Unless your child was dancing "Swan Lake" at age 7 and doing summer camp at ABT as a tween, you might think of a dance major as a path to unemployment—or a gig in Las Vegas. Contrary to those arts major misconceptions, many career paths and jobs are open to dance majors, whether they're into ballet, hip-hop or Tommy Tune. Dance majors bring a wealth of workplace skills besides pointe work and jazz hands to the table.
The very nature of their training translates to strong communication and non-verbal skills, problem-solving skills and teamwork. They're organized, detail oriented and highly disciplined, and they know the art world inside and out.
Performance is an obvious career path for dance majors, and the list of arts organizations that hire dancers these days goes far beyond New York's Lincoln Center or the Bellagio in Vegas. Every arena of the entertainment world, from MTV music videos to cruise lines and theme parks, employs dancers, not just ballet companies and Broadway theaters. A quarter of the dance-related jobs out there is in choreography, an area that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to see grow by 7 percent over the coming years, fueled by pop culture interest in music and dance. Some dancers go into a specialized field of choreography and become dance notators, recording and preserving choreography and repertoire for the future, using Benesh or Laban notation methods, which take special training.
Some dance majors parlay their knowledge of the art world into a job in arts management or arts administration, running operations, finance or the marketing arms of existing arts organizations. They may manage other dancers or performers, handle press for them, or build and run websites for dance or arts organizations.
Arts administration jobs typically require bachelor's degrees, whereas performance jobs value experience and training over diplomas, although getting an internship, bachelor's or masters of fine arts degree from a respected performing arts school not only increases a dancer's skills and experience but is also invaluable in networking.
Dance is not a field that commands large salaries. Arts organizations are typically non-profits, and wages reflect that. For performers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put the median salary at $16.85 per hour in 2015 and noted that dancers had a high on-the-job injury rate and a brief performing career. Professional dance companies offer slightly better wages. Choreographers earn an average hourly wage of $22.09.
Want all these tips wrapped up in a tidy "Top 15 Jobs for Dance Majors" list? Here you go:
- Dancer in a major arts organizations, such as a ballet company, opera house or musical theater company
- Choreographer for those same organizations
- Notator to preserve the choreography and repertoire for those companies
- Dancer in a large-scale theme park, Las Vegas production or smaller productions on a cruise line
- Dancer for music videos and commercials
- Choreographer, trainer or coach for music videos
- Marketing and public relations for a dance company
- Web design and social media management for a dance company
- Grant writing, development, and finance for arts organizations
- Artist management and representation
- Arts facilities operations
- Special events planner for a ballet company or arts organization
- Dance teacher at a dance studio or school
- Dance or movement therapist
- Sports trainer or Pilates instructor