Performing Arts Majors and Potential Jobs

Art in its many forms, all those things of beauty for beauty's sake, may not bring home the bacon all the time, but they certainly nourish the soul. Here we explore the most mainstream avenues of the arts and the surprisingly varied careers to which they may lead.

Art in its many forms, those things of beauty for beauty’s sake, may not bring home the bacon all the time, but they certainly nourish the soul. Here we explore the most mainstream avenues of the arts and the surprisingly varied careers to which they can lead.


Dance is the study of the theory and practice of dance, its forms, and choreography. Colleges offering a major in Dance seek to prepare students either to become professional dancers or to teach dance and dance routines and principles to others. Dance is a performing art; admission to undergraduate study depends primarily upon successful performance at scheduled auditions and only secondarily upon academic standing in high school. Students may earn either a BFA or a BA degree. The former prepares students for advanced study or a professional career; the latter prepares students for employment in such fields as dance therapy, dance education, or dance administration. Where available, undergraduate students are encouraged to compete for selection to the college's repertory dance company.


The plan of study stresses the practice of dance in all forms, including ballet, jazz, tap, modern, historical forms, ethnic dance, and dance of other lands; the curriculum also includes core requirements in liberal arts studies. Students will be encouraged to develop a sophisticated understanding of choreography and to choreograph their own pieces. Master classes with some of the leading dancers of the world are frequently a feature of leading Dance programs. Performance expectations of this major will be extensive. Classes include movement technique, modern dance, elementary/intermediate ballet, ballroom dancing, yoga and Pilates, drumming, dance theory and practice, improvisation, historical dance forms, and dance production.

Possible careers

  • acrobat
  • choreographer
  • dance academy proprietor
  • dance instructor
  • dance therapist
  • director
  • fashion model
  • professional dancer
  • stunt performer

Drama/Theater Arts/Theater

The major in Drama covers many aspects of theater including the history of theater, theater criticism, acting, directing, lighting, scenery, costume design, stage managing, and arts administration. Students typically focus on one or two aspects in their course of study. To concentrate in one of these areas, however, requires one to have a background in all of them as well as a knowledge of the history and literature of the theater. It is important to note that the competition to be a performing artist is fierce.


The plan of study may include a personal interview prior to acceptance and, for Performance majors, an audition. While some portion of the study is devoted to traditional academic subjects, the essence of the program lies in learning and practicing those skills which may lead to a career in the theater. Proficiency in a variety of theater skills must be demonstrated through work on actual productions. Colleges with a strong Drama program support a repertory company in which students produce and perform several plays per year. Classes include principles of acting, speech for the actor, stage makeup, play production, play analysis, stage sound and properties, theater laboratory, history of theater, Shakespeare, dance, music, lighting design, costume design, musical theater, voice, and directing.

Possible careers

  • actor/actress
  • arts educator
  • director
  • drama coach
  • drama critic
  • drama teacher
  • fashion model
  • playwright
  • producer
  • prop manager
  • stage manager
  • stunt performer
  • technical writer

Music, General

Music is a multifaceted major area of study that incorporates technical knowledge of composition, performance, arranging, and production as well as the esthetic appreciation of the history, development, variety, and potential of works of music. This program ordinarily awards a BA degree. It is important to note that the BA Music major is primarily an academic degree, not a performance degree. Students who wish to pursue a degree emphasizing musical performance should seek a Bachelor of Music degree, either in a strong department of music at a college or at a conservatory. Here we describe the Bachelor of Art program in Music.


To specialize in music with more intensity, students may opt for one of the following programs of study: Theory and Composition, Musicology, Literature, Cultural Background of Music, Music Performance (which studies the evolution of musical performance but is not a preparation for a career as a performance musician), and Music Industry (which prepares the student for positions in the marketing and merchandising of music for business). Since musical programs vary widely, students should carefully investigate college programs to find those that meet their needs and interests.

Classes include introduction to music, music styles and structures, harmony, theory and composition, theory of music, elementary and advanced auditory training, and history of music.

Possible careers

  • arranger
  • choreographer
  • college instructor
  • composer
  • music coach
  • musical composer
  • music director
  • music producer
  • music teacher
  • orchestra conductor
  • professional musician
  • stage manager
  • technical writer

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