The 18 Best Performing Arts Careers You Should Pursue

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Performing arts careers

Have you dreamt of working in theatre, film, or production? If you’re passionate about the performing arts, then there are plenty of job options available to you.

While the industry is competitive, there are still plenty of roles that don’t require red carpet appearances and plenty of time spent away from home.

Here are the 18 best performing arts careers to consider.

1. Dancer

Average salary: $34,288 / £60,000

Dancers use music to interpret stories, express emotional and movement on stage. They generally spend years training from a young age and have a disciplined routine. As a dancer, you’ll generally spend long hours rehearsing for performances whether they are on-stage, for TV or film. To increase your chances of securing work, you should have a strong online presence and portfolio.

2. Choreographer

Average salary: $44,200 / £33,418

Choreographers essentially piece together the dance for a performance. They create the moves and then teach them to the rest of the team, monitor their rehearsals and give advice on where to improve. Choreographers generally have years of dancing experience under their belt and are exceptionally good at what they do.

3. Director

Average salary: $140,516 / £106,241

Directors are the brains behind any performance, be it theatrical or cinematic. They are responsible for bringing the script to life and ensuring the whole process runs smoothly from start to finish. They work closely with all departments, including music, design and dance and oversee the project production from start to finish.

4. Actor

Average salary: $49,094 / £37,119

Actors and actresses use their voice, body and emotion to depict the characters written within a script. Their work can be quite diverse, often working in both theatre and film productions and musicals. Although it can be a glamorous role, it’s not one that is easy to obtain due to the large competition within the industry. To have every chance pf succeeding, it’s wise to join a top acting school and to get experience working in local theatres or small-budget films that can help you build your portfolio.

5. Drama coach

Average salary: $37,968 / £28,707

As a drama coach, you’ll be responsible for teaching and training performers. Drama coaches tend to work on a one-on-one basis, to prepare actors for particular roles, auditions or to help them develop their general acting skills.

6. Prop manager

Average salary: $50,401 / £38,107

A prop manager is responsible for obtaining all props needed for production. They work closely with the stage manager to create a list of props needed based on the script and overall vision of the director. This is a very important role, particularly for large films and TV series but also theatrical and musical shows, too.

7. Stage manager

Average salary: $44,139 / £33,372

If you have great organisational skills, then you could consider becoming a stage manager. Stage managers are there to ensure that the show runs smoothly by overseeing all aspects of it. They also work closely with the director and actors. For this career, you’ll need good people skills in order to be able to liaise with others and ensure that the production team is working effectively.

8. Composer

Average salary: $38,974 / £29,467

In the world of performing arts, composers create new music for plays and films. They are responsible for composing the music that will set the tone and mood of not just a scene but the entire production. To become a composer, you’ll need to create a wide portfolio that showcases your musical skills and creativity.

9. Music coach

Average salary: $40,515 / £30,632

A music coach is similar to an acting coach – a trained professional who is able to guide singers and performers. Music coaches generally work with musical theatre actors who are preparing for a role, or aspiring singers that are just starting out in their careers.

10. Orchestra conductor

Average salary: $47,363 / £35,810

Orchestra conductors can be found in operas, musical theatre performances or choirs. The main responsibilities of the conductor are to set the tempo, execute clear sound and unify performers. They set the pace of the music and lead the rest of the musicians throughout the show.

11. Playwright

Average salary: $76,217 / £57,626

Are you good with words and have a great imagination? If so, then you could consider becoming a playwright, creating an original script for a play or musical. While you won’t start off on Broadway, you could aim to gain experience by working in your local theatre or college theatre group.

12. Sound engineer

Average salary: $56,110 / £42,423

Sound engineers mix the equalisation and electronic effects of sound for shows, venues and other areas where music is required. They are an important part of any production and work closely with the composer to ensure the outcome is as expected.

13. Stunt performer

Average salary: $34,873 / £26,366

Stunt performers are actors or actresses who perform dangerous scenes for TV shows and films. This could include acts such as falling off a building, getting into accidents, getting knocked off a horse or driving high-speed cars.

14. Performing arts teacher

Average salary: $51,074 / £38,616

Performing arts teachers generally work within drama or music schools, colleges and universities. They are trained professionals who teach either music, dance or drama and who follow a curriculum which is set out by professional boards. They are tasked with guiding their students and preparing them for performances and end of year exams.

15. Arts administrator

Average salary: $47,783 / £36,127

If you have great organisational skills and prefer working backstage, becoming an arts administrator is ideal for you. You could work at a theatre, managing, organising and allocating operational tasks.

16. Talent agent

Average salary: $44,000 / £32,533

If you have the eye for spotting new talent, then you could consider a career as a talent agent. They are responsible for discovering and booking actors, singers or musicians for shows and films. In the music world, they also discover up and coming artists who have not been signed onto a record label yet. 

17. Broadcasting presenter

Average salary: $59,182 / £39,927

Broadcasting presenters are the face or voice behind TV or radio programmes. They entertain and inform audiences by using their presenting skills and bubbly personality. To succeed in this lucrative role, you’ll need to have depths of confidence and a really unique approach of entertainment.

18. Set designer

Average salary: $54,000 / £44,746

Set designers are in charge of designing the sets that appear on theatre stages and in television programmes and films. They will base their designs on the script, ensuring that the playwright’s and director’s visions come to life. A set designer also needs to work closely with the producer and costume designer to make sure that the overall image comes together.

Whether you’re considering your university options, starting out in your career or looking for a change, these creative jobs can help you get on the right path. You just need to identify your interests and strengths to see which career in the performing arts is ideal for you!

Which of these jobs can see yourself doing and why? Let us know in the comments section below!

Salaries are intended as a guide and vary depending on employer and level of experience.

Salary information is based on data compiled and published by a variety of sources, including the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, PayScale and the National Careers Service. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by on 26 December 2020.