Professional Dancer: Career Profile, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a professional dancer. Learn about training requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Acting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Professional Dancer?

Little girls may dream of one day being a ballerina. Some young men spend hours on the streets practicing break dancing. Careers in dancing exist in a variety of venues throughout the entertainment field. From professional sports entertainment teams to Broadway and motion pictures, dancers can be found everywhere there's a stage or a field they can perform on.

Professional dancers find work in theaters, films and music videos, and they may eventually become dance instructors or choreographers. This career requires extensive physical strength and training. Read on to find out more about professional dance training through the information provided in the table below.

Training Required Typically starts at a young age and continues into teenage years; formal dance company program
Key Skills Physical stamina, persistence, athleticism, creativity
Job Growth (2014-2024)5%*
Mean Wage (2015) $18.14 per hour*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Professional Dancers Do?

Dancers perfect their body movements in order to evoke a certain feeling or convey a story or idea. Professional dancers perform choreographed dances in musical productions, musical theater, television, movies and a number of other performance outlets. As a dancer, you rehearse daily in order to master choreographed movements required for a performance. Most professional dancers work very long and strenuous hours to perfect their craft. This puts a lot of physical strain on your body. During rehearsal dancers consult with nutritionists and trainers to keep in top form.

What Educational Prerequisites Do I Need?

You might be interested in attending a dance academy to begin training for your dance career. Or, you may obtain a bachelor's degree in performing arts with a major in dance. Educational prerequisites vary according to the type of dance you want to perform; however, most professional dancers begin training at a young age. Typically, girls begin to train between the ages of 5-8 and boys between the ages of 10-15. During training, you may spend upwards of eight hours a day in class and rehearsal. You'll probably have your first professional audition by the age of 17 or 18.

What Are My Career Options?

Not all professional dancers perform regularly. Due to the physical demands of dancing, you and your colleagues may retire from dance performance in your early 30s, and you may choose to supplement your income in related careers. One career option is to become a teacher in a dance academy or university, where you'll instruct young dancers and offer courses on dance nutrition and health. If you develop an accomplished performance portfolio, you might open your own dance studio. Another possibility is to develop your individual techniques and become a choreographer or art director, or start your own dance company.

What Is the Outlook for My Job and Salary?

Dancers face intense competition. A limited number of positions are available, and only the most talented find employment on a regular basis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 5% rise in the employment of dancers between 2014 and 2024. The bureau stated that dancers who've completed training affiliated with a dance company would have better employment opportunities. According to the BLS, dancers earned a mean hourly salary of $18.14 as of May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Most dancers know their dancing career has a limited time span. Their bodies just can't stand up to the pace and stamina needed for long-term practice and performance. Most dancers look to alternative career choices as they age. Some turn to acting roles, especially if they are working in musical theater. Others love the dance so much they choose to become instructors or choreographers, which will require additional training and maybe even a degree. Some of the more visionary dancers seek careers as directors or producers of productions, and that career path requires at least a bachelor's degree. Overall, many dancers look to stay in the entertainment field in some capacity, and further education is often beneficial when making a career transition.

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