on building and shaping the future of the arts and entertainment industries. Utilizing the skills and knowledge from a degree in Theatre, Dance, or Music Theatre, students pursue careers in: 

  • Arts Administration
  • Artistic Director
  • Agent: Theatrical, Film and Television
  • Booking Agent
  • Box Office Manager
  • Accounting
  • Business Manager
  • Company Manager
  • Development Associate/Director
  • Digital Content Producer 
  • Publicity/Marketing
  • Entertainment Law/Attorney
  • Events Coordinator
  • Production Manager
  • Producer
  • Studio Owner (Dance)
  • Casting Director
  • Entertainment Journalist
  • Executive Director, Arts and Cultural Organizations
  • Literary Agent
  • Literary Manager
  • Managing Director
  • Marketing Director
  • Outreach Coordinator
  • Theatre Critic
  • Press Agent

Design/Production

Design and Production students are interested in the creative act of design and execution for live performance, and employ a wide range of skills and interests to combine art and technology to explore and advance how artistry is experienced. Students find career opportunities in a wide range of positions in the field of theatre, dance, digital media, production, and beyond, including: 

  • Artist-in-Residence
  • Carpenter
  • College Professor/Academia
  • Company Manager
  • Costume Designer
  • Director: Stage, Film, Media Entertainment
  • Draper
  • Electrician
  • Lighting Designer 
  • Makeup Artist/Designer
  • Projection Designer
  • Property Designer 
  • Set Designer
  • Sound Designer
  • Scenic Artist
  • Special Effects Technician 
  • Stage Manager
  • Technical Director
  • Theatre Teacher

Education

Theatre and Dance students often, directly or indirectly, apply their creativity, critical thinking skills, and expertise to educational opportunities, both in traditional classrooms and beyond. Many students will become certified educators in K-12 and collegiate environments, and others will find ways to share their artistic passion through various teaching and educational experiences. Educational careers include:

  • Artist-in-Residence
  • College Professor/Academia
  • Community Outreach Programming
  • Dance historian/writer
  • Dance notator
  • Dance teacher
  • Dialect Coach 
  • Dramaturg
  • Human Services Agencies
  • K-12 Teacher (Dance, Theatre, beyond)
  • Literary Manager 
  • Recreation Programs
  • Voice/Speech Coach

Health/Wellness

Exploring the performing arts includes an exploration into human nature, the physical, mental, and emotional. Work related to this may be include working with people with illnesses, older adults, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and trauma survivors, as well as the exploration of mind-body practices through research and practice. Students who study theatre and dance find they can utilize their skills and passion for the arts to help improve the lives of others through such careers as:

  • Care Coordinator
  • Chiropractor
  • Dance therapist
  • Drama Therapist
  • Human Services Worker
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physician
  • Physical Therapist
  • Pilates Instructor 
  • Psychologist/Psychiatrist 
  • Sports Trainer
  • Yoga Instructor 

Networking Opportunities

Professional Associations

Internships and Job Search Sites