Have you been dancing since you could walk? Have you spent countless hours training? Do you want to dance professionally? You might consider earning a dance degree. What can you do with a dance degree? Whether your dance training has been in ballet, jazz, hip-hop or any other style, a degree in dance may allow you to pursue a variety dance careers.
In This Article:
- What Is a Dance Degree?
- 8 Dance Careers To Consider
- What Does Earning a Dance Degree Require?
- Do You Want to Dance? Prepare Yourself to Excel in College
- Positioning Yourself to Succeed in Your Dance Program
What Is a Dance Degree?
A dance degree may help to prepare you to pursue a career in the arts. Undergraduate degrees in dance include a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Dance and a BA in Dance for Secondary Education. Each track can provide opportunities for you to immerse yourself in your passion for dance. A dance degree is much more than the piece of paper you get on graduation day. It is the culmination of the hard work and investments you have made in your future. Throughout your degree program, you will be taught how to prepare for and conduct yourself in an audition and, most importantly, you will be challenged to grow as an artist.
8 Dance Careers to Consider
So, exactly what can you do with a dance degree? There is a diverse range of dance major jobs to consider — from jobs that focus on performance to those behind the stage. Here’s a look at eight dance careers that might interest you.
One of the most relevant careers for dancers is to be a professional dance performer. Professional dancers have the opportunity to perform with a dance company, in a regional theatre, in a theme park, on a cruise ship, or in other settings.
A degree in dance can provide technical training from knowledgeable dance professionals in dance technique, dance kinesiology and injury prevention, improvisation and choreography. Professional dancers must be able to perform with high technical proficiency and demonstrate a strong performance presence. A degree in dance may provide you with many opportunities to perform and develop these skills.
Another popular option for an aspiring dance artist is to become a professional choreographer. Those with a passion for creating dances and directing dancers may find this career fulfilling. A choreographer may seek employment with dance companies and studios, as well as within the broader entertainment industry, including designing for commercials, television shows and movies.
A dance degree may support this career goal by offering instruction in different dance styles, dance theory and composition, as well as the various tools you can use when choreographing. It may also provide you with opportunities to present your choreography to a live audience.
3. Dance Teacher
If you would like to share your love of dance with generations to come, you might consider stepping into a teaching position. A dance teacher may work in various settings, including public or private K-12 schools, universities and private dance studios. Some dance teachers decide to establish their own dance studios.
If becoming a dance teacher interests you, consider earning a dance degree that has an emphasis in education. Ideally, look for a BA in Dance for Secondary Education that leads to initial teacher licensure. By obtaining a teaching license in your state, you may be qualified to teach dance in public schools, as well as in private settings.1,2
4. Dance Therapist
The arts can have a powerful influence on the wellness of our spirits, minds and bodies. Those who have a passion for dance and physical and mental health may find their purpose in dance reflective of physical therapy.
Dance therapists use movement to address a patient’s mental and physical health needs. They use the inspiration and healing that comes from dance to help patients explore their emotions and find themselves through movement. Dance therapists may also help individuals understand how movement and the body are connected to overall health, taking a holistic approach to health.
The requirements to become a dance therapist may vary from state to state. Before beginning your education, check the requirements for the state in which you plan to work. In general, aspiring dance therapists may need to obtain an accredited and advanced graduate degree in dance (after earning a BA in Dance) and a certification from the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA).3
5. Arts Administrator
One of the many exciting elements of the dance community is the shows and arts programs that are presented to the public. If you have a passion for the business side of the arts, a career as an arts administrator might be right for you.
A career in arts administration often include tasks such as organizing, managing and promoting the activities and performances of your organization. An arts administrator might also run educational programs, and make sure that the artists within their organization continue to create engaging material that appeals to the public.
A dance degree may support your journey to become an effective administrator by providing opportunities to practice administrative and managerial skills. These can include:
- Promoting and marketing shows
- Developing and managing a show budget
- Light hanging
- Stage Management
6. Dance Notator
A dance notator plays an essential role in the development of a specific dance. They work alongside the choreographer in the studio as dancers learn the intricacies of a dance. The dance notator’s role is to record each movement and sequence of movements.
The recording of a dance can be immensely complex, as a simple instruction such as “Lower the right arm” doesn’t fully capture the movement. For instance, is the dancer to flick the fingers as the arm lowers? How far should the arm lower? Because of the precision required in dance, dance notation can be quite complex, yet it’s necessary for preserving the movements.
In addition to recording the precise movements of a dance using an established notation system, the dance notator may capture videotaped records of the performance. They may also capture information related to the costumes, set and light designs.
7. Professional Dance Critic
If you are passionate about both dance and the written word, you might consider pursuing a career as a dance critic, also known as a dance journalist. A professional dance critic attends live performances, taking notes and conducting interviews with dancers, choreographers and other professionals.
Dance critics must also conduct some background research into the dance itself and the performers. Then, they use all of this information to create compelling reviews of the performance. Dance critics may work as freelancers or for a particular publication.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a dance critic, you may want to consider minoring in professional writing, English or a related area while you’re earning your dance degree. In addition, look for opportunities to grow your professional portfolio, such as by writing for the student newspaper and pursuing internships at publications.
8. Dance Photographer
Dance involves continuous movement, while photography involves capturing a brief moment in time and holding it still for the eye to see. The two fields might seem to be out of harmony with each other, but dance photography can serve to capture the potential of movement for the audience to enjoy at their leisure.
If you have an artistic eye and a passion for dance, you might consider pursuing a career in dance photography. Dance photography might even make an ideal second career if you first decide to dance professionally for a while. While you’re working toward your dance degree, look for on-campus or community classes in photography, and practice taking pictures at dance rehearsals (with the instructor’s permission, of course).
What Does Earning a Dance Degree Require?
The curriculum for a dance degree often emphasizes physical work. You can expect to become immersed in many different dance forms, including ballet, jazz and vernacular dance such as hip-hop.
You will be expected to practice improvisation in dance as a creative practice, as well as a tool for generating original movement. In dance ensemble classes, you will have opportunities to apply what you’ve been taught in rehearsal and performance with faculty who exhibit a range of tools and practices to help develop impactful choreography.
In addition to courses in the studio, you may also take classes with a more traditional academic format. For example, dance majors typically examine the history of dance within their program. It is also common for dance majors to explore pedagogy, injury prevention, dance kinesiology and choreography. Additionally, many students who pursue a dance degree are strongly encouraged, if not required, to participate in various performances throughout the year.
Beyond the core classes in your dance degree, you may be expected to take certain classes generally required by the institution you are attending. For example, some colleges may required you to take a communications class, which can provide opportunities to develop skills that are essential to the overall workplace.
Do You Want to Dance? Prepare Yourself to Excel in College
As a high school student who intends on earning a dance degree, there are a few things you can do to prepare for college. The most effective strategy is to immerse yourself in the dance world. Watch as many live performances as you can and access professional dance videos, many of which are available on online video platforms. As you watch, analyze the dancers’ movements and techniques, and try to apply those skills in your own dancing.
You can also familiarize yourself with dance history by visiting your local library. Learn about famous dancers, choreographers and historical events. This will also help you become more familiar with the terminology of the industry. It is also important to continue taking dance classes after school and during school breaks. Go outside your comfort zone. If you typically prefer ballet, challenge yourself to take a modern dance class. Be sure to maintain healthy habits. Eat nutritious foods, avoid sugary snacks, drink plenty of water and get sufficient sleep.
Positioning Yourself to Succeed in Your Dance Program
Your years in college can fly by quickly, so it is important to make the most of it. Dancers need to take good care of their health because they use their bodies as a form of self-expression.
You will likely be dancing for several hours each day, so be sure to stay well hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you to every class. Similarly, prioritize your sleep.
Although the typical goal of a student majoring in dance is to dance professionally, you should also explore other opportunities in the arts and entertainment. Consider planning for your future beyond your performance career by exploring and identifying other areas of interest or potential pursuits for life after this phase. To ease your transition, it can be helpful to choose a double major or a minor in a field such as communications, marketing, business administration or perhaps even counseling.
If you’re interested in pursuing dance major jobs, consider enrolling in Grand Canyon University’s College of Arts and Media. The Bachelor of Arts in Dance degree program is designed to support students’ aspirations of pursuing a career in performance and other dance-related positions. If you are interested in teaching dance specifically, consider pursuing a Bachelor’s in Dance Education Degree for Secondary Education. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn more.
1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a high school teacher. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Oct. 24, 2023.
2 If seeking licensure or certification, applicants to the program are responsible for contacting their state department of education for licensure requirements and program approval. In addition, fingerprint and background clearance is required.
3 American Dance Therapy Association. (n.d.). Become a dance movement therapist! Retrieved Oct. 24, 2023.
4 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 to 2022 may be atypical compared to prior years. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2023, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dancers and Choreographers, retrieved on Nov. 17, 2023.
Approved by the director of dance of the College of Arts and Media on Dec. 13, 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.