Becoming a Professional Dance Choreographer: Career Path

Here's what you need to know about becoming a professional dance choreographer, from the educational requirements and key skills to the job outlook and the salary. Schools offering Acting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Choreographers orchestrate dances that convey ideas, evoke emotion or tell a story (and sometimes all three). Many hold advanced degrees in dance and work for singers, television shows, movies, musical plays or as instructors at schools. For some quick-glance info on the career, take a look at the chart below.

Typical Degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Dance
Key Skills Creativity, leadership, communication
Job Growth (2016-2026) 3%*
Median Salary (2017) $23.28 per hour*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Choreographers Do?

Where a painter might use brush strokes to craft a meaningful story, summon emotions or get an idea across, a choreographer uses the human body as an instrument of artistic expression. Choreographers design movements and patterns of movement to create dances that dancers will perform to a musical number. They explain their ideas to the dancers and help them learn the dance moves. In addition, they are often involved in creating costumes and even designing sets that coincide with their vision for the show.

How Do You Become a Choreographer?

Almost all choreographers start out as dancers. It follows, then, that most followed a similar path -- starting training in the dance world when they were young and continuing that education through high school and college. College coursework for dance may include history, choreography and a variety of dance styles including hip hop, ballet, modern and jazz. As they progress in their careers as dancers, choreographers begin to understand how to bring all the elements together to create a meaningful program. This requires a great deal of creativity, an advanced understanding of movement and the ability to communicate with and lead a group of dancers.

Where Do Choreographers Work?

Choreographers can work in a variety of environments. Some get work at professional dance companies or live theater productions, many of them design dance numbers for television shows and movies, while others work for singers, creating moves for a music video or tour. Choreographers also often work as teachers, either at a dance school or a university.

How Much Do Choreographers Make?

Choreographers earn more than dancers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reports that the median wage for a choreographer as of May 2017 was $23.28 per hour. Those who work on a tour might have long, odd hours for extended periods of time, while choreographers at a school typically put in a traditional work week.

What's the Job Outlook for Dance Choreographers?

The job growth for choreographers is projected to be slower than the national average for all occupations. The BLS predicts a slight increase in employment in the field: 3% between the years 2016 and 2026. The average for all careers is 7%. The field is competitive -- there are far fewer job openings than choreographers out there -- but they may continue to find work in dance schools, television shows, casinos and theme parks.

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