Types of Performing Arts

theatre student rehearsing in front of other students on stage

Do you have a passion for creating, storytelling and solving unique problems? Are you creative and driven? If any of these attributes apply to you, then a performing arts degree may be the right educational path for you.

What can you do with a performing arts degree? There are many types of performing arts. Students who can envision themselves singing, dancing, playing music, designing, working backstage or acting for a living might consider earning a performing arts degree in their desired field.

Throughout your time as a performing arts major, you will be taught to not only build skills in many different subject areas, but you may become more confident and knowledgeable about the specific niche you would like to work in.

In This Article:

Exploring Performing Arts

Art is a complex field, with a world of possibilities to consider pursuing. Performing arts encompass all types of art that are performed and presented to an audience (live audience or otherwise). This is in contrast to visual arts (e.g. paintings), which are static (not performed).

There are many types of performing arts, including:

  • Theatre
  • Musical theatre
  • Music
  • Acting
  • Dance

Magicians are also a type of performing artist. Performing arts allow the artists to express themselves and the audience to enjoy an emotional response. Some artistic pieces are intended to provoke a certain reaction or even to ask questions for the audience to consider.

As previously mentioned, these types of performing arts may sometimes take place before a live audience (e.g. musical theatre). Others involve prerecorded performances that may then be streamed or aired to an audience at their leisure, such as TV shows and movies. Some performing artists, perhaps after gaining experience in the field, decide to devote their career to teaching their art form to others.

Types of Degrees for Performing Arts Majors

Just as there are many types of performing arts, there are also many different degrees for creative, artistic students. Performing arts degrees are often Bachelor of Arts (BA) degrees, although some universities may offer Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or Bachelor of Music (BM) degrees.

Traditionally, there are three main categories of performing arts degrees: music, dance and drama or theatre. In each of these main categories, there are additional specializations available to further refine your intended career path.

For example, you may want to learn about performance and technology. Students who dive into this type of program will examine how technology is used in the entertainment industry. These students may study lighting, sound, stage management, scenic design, CAD drafting and many other subjects in technical production.

Alternatively, you might want to specialize in screenwriting. If you are interested in both working on and offstage, scriptwriting may be the right specialization for you. Performing arts majors who choose a specialization in screenwriting will be taught about the writing techniques, creative process and industry standards used to mold and shape an idea into a script for performance.

What Can You Do With a Performing Arts Degree?

Now that you’re more familiar with the main types of performing arts and the specializations available, you may be wondering, What can you do with a performing arts degree?

It’s not possible for any degree program to guarantee a specific career outcome. However, students who earn a performing arts degree may go on to pursue careers in acting, performance dance, music or even art therapy. It’s also possible to pursue a career behind the scenes, such as a job as a technician or assistant.

Performing arts majors aren’t necessarily limited to pursuing entertainment-related careers, either. Throughout your studies, you will be taught transferrable soft skills that may serve you well in a variety of workplaces. These soft skills include communication, teamwork, collaboration and critical thinking. Before you consider a non-entertainment career, however, take a look at some of the careers in performing arts you might pursue.


Many performing arts degree graduates decide to pursue roles in theatre or on film. Actors study how to communicate through language and movement. They use scripts and work with the support of a director and other actors to make a story come alive.

Some actors may work solely with their voice doing radio, voice-over or podcasts. Others may use their skills in a wide range of work from live events, corporate speaking and presentations, training and leadership positions.


Performing arts degree graduates who specialize in dance use their bodies to tell stories and express emotions. They work with choreographers to dance in front of audiences or on TV and in film. Some dancers work in specialized dance forms like ballet or ballroom, while others can be more versatile.

Like acting, dance can be a difficult field to break into early in a career. Dancers may similarly need to take many small roles and network with those in the industry in order to work their way up to more prominent positions.


Musically inclined graduates could decide to pursue work in Hollywood. For example, they may want to deliver live performances in theatre productions, or they might write and play scores for television shows and movies.

They may work in many different settings and use their talents to help the audience understand and feel the stories they are watching. Music students can focus their degree on vocal or piano performance, or on the worship arts. They may play professionally in ministry settings, or they might decide to pursue a career as a private music teacher.

Art/Music Therapist

Some performing arts graduates go on to earn advanced degrees that allow them to become music or art therapists. Music, drama and movement therapists work with people of all ages to help them use art to express and process their emotions and experiences.

The arts can help someone who is grieving or in pain by giving them an outlet for their thoughts and feelings when they might be struggling to express themselves with language. Art therapy has been scientifically proven to benefit the mental health of patients when used as an adjunct treatment.1

This career path can be a good option for performing arts students who are interesting in pursuing a graduate degree and learning more about psychology and human behavior.

Stage Manager

Performing arts majors are taught foundational knowledge in a variety of performance environments, allowing them to work in a range of settings where organization, leadership and technical skills are needed. Working as a stage manager can provide performing arts graduates with a career working with everything from lighting and sound to managing rehearsals and live production.

Live Production Design and Technology Specialist

Students who study theatre production are taught the latest design and technical production techniques. Live production design and technology in sets, lighting, sound, properties and hair and makeup are some of the areas where graduates may find work in the theatre, film, sports, broadcast and live event industries.

Begin Your Performing Arts Education at GCU

At Grand Canyon University, you can further your dream of pursuing careers in performing arts. The College of Arts and Media offers numerous degree programs for performing arts majors, such as the Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Drama, the Bachelor of Arts in Dance, and the Bachelor of Arts in Music with an Emphasis in Piano Performance degree program. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about the performing arts degrees available at GCU. 

Shukla, A., Choudhari, S., Gaidhaine, A., and Syed, Z. (2022, August 15). Role of art therapy in the promotion of mental health: a critical review. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved Aug. 8, 2023.

Approved by the dean of the College of Arts and Media on Oct. 25, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.