Dancers and Choreographers

Summary

dancers and choreographers image
There are many different types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.
Quick Facts: Dancers and Choreographers
2015 Median Pay $16.85 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation See How to Become One
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 20,100
Job Outlook, 2014-24 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,100

What Dancers and Choreographers Do

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.

Work Environment

About half of dancers and choreographers worked in schools and performing arts companies in 2014.

How to Become a Dancer or Choreographer

Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers.

Pay

The median hourly wage for dancers and choreographers was $16.85 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of dancers and choreographers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. A growing interest in dance and in pop culture may provide opportunities in dance schools and in fields outside of dance companies. However, dancers and choreographers face intense competition, and the number of applicants is expected to vastly exceed the number of job openings.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for dancers and choreographers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of dancers and choreographers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about dancers and choreographers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Dancers and Choreographers Do About this section

Dancers and choreographers
Some dancers perform in theater productions.

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.

Duties

Dancers typically do the following:

  • Audition for a part in a show or for a job within a dance company
  • Learn complex dance movements that entertain an audience
  • Rehearse several hours each day to prepare for their performance
  • Study new and emerging types of dance
  • Work closely with instructors, choreographers, or other dancers to interpret or modify their routines
  • Attend promotional events, such as photography sessions, for the production in which they are appearing

Dancers spend years learning dances and perfecting their skills. They usually perform as part of a group and know a variety of dance styles, including ballet, musical theater, and modern dance. In addition to traditional performances in front of a live audience, many perform on TV, in videos on the Internet, and in music videos, where they also may sing or act. Many dancers perform in shows at casinos, theme parks, and on cruise ships.

Choreographers typically do the following:

  • Put together moves in a sequence to create dances or interpretations of existing dances
  • Choose the music that will accompany a dance routine
  • Audition dancers for a role in a show or within a dance company
  • Assist with costume design, lighting, and other artistic aspects of a show
  • Teach complex dance movements
  • Study new and emerging types of dance to design more creative dance routines
  • Help with the administrative duties of a dance company, such as budgeting

Choreographers create original dances and develop new interpretations of existing dances. They work in theaters, dance companies, and movie studios. During rehearsals, they typically demonstrate dance moves, to instruct dancers in the proper technique. Many choreographers also perform the dance routines they create. Some choreographers work with performers who are not trained dancers. For example, the complex martial arts scenes performed by actors in movies are arranged by choreographers who specialize in martial arts.

Some dancers and choreographers hold other jobs between roles to make a living. Some people with dance backgrounds become dance teachers.

Work Environment About this section

Dancers and choreographers
Dancers may rehearse several hours each day to prepare for their performance.

Dancers and choreographers held about 20,100 jobs in 2014. 

About half of dancers and choreographers worked in schools and performing arts companies in 2014. About 1 in 7 were self-employed.

Injuries and Illnesses

Dance takes a toll on a person’s body, so on-the-job injuries for dancers are common. Many dancers stop performing by the time they reach their late thirties because of the physical demands of their work. Nonperforming dancers may continue to work as choreographers, directors, or dance teachers.

Work Schedules

Schedules for dancers and choreographers vary, depending on where they work. During tours, dancers and choreographers have long workdays, rehearsing most of the day and performing at night. Some work part time at casinos, on cruise ships, and at theme parks.

Choreographers who work in dance schools may have a standard workweek when they are instructing students. They also spend hours working independently to create new dance routines.

How to Become a Dancer or Choreographer About this section

Dancers and choreographers
Most dancers begin training at a young age.

Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers.

Education and Training

Many dancers begin training when they are young and continue to learn throughout their careers. Ballet dancers begin training the earliest, usually between the ages of 5 and 8 for girls and a few years later for boys. Their training becomes more serious as they enter their teens, and most ballet dancers begin their professional careers by the time they are 18.

Leading professional dance companies sometimes have intensive summer training programs from which they might select candidates for admission to their regular full-time training programs.

Modern dancers normally begin formal training while they are in high school. They attend after-school dance programs and summer training programs to prepare for their career or for a college dance program.

Some dancers and choreographers pursue postsecondary education. Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in dance, typically through departments of theater or fine arts. In March 2015, there were about 85 dance programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Most programs include coursework in a variety of dance styles, including modern, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. Most entrants into college dance programs have previous formal training.

Some choreographers work as dance teachers. Teaching dance in a college, high school, or elementary school requires a college degree. Some dance studios and conservatories prefer instructors who have a degree but may accept previous work, in lieu of a degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Nearly all choreographers begin their careers as dancers. While working as dancers, they study different types of dance and learn how to choreograph routines.

Advancement

Some dancers take on more responsibility if they are promoted to dance captain in musical theater or a ballet master/ballet mistress in concert dance companies. They lead rehearsals or work with less-experienced dancers when the choreographer is not present.

Eventually, some dancers become choreographers. Dancers and choreographers may also become theater, film, or television producers and directors.

Important Qualities

Athleticism. Successful dancers must have excellent balance, physical strength, and physical dexterity, so they can move their bodies without falling or losing their sense of rhythm.

Creativity. Dancers need artistic ability and creativity to express ideas through movement. Choreographers also must have artistic ability and innovative ideas, to create new and interesting dance routines.

Interpersonal skills. Dancers and choreographers may find job opportunities by networking within their communities.

Leadership skills. Choreographers must be able to direct a group of dancers to perform the routines that they have created.

Persistence. Dancers must commit to years of intense practice. They need to be able to accept rejection after an audition and to continue to practice for future performances. Choreographers must keep studying and creating new routines.

Physical stamina. Dancers are often physically active for long periods, so they must be able to rehearse for many hours without getting tired.

Teamwork. Most dance routines involve a group, so dancers must be able to work together to be successful.

Pay About this section

Dancers and Choreographers

Median hourly wages, May 2015

Choreographers

$22.09

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

$19.25

Total, all occupations

$17.40

Dancers and choreographers

$16.85

Dancers

$14.44

 

The median hourly wage for dancers was $14.44 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.56, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.03.

The median hourly wage for choreographers was $22.09 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.24, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $45.72.

Schedules for dancers and choreographers vary, depending on where they work. During tours, dancers and choreographers have long workdays, rehearsing most of the day and performing at night. Some work part time at casinos, on cruise ships, and at theme parks.

Choreographers who work in dance schools may have a standard workweek when they are instructing students. They also spend hours working independently to create new dance routines.

Job Outlook About this section

Dancers and Choreographers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Choreographers

6%

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

6%

Dancers and choreographers

5%

Dancers

5%

 

Employment of dancers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of choreographers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Large dance companies are not expected to add many jobs over the decade, so dancers may find positions in smaller companies, or in companies that stage professional dance competitions. There may be better opportunities for dancers and choreographers in large cities, such as New York and Chicago, or for dancers who join a traveling company.

A growing interest in dance and in pop culture may provide opportunities in fields outside of dance companies, such as TV or movies, casinos, theme parks, or as judges in dance competitions. Many dancers and choreographers, nonetheless, struggle to find opportunities to express themselves; dance companies rely on word-of-mouth, grants, and public funding. However, public funding and grants for dance performances can be highly competitive.

The growing interest in dance in pop culture is expected to lead more people to enroll in dance schools, and growing enrollment should create more jobs for choreographers and dancers who provide lessons.

Job Prospects

Dancers and choreographers face intense competition, and the number of applicants is expected to vastly exceed the number of job openings.

Dancers who attend schools or conservatories associated with a dance company may have a better chance of finding work at that company than other dancers.

Employment projections data for dancers and choreographers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Dancers and choreographers

27-2030 20,100 21,100 5 1,100 [XLSX]

Dancers

27-2031 13,000 13,600 5 600 [XLSX]

Choreographers

27-2032 7,100 7,500 6 400 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of dancers and choreographers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Actors

Actors

Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.

Some college, no degree The annual wage is not available.
Art directors

Art Directors

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions. They create the overall design of a project and direct others who develop artwork and layouts.

Bachelor's degree $89,760
Music directors and composers

Music Directors and Composers

Music directors, also called conductors, lead orchestras and other musical groups during performances and recording sessions. Composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.

Bachelor's degree $49,820
Musicians and singers

Musicians and Singers

Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios.

No formal educational credential The annual wage is not available.
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $72,470
Producers and directors

Producers and Directors

Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, commercials, and other performing arts productions. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.

Bachelor's degree $68,440
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dancers and Choreographers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/dancers-and-choreographers.htm (visited September 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Work Environment

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Pay

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State & Area Data

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Job Outlook

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.