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What can I do with my degree?: Performing arts (dance/drama)

A performing arts degree gives graduates the opportunity to combine their creative talents with the practical aspects of self-promotion and arts management. This mix of disciplines is a good preparation for the tough world of artistic performance...

Job options

Jobs directly related to your degree include:

Jobs where your degree would be useful include:

Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don't restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here. To find out what jobs would suit you, log in to My Prospects.

Work experience

Performing artists generally supplement their training, generate opportunities and enhance their creative knowledge by participating in voluntary projects and work experience. You could take part in community projects in a local community centre or unfunded charitable organisations' projects, or support industry professionals in developing their creative process.

Consider organising acting or dance workshops and creative laboratories to expand your art form and apply for funding for self-created art projects. Many dancers and actors also start their own company with a particular art form style they want to explore.

These unpaid projects or workshops are valuable ways to grow as an artist while creating opportunities for the exchange of ideas and these open forums/performances are often attended by industry professionals.

Search for placements and find out more about work experience and internships.

Typical employers

The most common employers of performing arts graduates include:

  • local government;
  • arts organisations;
  • education institutions;
  • the National Health Service (NHS);
  • leisure companies;
  • voluntary organistions.

Short-term or freelance contracts, moving between different fields, generating opportunities through networking, attending auditions, collaborating with other artists and putting on your own shows are all part of a performer's lifestyle.

Performing arts is about how you present yourself; therefore, it is important to network at every opportunity and keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. There may be an opportunity for employment in the most unusual places, and by keeping your mind open and body ready, you will be able to make the most of your individual talents.

Find information on employers in creative arts and design, teaching and education, and other job sectors.

Skills for your CV

Studying performing arts gives you a range of skills sought after by all types of employers, for example:

  • confidence;
  • self-presentation;
  • teamwork and collaboration;
  • time management and organisational skills;
  • self-awareness;
  • self-discipline;
  • an open mind and the ablitity to move beyond boundaries and experiment with different ideas;
  • communication skills;
  • analytical, critical and research skills;
  • the ability to cope with criticism and learn from it;
  • stamina.

Further study

You may want to specialise further, learn additional performance skills or do academic research into an aspect of your subject that interests you. Alternatively, you may take a vocational course, such as a diploma in arts administration or a teaching certificate, which will open up alternative areas of employment.

Continuing your education while taking the first steps to becoming established can ease the transition from student to professional performer. It also means that the opportunity to take part in student performances and festivals is still open; many dancers, actors and musicians have started their careers through this route.

For more information on further study and to find a course that interests you, see Masters degrees and search postgraduate courses.

What do performing arts graduates do?

The top occupation held by graduates is actors, entertainers and presenters, accounting for 11.5% employed in the UK.

Around 8% of graduates are undertaking further, with approximately 4% studying and working at the same time.

Graduate destinations for performing arts
Destinations Percentage
Employed 77.3%
Further study 8.3%
Working and studying 4.4%
Unemployed 5.8%
Other 4.2%
Types of work entered in the UK
Arts, design and media 29.4%
Retail, catering and bar work 23%
Childcare, health and education work 8.4
Secretarial and numerical clerks 7.2%
Other 32.0%

For a detailed breakdown of what performing arts graduates are doing six months after graduation, see What Do Graduates Do?  

Graduate destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Written by AGCAS editors
November 2013

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