Career Paths

Careers in Performing Arts

The performance arts industry is a huge and diverse field, offering many different opportunities for individuals looking to make a living through their creativity. From acting, to dancing, and broadcasting, there are a ton of career options for people who love to be on stage.

Career Information

Learn everything you need to know about careers in the performing arts with our in-depth career guides.

Degrees & Majors

What degree is best for a performing arts career? Explore college degree options here.

Salary & Job Outlook

How much do performing artists get paid? Explore salary information and job outlook estimates by location.

Performing arts are an integral part of society. Whether you’re a big fan of musical theater, opera, ballet, or jazz, the arts form part of our culture and add an enormous amount to it. However, despite the importance of performing artists in society, very few people understand what a performing artist does or has to do to live out their passion professionally. Performing artists are actually really similar to most other working professionals. While it is true that they have to perform under some pressure during shows, this is only one element in a role that, in their day-to-day lives, is similar to a lot of office jobs. A performing artist has a normal working week and normal working hours with regular breaks. The only difference from an office job is that the workplace changes each time that they perform for an audience at the very top of their field.

Career Profiles

Performing Arts Careers List

Many people think of actors when they hear “performing arts”, but performing arts encompass so much more than just actors! Many performers in the performing arts have backgrounds as dancers, singers, musicians, and other performers. In fact, many performing arts careers require you to have a background in another field. There are a number of careers available in the performing arts, and they can all be some of the most enjoyable and rewarding lifestyles you can choose.


A dancer is a person that performs various styles of dance. There are many different genres of dance today including ballet, modern dance, jazz dance, hip-hop dance, and even some forms of folk dancing like Irish step dancing. All types of dancers need specific training to perfect their skills and craft.


Singers are the musicians who perform songs and music through vocal performance. Singing is an essential component of many different musical genres. Singing enables us to express emotions that words alone can't communicate as powerfully. It's a way for us to share stories and personal insights with others through song.


A comedian is someone who entertains people by telling jokes and funny stories. Comedians often perform in clubs and theaters, and many make their careers touring various venues. They can also be heard on radio and television or seen in films. People often refer to comedy as the "art of being funny".

Opera Singer

An opera singer is someone who typically takes part in an opera performance and sings many parts which require exceptional vocal ability. They are sometimes joined by a small ensemble consisting of accompanying instrumentalists or singers. Opera singers are best known for singing in operas but may also take part in musicals.


A ventriloquist is a person who can throw their voice such that it appears to come from someone or something else. A ventriloquist may use a puppet, doll, or prop so that their "voice" appears to come from it. Sometimes, ventriloquists are able to make their voice appear as though it is coming from somewhere else in the room.

Degrees & Majors

Best Degrees for Performing Arts Careers

A performing arts degree is a wonderful choice for students who dream of careers in theater, dance, music, and the performing arts. However, not all degrees are created equally. A degree from one school might be perfect for one student’s needs while another degree from a different university might be more well-suited for the same person’s goals. Different performing arts schools have a wide variety of majors and degrees to offer to aspiring performers. Learning which schools offer these programs is an important first step towards finding the best program or degree for you.

Salary & Job Outlook

Performing Arts Salary

The annual salary of a performing artist can vary drastically depending on the type of job they are performing as well as the experience and skill set of the individual. It is also worth noting that, unlike most other professions, artists don’t usually earn a fixed salary for every project or performance; rather artists negotiate rates based on previous earnings, the terms of their contracts, as well as the length of the performance, and the budget required to produce it. A successful performance can also lead to numerous other performances, writing assignments, and publishing opportunities.
New York$63,614$5,301$31.00
New Hampshire$61,326$5,110$29.00
New Jersey$55,369$4,614$27.00, Performing Arts Salary, August 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

Performing Arts Careers FAQ

If you’ve studied performing arts, the skills you’ve gained can translate into a number of different careers, especially in performance and production. From jobs in the entertainment industry to more practical positions in fields like business, art, or education, there are plenty of excellent opportunities for those with a background in performing arts.

Performing arts degrees are typically granted as bachelor’s or master’s degrees. A performing arts degree encompasses a broad range of disciplines ranging from the study of dance and music to the study of theatre and art history. Students in this field take classes that blend theoretical study with performance practice in order to gain the skills they need for a career in the theatre, the dance world, or on camera. In addition to taking classes, degree candidates complete at least one major performance project during their course of study.

According to a recent study, about half of the people who work in the performing arts are self-employed. So if you believe that working for yourself is the right choice for you, then it’s important for you to be familiar with some of the intricacies of self-employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available for performing artists, including those working in acting, dance, music, film, and theater, is expected to increase slightly through the year 2029.

In addition to having natural talent in your chosen discipline, it takes the right experience and qualifications to be successful as a performing artist. Talent can take you a long way, but you will also need attributes like confidence, resilience, and self-reflection, along with skills like teamwork, creativity, analytical, and quick learner.