How Can I Start a Career in Dancing?

Career preparation for an aspiring dancer can take years of study and practice. This type of career relies on your abilities, so entering this field is not as easy as simply earning a degree. Read on to find out what it takes to start a career in dancing. Schools offering Acting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Education and Training Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), becoming a dancer requires beginning formal training at a young age and receiving on-the-job training ( The BLS notes that 18 years old is a common age for becoming a professional dancer. Formal education, such as a degree program or dance school training, is not required. The BLS also noted that dance training never stops and is a continuous part of the career.

You may pursue training through a dance school or private teacher. The BLS noted there may be intense competition for admittance into top dance programs. Typically, you must audition for any type of formal training program. According to the BLS, dance training is strenuous.

Important Facts About Dancers

Required Education High school diploma, or equivalent
Key Skills Coordination, discipline, stamina, active listening, flexibility, oral comprehension, time management, critical thinking
Work Environment Performing arts companies or private instruction
Similar Occupations Actors, art directors, music directors, composers, musicians, singers, producers, directors, post-secondary teachers

Degree Options

Formal college degree programs are not usually required for a career in dance, but they may be useful if you want to prepare for your career after dancing. The BLS notes that there are both bachelor's and master's degree programs in the field and that you can expect to learn several dance styles. Some topics you might study in a degree program include:

  • Ballet
  • Performance
  • Music studies
  • Partnering
  • Dance history
  • Acting
  • Voice
  • Jazz
  • Tap
  • Choreography

Finding a Position

To find work as a dancer, you'll rely upon your skills and experience. You would usually audition for a job and be required to showcase superb skills in form, style and execution. Possible employers for dancers include food service and drinking establishments, dance studios, schools, theaters, opera companies, theme parks and casinos. The BLS reported in 2016 that 27% of dancers were self-employed.

To prepare for an audition or interview, you may consider gathering recommendation letters from teachers, fellow dancers or previous employers. You may also want to compile a portfolio that includes pictures of you in past productions and a video of your work.

Career Description

As a dancer, you may perform many different styles of dance or focus on only one style. For example, dancing careers are available in ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop. Your style of dance will dictate where you may find work. Whether you dance solo or as part of a group also plays a part in where you might work. You may work in one location or go on tour to various locations around the world.

Due to the physical demands of dance, dancers may stop dancing and pursue another career. Many of them move into choreography or teaching after their dance careers have ended. A formal education in dance or fine arts can help you prepare for these post-performance careers. If you decide to continue dancing, you may be promoted to a dance captain or ballet master position.

Job Outlook and Salary

As of 2018, the BLS reported there were 9,720 jobs held by dancers, with a five percent increase expected from 2016-2026. You can expect strong competition for the limited job openings in the field. If you decide to advance to the role of choreographer, you can expect lesser job prospects, with three percent job growth expected between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS.

In May 2018, the BLS noted that most dancers made a median hourly wage between $9.35 and $40.08, with the median hourly pay being $16.31. Those working for colleges, universities, and professional schools made the highest average hourly wage of $31.42, while dancers in museums and historical sites earned a significantly lower average wage of $11.21 an hour. Independent performers averaged $22.14 an hour, while dancers working for performing arts companies made $21.88 an hour on average.

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