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What Are the Educational Requirements for Professional Dancers?

Professional dancers undergo many years of intensive training through private classes and schooling. Postsecondary dance programs, including bachelor's and master's degree programs, are available if you aspire to be a professional dancer.

Professional Dancer Education and Career Information

Professional dance can range from classical ballet, jazz or ballroom dancing to modern, tap or folk performances. You might focus your training in one genre of dance or choose to learn a variety of styles. Dancing is a physically demanding profession that requires years of training and extensive practice.

Dancers find work in many ways. You could freelance by auditioning for specific performances or seek employment with a dance company. In a dance company, you might go on tour for several months each year. Some common venues where you could work as a professional dancer include television, film and the stage. You could also choose to teach.

Important Facts About Dance Education

Online Availability Not available online
Degree Levels Bachelor's and master's degrees available
Degree Fields Dance, choreography, dance science, contemporary dance performance
Prerequisites Depending on level of study, high school diploma and/or bachelor's degree and/or previous dance training may be required
Median Salary (2019) $34,163*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 5% growth**

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional dancers usually start their training as children or teenagers (www.bls.gov). Early dance instruction introduces you to the elements of dance, such as technique, language and choreography. During this time, you develop agility, flexibility and strength, as well as discipline and stamina. This early preparation can equip you for advanced, professional training or entry into a degree program.

Educational Requirements

Becoming a professional dancer doesn't necessarily require formal education or an academic degree, though several colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs in dance. Acceptance into these programs sometimes requires years of dance experience or training prior to admission.

Performance-based programs typically require you to complete an audition. The style of your audition might depend on the type of program you're applying to, and your skill level could determine your placement in the program. Through a degree program, you might receive more exposure and preparation for entry into the professional world, including live performance opportunities.

Common Coursework

During a dance degree program, you could take a series of classes in ballet, modern dance and partnering styles. Courses in choreography, stage production, music for dance and history of dance are common within postsecondary degree programs. Master's programs may call for a thesis. In addition to coursework, you're usually expected to complete dance performances produced within the school or department. Many schools also include sponsored or student-run troupes that you can join to receive additional exposure and practice.