student life

3 rewarding career paths for those with a performing arts degree

art students
Written by C Wolsey

About one in three graduates end up being mismatched to the jobs they find after leaving university, according to research by Universities UK. For those who are preparing to graduate with a degree in the performing arts, however, finding the perfect career path can seem especially daunting when considering just how many options are out there. Whether you specialise in music, dance, theatre, or drama, here are just three fulfilling career paths that are definitely worth considering. 

Freelance performance opportunities 

Freelancing presents a unique path that is open to a wide variety of temporary options when just starting out as a performing arts graduate. Not only is this a great way to explore the number of jobs within your chosen branch and get a feel for what you do/don’t like, but you’ll be able to gain valuable experience while picking and choosing jobs along the way. Musicians, for example, may choose to work for several months at a time providing entertainment on a cruise ship, where they have the opportunity to put their professional skills to the test in a demanding work environment (while also receiving unique perks that come with the job — like lodging and meals). Similarly, those who specialise in dance or musical theatre might choose to audition for a seasonal performance dance group, while those in drama might audition to be extras in film in between bigger projects.

Finding a path through teaching 

Teaching is always a path worth considering upon graduation, especially if you’d like to have a career that’s focused on helping others. With an average annual salary of a performing arts teacher in the UK being £35,100, the most experienced workers can make up to £49,788 per year. From lecturing at universities to working in an independent studio, there are a wide variety of options to consider based on your preferences, with starting your own business a rewarding option of its own.  

While musicians have the option to give private lessons or direct a local ensemble, dancers or drama majors might choose to lead a course in their specialty at a university, or eventually open their own studio in the long run. That said, workshops and classes are a great way to get a feel for what route you’d like to take upon graduating. Dr. Michelle Groves, Director of Education at the Royal Academy of Dance actually has a webinar on mentoring your students towards a career in dance, where various routes that students can take towards their careers as dance teachers are outlined, in addition to the role that teachers have in advising and mentoring students that also want to pursue such a career. 

Entering the world of film 

For those who have chosen to major in performing arts with a specialisation in theatre or drama, becoming an actor can be a challenging yet ultimately fulfilling career path. With pay greatly varying based on the job, experience playing a major role in working your way to the more competitive and higher paid jobs, auditioning for smaller roles (such as for film extras, or participating in community theatre, etc.) can allow you to build experience and valuable contacts within the industry. 

However, those who specialise in dance or music can enter the film industry as well. For example, music composers are often hired to create, arrange, and orchestrate music for movies, and make an average of £30,000 per year, while dancers have opportunities that range from being in movies to working on the set of music videos — or even competing in dance shows like Strictly Come Dancing, where it’s been widely reported that each professional dancer is paid a flat fee of between £35,000 to £50,000 to appear on the show.  

If you’re about to graduate with a degree in performing arts, figuring out what job fits you best can be a daunting task. However, with film opportunities, freelancing, and teaching all presenting worthy options for fulfilling career paths for those just starting out, you’re sure to find your passion no matter what you specialise in.