Dance and Choreography Careers

Read on to learn about typical courses, resources, and careers in this field.

Staff Writer

2022-11-3015 min read

Dancers and choreographers express ideas through complex dance movements. Dance performances might incorporate existing dances or new and emerging dance forms.

Inexperienced dancers mostly learn and execute new dance routines. However, experienced choreographers begin to understand how to create dances for other dancers to execute.

Many dancers have traditional performances at live shows, while others work in music videos and TV. Some dancers perform at casino and theme park shows as individuals, dance groups, or part of a dance company. Choreographers work with dancers to create and perfect creative dance routines.

Why Choose Dance and Choreography?

Some great reasons to choose a career in dance and choreography include the following:

  • No strict working hours; therefore, you can simultaneously pursue a separate career.
  • Dancers and choreographers typically learn other aspects of production, like costume designing and stage management.
  • Well-known dancers and choreographers can land lucrative sponsorship deals.
  • You’ll often be in excellent physical condition.

How to Start your Dance and Choreography Journey

Many professional dancers begin training early in life, especially if their chosen genre is specialized. For instance, most ballet dancers begin training as early as elementary school and start their careers fully at 18.

Dance companies and conservatories prefer instructors with formal dance education. Therefore, students must earn an associate degree to land high-paying jobs.

Educational Requirements

Associate Degree

An associate degree dance program usually takes around two years (four semesters) to finish. It prepares students for entry-level dance and choreography jobs or further education.

Dance and choreography associate degree programs teach students courses such as:

  • Art Appreciation
  • Ballet
  • Choreography
  • Contemporary Dance
  • Modern Dance
  • Music Appreciation

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in dance and choreography typically takes 3-4 years. Most college dance programs require applicants to have previous formal training. Students learn courses such as:

  • Choreography
  • Dance pedagogy
  • Dance writing/criticism
  • Kinesiology
  • Musculoskeletal anatomy
  • Musicality

Some schools give students a placement year to gain work experience in a professional dance company.

Master’s Degree

Dance and choreography master’s degree programs usually run for two years. It allows students to specialize in an aspect of dance and choreography.

Students can choose practical courses focused on choreography and techniques or theoretical ones focused on dance history and cultural significance. Alternatively, they can pivot to related programs like physical therapy, dance therapy, and dance education.

Doctorate in Dance and Choreography

A doctorate in dance and choreography runs for 3-7 years. It is a research-oriented program that concludes with you writing a dissertation that adds new knowledge to dance studies.

A Ph.D. in dance qualifies you to lecture in postsecondary dance schools. It also opens the door to job opportunities outside performance.

Employment Prospects

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts around 2,700 new dance and choreography job openings annually for the next decade. That amounts to a 27% industry growth, far exceeding the average for all occupations.

Dance and Choreography Career Forecast

Dancers and choreographers typically start their careers as dance group members. In musical theater companies, an outstanding dancer can become a dance captain, leading rehearsals and working with less-experienced dancers. With experience, some dancers become choreographers, creating routines from existing dances and new and emerging types.

Lucrative Dance and Choreography Career Paths


Choreographers create, rehearse, and direct dance performances.

Average Salary

Choreographers earn a median annual wage of $42,700. The top 10% make over $78,030, while the bottom 10% earn less than $22,150.

Roles and Responsibilities

The job description of a choreographer typically includes the following:

  • Create dance routines from new dance styles or interpretations of existing dances.
  • Choose music to accompany a choreographed dance routine.
  • Audition dancers for roles in a performance or dance company.
  • Assist with costume design.

Industries Employing Choreographers

Choreographers work in professional dance companies, live theater productions, and movie and video industries.

Circus Performer

Circus performers perform dance and acrobatic tricks as part of a circus act.

Average Salary

Circus performers earn an average annual base salary of $39,548. The top 10% earn over $70,000, while the bottom 10% earn less than $22,000; they can also earn up to $1,000 in additional pay.

Roles and Responsibilities

A circus performer’s roles and responsibilities include the following:

  • Perform daring dance and acrobatic tricks to captivate the audience.
  • Rehearse performances with other performers of various acts.
  • Ensure rehearsals and live-act performances do not endanger others.

Industries Employing Circus Performers

Circus performers mostly perform at circus shows and theme parks.

Dance Critic

Dance critics give written or spoken reviews of dance performances.

Average Salary

The average annual salary of a dance critic is $42,199. The top 20% earn over $81,580, while the bottom 20% earn below $21,390.

Roles and Responsibilities

The job description of a dance critic includes the following:

  • Attend live performances of shows.
  • Review the creativity and execution of a dance routine.
  • Audition dancers for shows and live performances.
  • Interview dancers and choreographers about their work.

Industries Employing Dance Critics

Dance critics work in magazines, dance companies, and musical theater companies.

Dance Instructor

Dance instructors offer elementary dance training to learners.

Average Salary

Dance instructors earn an average annual salary of $37,493. The top 10% earn over $62,000, while the bottom 10% earn less than $17,000; they can earn up to $11,000 in additional pay.

Roles and Responsibilities

The responsibilities of a dance instructor include the following:

  • They typically demonstrate dance moves for learners to copy.
  • Instruct dancers in the proper dance technique for various dance forms.
  • Organize dance events and network to increase student enrollment.

Industries Employing Dance Instructors

Dance instructors can work in the dance or fitness industries or open a professional dance company.

Dance or Movement Therapist

Dance or movement therapists improve clients’ pyschotherapeutic health with dance and movement.

Average Salary

Dance or movement therapists earn an average annual salary of $46,591. The top 105 earn over $65,000, while the bottom 10% earn below $37,000; they can earn up to $27,000 in additional pay.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of dance or movement therapists include the following:

  • Attend to a client’s physical, emotional, and behavioral needs through dance.
  • Create a safe and trusting atmosphere for clients.
  • Write reports and update client records.

Industries Employing Dance or Movement Therapists

Dance or movement therapists typically work in the psychotherapeutic industry.

Dance Photographer

Dance photographers take pictures of dancers in various settings.

Average Salary

The average annual salary of a dance photographer is $41,650. The top 25% earn over $55,500, while the bottom 10% earn less than $31,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of dance photographers include the following:

  • Organize necessary props for photography sessions.
  • Capture and edit pictures of dancers in live performances, competitions, or award ceremonies.
  • Work with lighting crews to get good light angles on stage.

Industries Employing Dance Photographers

Dance photographers work for dancers, event organizers, blogs, magazines, and newspapers.

Dance Professor

Dance professors teach dance in postsecondary academic institutions.

Average Salary

The average annual base salary of a dance professor is $73,469. The top 25% earn over $86,000, while the bottom 25% earn less than $59,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of dance professors include the following:

  • Teach dance theory subjects, like dance science and dance history.
  • Teach students to design dance routines.
  • Keep academic records of students’ grades and performance.

Industries Employing Dance Professors

Dance professors typically work in academic institutions; they can also be part of government education boards.


Dancers perform complex dance movements in live or recorded settings.

Average Salary

Dancers earn a median hourly wage of $18.78. The top 10% earn over $47.62 per hour, while the bottom 10% earn less than $10.03 per hour.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of dancers include the following:

  • Rehearse complex and entertaining dance movements with instructors, choreographers, or other dancers.
  • Attend promotional events for shows that they appear in.
  • Study new and emerging dance styles.

Industries Employing Dancers

A professional dancer can work in performing arts companies, educational services, and spectator sports industries.

Fitness Instructor

Fitness instructors facilitate individual and group fitness programs.

Average Salary

Fitness instructors earn a median annual salary of $40,700. The top 10% earn over $75,940, while the bottom 10% earn below $22,960.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a fitness instructor include the following:

  • Set and monitor the fitness goals of clients.
  • Ensure that clients observe correct exercise techniques.
  • Ensure the safe use of exercise equipment.
  • Educate clients on nutrition and lifestyle programs.
  • Select music that motivates clients during exercise sessions.

Industries Employing Fitness Instructors

Fitness instructors typically work in fitness and recreational sports centers.


A gymnast practices the sport of gymnastics.

Average Salary

Gymnasts earn an average annual salary of $53,988; the bottom 25% earn less than $31,500, while the top 25% earn over $63,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a gymnast include the following:

  • Select music to use during a performance.
  • Incorporate classic and modern dance moves in freestyle performances.
  • Work with coaches to rehearse and perfect performance routines.

Industries Employing Gymnasts

Gymnasts usually work as solo athletes or in sports teams. Top performers represent their countries at international games like the Olympics.

Social Media Influencer

Social media influencers are experts who can affect the buying decisions of followers on social media.

Average Salary

A social media influencer’s average annual salary is $43,037. The top 25% earn over $55,000, while the bottom 25% earn less than $30,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a social media influencer include the following:

  • Attract sponsors by posting creative dance routines.
  • Attend promotional events organized by sponsors.
  • Refer followers to a sponsor’s product or service.

Industries Employing Social Media Influencers

Because of their popularity, social media influencers can work for brands in all industries.

Stage Manager

Stage managers ensure that live performances go according to plan.

Average Salary

The average annual base salary of a stage manager is $45,000. The top 10% earn over $70,000, while the bottom 10% earn below $29,000; they can earn up to $1,000 in additional pay.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a stage manager include the following:

  • Draw the event schedule and inform all performers of their allocated time slot.
  • Work with technical teams to properly set up all electrical and mechanical equipment.
  • Clear the stage of all hazardous materials.

Industries Employing Stage Managers

Stage managers can work in the music, sports, and theater industries.

Stunt Double

A stunt double performs dangerous stunts in place of an actor they resemble.

Average Salary

The median annual salary of stunt doubles is $46,845. Salaries range from $10,321 to $260,665; however, the middle 57% make between $46,845 and $118,085.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a stunt double include the following:

  • Replace the actor in technically difficult situations such as risky driving, dancing, and complex martial arts scenes.
  • Mimic the actor’s appearance and body movements.
  • Use Computer-generated imagery (CGI) suits when necessary.

Industries Employing Stunt Doubles

Most stunt doubles work within the movie industry.

Talent Agent

Talent agents represent dancers in dealings with current or future employers.

Average Salary

The median annual salary of talent agents is $78,410. The top 10% earn over $208,000, while the bottom 10% earn less than $47,370.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of talent agents include:

  • Handle contract negotiations for clients.
  • Seek endorsement deals for clients.
  • Handle clients’ public image.
  • Market and promote clients.
  • Seek performers to join talent agencies.

Industries Employing Talent Agents

Talent agents can work for dance studios, talent agencies, and directly with performers.

Theater Director

A theater director oversees all phases of live theater productions.

Average Salary

A theater director’s average annual base salary is $52,279. The top 10% earn over $74,000, while the bottom 10% earn less than $34,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a theater director include the following:

  • Programming and budgeting of shows.
  • Hold auditions for prospective performers.
  • Work with set designers and technical teams to set the stage.
  • Publicize performances through various media.

Industries Employing Theater Directors

Theater directors typically work in theaters.

How to Boost your Dance and Choreography Career

Trained dancers require 5-8 years of practice, so an early start boosts your career significantly.

All professional dancers and choreographers should spend hours working independently to master dance moves. You have to master old moves, create new dances, and learn new and emerging types of dance.

You can hone your choreography skills by teaching dance classes to less-experienced dancers. In addition, gain experience and exposure by volunteering in community dance projects and participating in dance contests.

Pros and Cons of Dance and Choreography Careers

A career in dance and choreography has some pros and cons:


  • You’ll get paid for doing what you love.
  • Active involvement in dance work will keep you healthy.
  • A flexible work schedule.
  • Different career paths in performance or backstage roles.
  • You’re not likely to get full-time employment in a dance company; they mostly hire contractually. These dance contracts can be inconsistent.
  • The career involves lots of travel and exposure to different cultures.


  • Dancing is a short career since most dance routines require top physical fitness.
  • Keeping up with modern dance styles can be challenging.
  • Sometimes, you have to bear travel costs personally.
  • You’re susceptible to injuries during performance and rehearsal.
  • Being a professional dancer takes many years of practice.

Skills You’ll Develop While Studying Dance and Choreography

Dancers and choreographers learn some important skills as they prepare for their careers.


Dancers must be athletic to fulfill the physical demands of the job. Strength, speed, and stamina are central to most dance performances. Students naturally become more athletic as they rehearse, but specific exercises can improve their athleticism.


Dance and choreography students must learn to creatively express ideas through dance. They must also use other artistic aspects like costume and music to express their creativity.

Leadership Skills

Choreographers must lead other dancers to understand and execute the idea they have in mind. Leadership often involves showing the dancers how to perform a routine or adjusting your demands to dancers’ skill levels. Students in their latter years of school get more choreography projects.


Many interesting dance routines involve cohesive performances from several dance group members. Dance teachers ingrain this mentality in dancers by giving them group projects to choreograph with peers. Successful dancers and choreographers know how to fit each dancer's strength within the collective performance.

How to Prepare for a Dance and Choreography Career

Preparation to be a dancer or choreographer involves some simple steps.

1. Start Rehearsing Early

Dance and choreography take a long time to learn, so an early start is always great. For instance, female ballet dancers begin training as early as 5, and boys start a few years later. A strong foundation helps them deal with the increased training intensity when they become teenagers.

2. Earn a Degree

While you can go pro without formal education, it’s advisable that dancers and choreographers pursue postsecondary education. You can pursue a degree you’re interested in, like dance or performing arts. The formal training prepares you for job opportunities after your short performance career.

3. Gain Experience and Exposure

You first begin to gain performance experience from school projects. However, you can get more exposure by volunteering in community dance programs or competing in dance contests.

Dance and Choreography Resources to Help Your Career

How to Switch to a Dance and Choreography Career

You need to be a skilled dancer to pursue a dance and choreography performance role. It will take years of rehearsal and formal training to master proper dance techniques.

Backstage roles require a degree in related courses like dance, fine arts, or performing arts. You can be an agent to dancers and choreographers if you have a business or financial degree.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Dance and Choreography?

Dance is a performance art consisting of rhythmic movements, while choreography involves planning those movements. Dancers and choreographers work together to create, rehearse and perform.

What certification do I need for a Dance and Choreography career?

Dancers and choreographers do not need certifications to work. Many dancers land roles based on skill and performance experience alone; however, some jobs require formal education.

Can I get a Dance and Choreography degree online?

Yes, you can get a dance and choreography degree online. Several schools offer dance programs that are entirely online.

These courses include discussions, readings, and practical components. In addition, students usually present dance educators with video recordings of practice and creative work.

What fields can Dance and Choreography professionals work in?

Dance and choreography professionals can work as dancers or choreographers. They can also take up careers in martial arts, gymnastics, or fitness since dance work closely relates to other forms of movement. Finally, they can take up management roles like talent agents and theater directors.

Is there a high demand for Dance and Choreography majors?

According to the BLS, the job outlook for dance and choreography will increase by 27% in the next decade. That number is much faster than the national average. The rise of social media is a major cause for the increased demand for dance and choreography majors.

Final Thoughts

Dancers and choreographers have shorter and more tedious careers than most other professionals. However, you’ll always hear them speak highly of their career choice. The sacrifice will always be worth it if you do what you love.

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