What Are the Performing Arts?

The performing arts include dance, music and theater. Many performing artists use their bodies, voices and talents as a means of artistic expression. They include singers, actors, comedians and dancers. This article discusses the performing arts and some of the related careers one might work toward. Schools offering Theatre degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

About the Performing Arts

Performing arts refers to art that is performed before an audience. Professionals usually focus on one aspect of art such as drama, dance or music. Others possessing craftsmanship or technical skills often fill supporting roles such as set designers or sound technicians.

Important Facts About the Performing Arts

Dancers Actors Musicians
Key Skills Athleticism; teamwork; persistence Memorization; creativity; communication Interpersonal; musical; dedication
Required Education Formal training required Helpful, but not required Performers of classical or opera music usually have a bachelor's degree
Work Environment May travel for months at a time on tour Stressful, often living job-to-job Concert halls, arenas, clubs, religious organizations
Median Hourly Pay (2018)* $16.31 $17.54 $28.15

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Actors perform on stage as well as in television or film. Others work in less traditional roles in product demonstrations or theme parks. While few start as child actors or transition to this role from other fields, most actors train in the craft and work hard to remain employed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that actors had a median hourly wage of $17.54 as of May 2018.


Dancers work in musical theater, opera, television shows and commercials, film, music videos and teaching. The intensely physical nature of their work requires continued training and exercise. According to the BLS, as of May 2018, dancers had a median hourly wage of $16.31.

Musicians and Singers

Musicians and singers perform in orchestras, theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and other venues. This performing arts field requires talent or training. Professional singers might further develop their abilities through their participation in workshops, private instruction sessions or educational programs. Per BLS statistics reported in May 2018, musicians and singers earned $28.15 as a median hourly wage.

Supporting Occupations

Many support professionals also work within the field of performing arts, including set designers, make-up artists, composers, arrangers, lighting technicians, costume designers and art directors. These positions require various levels of training. For example, a composer or arranger usually needs a formal music education credential such as a Master of Fine Arts in Music. Such professionals also need experience in the field. Alternatively, a lighting technician may receive training through a vocational school program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides more detailed information about some of these supporting occupations.

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